Tonight’s tale of terror and torment is oft infamously compared to the Saw series, and it turns out it’s a very apt comparison at that. Why? Because first time director Marcus Dunstan’s resume includes screenplay credits for a number of those same movies. I guess you can only write so many of those things before eventually convincing yourself that you can do better! Given that everybody in Hollywood wants to be the person in charge, it was only inevitable Dunstan would check in (hur hur) to the role sooner or later. Nobody let him in on the fallacy of the fantasy though, as we all know the real final sayers on every feature are the studio heads, atop their thrones like kings, all the while having their ears twisted by the marketing department; a.k.a. the Grima Wormtongues of Tinseltown.
The morally obligated hero of our movie is Arkin, no relation to Allan. Ark is an ex-con safe cracker-turned-home security installer, because who better to entrust the protection of the place you keep all your valuables to than someone with a history of… stealing valuables… hmmmm. As expected, our would-be bad guy (who looks like the bastard child of Sean Penn and the guy who played Mark on ‘Roseanne’) has a heart of gold, thanks to his beloved daughter for whom he tries to tread the straight and narrow. When his baby momma gets caught up in a loan sharking deal gone awry though, Ark has to don his balaclava and rubber gloves once more to pull off a last minute heist and save the day. The target? A massive uncut ruby hidden away in the safe of his latest client’s big luxurious home. And with the family having just left on a vacation, there won’t be anything standing between Ark and his goal!
And if you believe things are going to go as smooth as chocolate soft serve, then I’ve got bad news for ya, because that ain’t ice cream!
It turns out that our man wasn’t the only independent contractor casing the joint as of late, as an exterminator who had also been at the house earlier in the day too has returned! Is he also there for the big gaudy slab of crimson greed glass? Nope. Turns out he’s just there to intercept the family’s getaway and make sure they can’t get away from him and his intention to slowly harrow the lot of ’em for his own sadistic kicks. No biggie for Ark though, right? All he needs to do is ninja his way in, snag his score, and get back out, correct? Nope. The family’s youngest daughter Hannah reminds our hero of his own offspring and he makes the mistake of doing the right thing. Might’ve helped if he’d thought to bring a cell phone though, because the titular collector of victims has also booby-trapped the house a la evil Bob Villa, Jigsaw.
For glorified torture porn, The Collector successfully keeps its tension high and its thrills of the white knuckle variety. While the Saw franchise is all about cheering for the fatalities of hollow human fodder, Arkin is the type of “dirtbag seeking redemption” that you can root for and it’s all the more tragic when his good intentions ultimately lead him into his own personal Hell. Oh, and if you’re gonna get pissy about the spoilers, this movie is ELEVEN YEARS OLD. Make like The Eagles and get over it.
As for my opinions on Dunstan’s directorial debut? Much of the movie plays like an audition tape for a Nine Inch Nails music video job. Close-ups of dead bugs, bees, spiders, trap mechanisms, bodily mutilations, enough bloody hooks to give Pinhead a 4 hour erection, and things with knives fastened to them. Mix them all with random camera angles for the sake of random camera angles and pepper with off-brand industrial music and you’ve got your average Tuesday night for Trent Reznor. It’s far from terrible, though. Well, I was entertained, at least.
Oh, and big trigger warning for my fellow animal lovers out in internet land: there’s not one but two instances of animal torture and, ultimately, murder to be had in these proceedings. The cat gets the worst of it, but the dog doesn’t fare much better. You’ve been warned.
Four Bob Eviilas out-of-Five
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