Though this movie does feature the appearance of two dogs, the title does not refer to, as my girlfriend had guessed, a collection of puppies (but this would be a decent sequel to Hotel For Dogs). Instead, The Collection is an agglomeration of grossness; a torture porn-ucopia of gruesome images that seem in a competition to out-obscene each other. There are spiky traps, mutilated corpses, human skeletons made into spider skeleton shapes and then there are some more traps. The Collection is solely engineered by two Saw filmmakers to gross out its audience with booby traps, taking viewers into a horror house where it isn’t so much a fear of what’s behind Door Number Death, but how loud will the door slam after someone steps into the room and how gross will the visuals be when a human body is inevitably destroyed.
The Collection is a super-creatively titled sequel to The Collector, a successful horror flick from 2009 that was originally intended as a prequel by writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton (Dunstan directed) for the Saw franchise (and those who know their Saw will be quick to remember these two wrote Saw IV, V, VI and VII). And while The Collection doesn’t feature a wise, murderous geezer, it does contain the passing, at times creative, carnivorous experience of a Saw movie. As with moments in those previous Jigsaw chronicles, one does have to give the co-writers some kudos for their imagination – an aerial lawnmower that dices up club kids isn’t your usual QVC mini-genocide death mechanism.
The movie begins with a recap of the Collector’s past atrocities, as explained in news reports chopped up in between images of mutilated bodies and bugs. Cops are bewildered by his lack of traceable steps and families are disturbed by the masked murderer’s calling card – he kills everyone around him except for one, who he keeps as a souvenir for unknown reasons.
Taking place soon after the events of The Collector, The Collection then introduces us to the villain’s next addition, the delicate teen Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick, in her pixie cut from 2010’s The Social Network). Her plans to have an innocent night of dancing in a secret club are ruined when she sees her supposedly busy boyfriend kiss another girl. Upset, she wanders around the club until she finds a room with a wooden box inside, which contains none other than Arkin (Josh Stewart, one of Bane’s henchmen in The Dark Knight Rises) a man who was collected at the end of the first film. Arkin’s escape from this box sets off an elaborate machine that turns the club into a death room, as spikes descend from the ceiling and proceed to slice up everyone in its path. With Elena watching in horror, Collector snaps her up and disappears.
Arkin escapes the carnage and is brought to a hospital. There, he is blackmailed by thuggish Lucello, (Lee Tergesen), who has been hired by Elena’s father (Christopher McDonald) to find her. Against his will, Arkin leads Lucello and his group of armed mercenaries to the front door of Collector’s digs and is then forced at gunpoint to lead the group directly inside to The Collector. Carnage ensues, while Elena tries to find her own way to escape.
Fitzpatrick is fine as the movie’s scream queen, the innocent participant whose safety is promised fairly early by the movie’s interest in toying with everyone other than her (although spiders crawl on her face, gah-ross!). Granted, Fitzpatrick establishes enough sweetness that we want her to be safe – not a scratch or dent on this model. But the script essentially defies its own spoiler alert, separating her from the urgency of the events, reducing from the horror movie the thrill of seeing an unfortunate soul ease their hand into a bear trap.
The inclusion of Stewart’s Arkin back into the Collector’s world is so forced that it becomes a comical nightmare, but the ugly moments involving this character are enough to make us glad we’re not there as well. In a movie built on screams and tanks of blood, Stewart does provide the intensity required, while capping the movie with the type of anger that does seem to be a common trait in these bitter, horror killers.
Collector himself is like a fan fiction mix of Jason Voorhees as a nimble Jigsaw, but he doesn’t inspire the level curiosity for either of those now-classic horror heroes of blood and chaos. It is also uncertain as to whether Dunstan and Melton want him to be super human like Jason, or like Jigsaw, a mortal being with a lot of time on his hands. More so than those two, Collector has his ability to cause fear overshadowed by his traps-manship, whose dedication to hilariously elaborate traps (how does he know they work?) is devoid of inspiration. Jason slashed horny teens to avenge his mother, Jigsaw canoodled people in messy Rube Goldbergs with aims of teaching a hands-on lesson, and the passionless, yet relentless Collector … just maims and/or kills and then moves on, his only consistency being that he always kidnaps one survivor so he can booby trap them for later, creating a circle of death that spins at the rate he pleases or something like that. What does Collector Man do on his off days? This guy works really hard for someone who doesn’t seem to care what happens before, during or after his collections have expired.
This indifference certainly seems to be a product of the filmmaking of The Collection, which is as equally uninspired as what Collector does with his murder mementos. The writers seem to share the same motivation as their masked creation for such bloody mayhem: “Because it just looks cool, dude.” Thus, cinematography and editing are often bastardized to the significance of a hoarder’s stack of moldy pizza boxes, not kept for any personal reason, but because one is too lazy to do anything about them.
Instead of introducing this movie’s Angel of Uber Death with any type of mysterious presence by means of lighting (important for providing vagueness to characters whose appearances might already seem obvious), The Collection introduces Collector extremely blandly, with no curiosity or menace implanted. Yup, he’s just a man in a black mask standing on the rafters. This resignation to Collector’s visual blandness is heavy throughout, with two exceptions being Collector’s pose auditioning for The Expendables 3 (featuring those two dogs),and his faceless finale.
The movie is edited by Kevin Greutert, who is worth mentioning for he adds another familiar face to Collection’s Saw soul train, as he directed Saw VI and Saw VII: The Final Chapter (and edited Saw I – V). Whereas Greutert’s previous cutting of images in the Saw movies pulled off a few tricks (like when a death scene was used as a transitional cut in Saw V), the only style in The Collection is clumsy gore, admitting even more so that the movie is primarily constructed to present the unmoving image of someone’s skull being turned to mush, etc. The Collection doesn’t pretend to be anything more than that, which makes the movie much simpler and things like “character development” and “dialogue” feel even more like excess baggage, which the movie carries with sassy resignation (a la Paul Rudd’s picking up of a fork in Wet Hot American Summer). The film’s running time even barely makes it to 80 minutes, toying with the notion that The Collection is even indifferent about being a feature film at all.
When the movie does channel its simple, main motivations, making the material it actually cares about, The Collection can be a small success in its own right. It is a movie purely interested in the horror of blood, whether it is used to express over-the-top carnage (as with its goofy opening massacre) or cause discomfort to the audience because there’s an entire ocean of it. It is curious, then, as to why a certain scene involving a broken bone got the biggest reaction from the screening audience. Do broken bones work below the levels of desensitization that blood can so easily achieve, especially when sprayed in the audience’s face so rampantly? Were viewers just relieved to see some other method of pain that didn’t involve blood splatter, even if it was only for a moment?
To his credit, gore hound Dunstan does succeed in making the slaughterhouse of Collection an audience’s anti-fun house, one with a few claustrophobic sequences that keep viewers’ mental investment trapped in the moment (such as the effectively paced, bloodless epilogue). The ways of death inflicted on this movie’s cattle are surprising enough, that this gore hoarder does succeed in satisfying its simple desire to be really grotesque, with a couple remaining bits of creepiness. A lot of other stuff, however, is just junk.