I doubt anybody, least of all yours truly, honestly expected a sequel to the Dunstan/Melton thriller THE COLLECTOR to hit the big screen. Heavily hyped, but sparsely released, the original barely lasted a week in theatres (although I quite liked it). Well, damn the torpedoes, I guess--the very same outfit has managed to do the same for THE COLLECTION (shot in 2011), and if the release pattern around here is any indication, I expect it to crash and burn just like the first one (even though the publicity shied away from identifying it as a sequel and relied on the SAW 4-7 connection).
You don't REALLY need to have seen the first film to jump in here, though. The movie (which starts with a good jolt which doesn't even involve the Collector) reminds/informs you that professional burglar Arkin O'Brien (Josh Stewart again) is the latest abductee of the local serial killer and that his fate is unknown by the public at large. Yep, he's still in the trunk.
The Collector (I was sorry that it wasn't Juan Fernandez again, but I guess most people won't know or care) has obviously expanded his horizons since last we saw him--this time he's not content with a mere residence. For some reason, he's set up temporary housekeeping in the upstairs of a club holding a private rave party, and he's dragged Arkin along for the ride.
Okay. The stunt that our villain pulls at the party sets new standards for "preposterous." It makes even SAW 3-D look absolutely plausible. And it's spectacular. This is where you either throw up your hands and say "Oh, I give up" and exit the theatre... or say "Okay, you've got my attention... let's see what the hell you're going to do NEXT!" Unsurprisingly, I buckled my seat belt.
In brief, a disenchanted party guest manages to stumble across and free Arkin. She also manages to escape the fate of most of the people in the building, but she's nabbed by the Collector. Arkin escapes with his life but is promptly arrested, only to be given an intriguing reprieve. It seems that the Collector has made off with the daughter of someone with a lot of powerful friends... friends that think that the police have had enough opportunities to deal with the Collector. And as Arkin knows how to find the villain's hideout, he's drafted to lead the super-team on a mission to rescue the damsel and kick some Collector ass.
Yep. Just like in ALIENS. But this is no Ridley Scott/James Cameron pastiche: Dunstan and Melton instead take us to... the Argento Hotel! Groan if you will, but at least these guys do more than use the name for an in-joke. We are now in Italian Horror Hell, and in addition to the obvious namesake (black gloves, body pits, etc.) we see that Mario Bava (the mannequins) and Lucio Fulci (the tarantulas) are also guests in this hotel. And if you were wondering if the filmmakers can accurately capture the effect of their inspirations, be advised that production designer Graham "Grace" Walker (the man behind all of the best Dark Castle movies) is on the case, and he damn well knows what he's doing. Oh, and we're nowhere near done. There are nasty surprises and virtual pain tests for the viewer around every corner (seems somebody can't quite reach a crucial latch, so...) in addition to plenty of surreal visuals and extra pop-up characters, while some brief cockamammie pseudo-science is hinted at in order to give us some sort of idea as to what makes the Collector tick (no detailed flashback or anything like that, but the radio specifically mentions the "Gallery Murders" from the late 60s, and I wonder if anyone else imagined a bird with crystal plumage at that moment?). And by the way, our psychopath is now also surgically mutilating and heavily drugging his victims, which means that on top of everything else, we ALSO get "zombies!" Oh yes, it's the Eye-Tye 80s to a tee... and when it comes to Melton and Dunstan, I'll take this over SAW 3-D or (especially) PIRANHA 3DD any day.
Like I said, if you wanted the plot to make logical sense, you would have been out the door quite some time ago. But what was the famous quote regarding Fulci's output? "It's a film of images... etc. etc.?" Sure, not everything works. There's an obvious TALES FROM THE CRYPT homage in which Arkin has to squeeze himself between two boards studded with nails, but that's it... I was astonished that neither he nor anybody else would get forced back into the passageway with the lights turned out... I mean, there WERE even guard dogs available to do the honors. But THE COLLECTION is never boring for a second, whether you're in it to see if you can "take it" or if you just want to see how many times your jaw can hit the floor. And yet, for all that, it manages to achieve something almost unheard of... a SATISFYING ENDING!!!
If this sounds like something you'd want to see, do so NOW. I did and I wasn't sorry.
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