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Collector, The (2009)
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Bona-Fide Mini-Classic"
4 stars

With one idiotic horror movie after another coming out, this will come as a genuine surprise to those looking for some quality and care in this much-abused genre.

Beyond all expectations coming from the screenwriters of the dreadful Saw series, the fantastic horror picture The Collector is daring, frightening, ferocious, unrelenting, gruesome and imaginative stuff -- easily the best of its genre in the last several years. And what's especially winning about it is that its story premise couldn't be simpler yet the utmost maximum amount of sustained suspense has been so effortlessly wrung from it. Its takes oodles of inventiveness and directorial bravado to pull something like this off, and it's been done with heaping helpings of aplomb; in fact, it's so masterfully assured that the only reason you're not inclined to stand up and applaud after one dandy sequence after another is spectacularly brought off is because you're simply too nerve-jangled and riveted to take your eyes off the screen, no matter how hard the graphic violence is sometimes hard to take even for the most seasoned gorehound. And it also has more than its share of wit and humor, though it's of the darker-than-dark variety that you have to be in a pretty sick-puppy kind of mood to appreciate. But that's OK, for not every moviegoer out there is particularly amused by puerile-poopy humor in every other third mainstream mediocrity polluting your local cineplex. The Collector takes no prisoners and spares one absolutely nothing -- it's about as unapologetic and macabre as a Beezlebub-directed miasma of Pier Paolo Gasoline's Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom and Joel M. Reed's Bloodsucking Freaks. This isn't to say, however, that it's a totally flawless enterprise, because it doesn't bother adhering to logic and coherence. It's more a horror-fantasy with its own warped inner logic and set of rue-morgue rules, some of which stretch the plausibility spectrum so far out of shape that it resembles something by the likes of a blood-drenched pretzel -- a disgusting treat that only the mother of Attila the Hun and Idi Amin could truly love. But, again, it's never anything short of admirable in its breathtaking virtuosity.

An excellent, charismatic actor by the name of Josh Stewart stars as Arkin, a recently-paroled ex-con working as a home-security installer subcontracting on a country house owned by a wealthy family, consisting of a husband, wife and two daughters. The family has taken quite a liking to him, and Arkin, who has a young daughter and (estranged) wife of his own, can't help but be enamored of the domestic stability of the household. But he's not exactly a reformed angel -- in between the work, he's been casing and scoping the inside to get his hands on a priceless gem locked up in a hidden safe. Everything's going methodical until Arkin finds out from his wife that she has until midnight to pay off a local loan shark; the check Arkin has just received from the family for the work done so far won't cover it. So he pressures his criminal-fence partner to let him rob the house that night, the night the family is supposed to have left on their two-week vacation; the fence initially objects because Arkin's request seems rushed, and he's the kind that doesn't take chances; but he agrees, though cutting Arkin's take from fifty to forty percent. Arkin arrives at the house and finds to his good luck that the alarm panel right inside the front door isn't blinking and is disengaged; easily gaining entry with a lock-pick, he works his way upstairs, attaches an electronic device to the safe, and is about to crack it open when he suddenly hears the front door open and footsteps slowly walking around downstairs. As he soon discovers, this is not one of the family members, but a deranged masked madman who's incapacitated the family and booby-trapped the house with a wide assortment of deadly devices -- and spectacularly lethal they most certainly are, not to mention ghoulishly creative, all the better to inflict as much slow, agonizing pain as humanly possible. Razor-blade-imbedded windows preventing easy escape, steel vises ratcheted to the tightest setting making the immobile victim squirm in eye-bulging ultra-discomfort, tactfully-hidden tripwires attached to battle axes, doorknobs filled to the gills with bone-shattering electricity, and many more -- inflicting the kind of inimical injuries a homeowner's policy probably wouldn't cover.

With its bare-minimum screenplay, The Collector doesn't go in for much in the way of characterization and complex story turns, and that's okay, because the execution of it is dazzlingly assured by first-timer Marcus Dunstan. In fact, it's the most confident directorial debut in this genre in quite a while -- far better than the just-average likes of Rom Zombie's and Marcus Nispel's work in their needless Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes (though Patrick Lussier's remake of My Bloody Valentine went undeservedly underappreciated). Dunstan's technical prowess is astonishing with its ace assortment of fluid camerawork that works up a great deal of momentum, editing choices that are as keen as the madman's instruments, spatial logistics that are always well-defined; he makes the limited main setting a multi-leveled funhouse with dangers around every conceivable corner, and we're right there with the hero every step of the way in the most pleasurable, apprehensive state -- the you-are-there vitality is both visceral and palpable. And while the Saw movies wallow in their grotesqueness for the sole sake of doing so, with the lack of true craftsmanship unable to take things to the next level, Dunstan gives us oodles of extreme violence, yes, but he's also eager to quickly go onto the next thing, like a naughty imp who doesn't need to gloat over a particular horrendous happenstance because he's got lots more up his sleeve. You feel like you're taking in a complete vision even though the goings-on are paced so brutally fast you're given more in the way of impressions than etchings, which is completely right for a movie whose contextual value is this sparse. We're not supposed to ask, I guess, how the killer has been able to rig his handiworks in just a few hours, or why bullets for a gun aren't in a drawer they're supposed to be in; and supplying the hero with a daughter just so he has a reason to go back into the house after an arduous escape because there's another young girl inside is dubious at best. Still, The Collector gets so much right in a short amount of running time that we're more than willing to give some slack to such a marvelous moviemaker who's able to serve up a cinematic treat that's this terror-filled tasty, even if eating soon after seeing it is quite ill-advised.

A sequel is in the works. I'll be there, that's for damn sure.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19365&reviewer=327
originally posted: 09/06/11 13:47:13
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User Comments

4/27/11 art IT STINK"S! 1 stars
4/14/11 Chris F brilliant not for the faint hearted! 5 stars
4/19/10 Corky Sort of like Die hard meets Saw- not half bad, either! 3 stars
8/04/09 BNorm That dude had some crazy eyes. fairly decent gorefest 3 stars
8/04/09 shaun harris a weak version of saw 1 stars
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  31-Jul-2009 (R)
  DVD: 06-Apr-2010


  DVD: 06-Apr-2010

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