.Arkin (Josh Stewart), a low-level burglar for a crime boss doubling as a handyman, cases the home of a vacationing family with a prized jewel locked away in a concealed safe. On the night of his break-in; he discovers the family bound in the basement, the entire house cleverly booby trapped and fortified to keep any occupants in, and someone else roaming the hallways...
The back cover of The Collector has this pull quote from Twitch: "this is exactly the kind of film horror fans will delight in discovering." That sentence perfectly encapsulates what Saw sequel and Feast series tag team Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton's film embodies. This is another single-serving concept slasher that comes around every few years in the same vein as Lighthouse (Dead of Night), Haute tension (High Tension), Cry_Wolf, and Venom. The kind of slick, edgy horror film that has just enough huff to slip into theaters, evaporate quickly, and somehow seem obscure by the time of the DVD release. One of those decent underdogs that will probably be discovered by many on cable or the used disc section. Taking The Collector on those terms, it makes for a solid evening of grisly diversion.
The premise is a natural one for the writers of the last three Saw sequels and upcoming Saw 3D. The masked Collector (Dominican "that guy" Juan Fernández) lures those he "picks" into a deadly trap-riddled game of cat-and-mouse with any unchosen also entrapped destined for death. The chosen one is then utilized as bait in the next murderous toying; hence the tagline, "he always takes one." It's a novel concept, but not all that original and ill-defined. It's unclear whether the madman, who dawns a black leather mask looking like the burnt-up Cropsy from The Burning, traps victims with elaborate killer Rube Goldbergs or releases them into the wilds of the torturous devices as a means of sadistic fun. The latter seems to be more the case; at one point the severely bloodied father discovers Arkin and becomes enraged before literally being wrenched into another trap upon lifting a golf club in defense. This designed mayhem makes the Collector even more perverse and represents a nice change from the "good" character of Jigsaw constructing "well-intentioned" traps in the Saw franchise.
Ultimately, Arkin must decide whether to escape with the jewel or remain and attempt to save the very family he's burglarizing. The reason for the theft, Arkin's estranged wife desperately needing to pay off a loan shark by midnight, is such an afterthought that it was probably scribbled onto the screenplay's margins. For the best, the film seems so enamored with getting to the meat of the hellish house that this slim, bookended exposition is meaningless. At least Dunstan and Melton were smart enough not to be beholden to the midnight deadline with constant audience reminders. By the time the ordeal subsides and the deadline is mentioned again, it feels like the entire night passed anyway.
Dunstan's directorial debut reads from the Book of Fincher mixing the stark scope photography of Panic Room and Se7en. Despite the R-rating, The Collector is incredibly brutal and makes many of the unrated Saws appear weak in comparison. It seems as if the MPAA is more okay with violence committed upon "knowing" combatants than cold-blooded acts against the wholly innocent in modern horror. Whatever the case, it's amazing how far the rating can go nowadays. We get sliced fingers, gushing throats, fish hook gouges, electrocutions, razor bladed flesh digs, sewn lips, bear traps, melting feline, and more all lovingly presented in super high contrast glory. No, The Collector isn't a classic or birth of a new slasher icon, but it's bloody fun and one I should have seen theatrically. Be sure to listen for the score quoting Goblin's Sleepwalking from the Phenomena soundtrack as well.
Vivendi Entertainment's DVD includes a commentary, terrible alternate ending, two deleted scenes, and Nico Vega music video. Also despite being a single layer disc, the image quality is very high with the vast majority of scenes retaining film grain as a stylistic choice by the filmmakers. The Blu-ray, which appears to be actually coming out tomorrow, is identical save for a 1080p transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.