On paper The Collector sounds like “Die Hard meets Saw”. It’s a movie about a burglar named Arkin who has been casing a remotely located mansion for some time now posing as a handyman. He’s befriended to a certain extent the family living there, but since his wife needs to pay off a loan shark he has no other choice than to rob their safe when they’re out of town for the weekend. When he enters the building he finds out he’s not alone as a serial killer known as “The Collector” has rigged the entire place with booby traps and tortures the family members he’s captured. Not being able to get out easy Arkin chooses to try and save the family while evading the clutches of The Collector.
The reason I think this movie is a mixture of Die Hard and saw is because it so heavily borrows from both franchises. Not surprising considering that first time director Marcus Dunstan wrote the scripts for four Saw movies and had intended this to be a Saw prequel. While this movie has no Jigsaw, elaborate traps feature throughout the movie, though none of them have a sacrificial element to them. Arkin is the John McClane character here, he runs through the enormous mansion trying to keep his presence hidden, while trying to save members of the family, especially the little girl. In true John McClane fashion he at one point loses his shoes and instead of a t-shirt gradually getting dirtier, his body gradually gets wounds from cuts.
Unlike Die Hard, The Collector has no room for some laughs. This is a gruesome movie that at some times channels the torture porn of Hostel. Other than “he only takes one”, we learn nothing about the character; no back story, no reason as to why he does this. He wears a mask that looks like an SM attribute, is apparently great with knives and has read the MacGyver handbook for booby traps. Villains are often ruined by elaborate back stories; most slasher icons become less scary the more we learn about them. The Collector is a character that reminded me of The Gimp in Pulp Fiction though more menacing. Somehow I would have liked to know more about him, but on the other hand I’m afraid it will destroy the character.
The set-up of this movie is also it’s main flaw. Arkin enters the building without being seen or noticed as a good burglar should but never notices all the windows being boarded up. Once in it’s somehow impossible for him to get out and when he does manage to get out he looks back and, conveniently for the plot, sees the little girl he was so desperately looking for the entire time and decides to go back in instead of going for help. How the hell this guy is able to transform the entire place into a fortress full of booby traps is beyond me and to be honest I didn’t understand the need for the traps as well, other than make it difficult for Arkin to move around. When he enters the mansion both the parents are already caught, the little girl is missing and her older sister is out with her boyfriend. So who are the traps for? The answer: for the viewers of course.
The older sister is played by Madeline Zima, who most of us know from The Nanny or her grown up role in Californication. Her part her is merely exploitive and serves no other function to the plot. When we meet here we she walks around in skimpy clothing sporting some nice cleavage, the only other scene she has is a sex scene. A bit of a waste and I generally expected her to have a larger role, maybe even be “the final girl”. But to give the movie credit, the outcome was a pure surprise.
Only time will tell if The Collector becomes a horror classic. It has the potential to become one as much as it has the potential to become a franchise with decreasingly interesting movies.