Telling the producers of Saw to stick it and then heading off to create your own psychological torture is a bold move indeed, especially at a time when the Tobin Bell starring film series was on top of the horror box office. The Collector is a step in the right direction, stripping the Saw franchise to its barebones and honing in on the gory thrills it had to offer. It shouldn’t work as well as it does, but the dedication of the cast to make this into an uncomfortable, chilling thriller work tremendously well.
Josh Stewart’s leading performance as Arkin doesn’t really convince me of his abilities as an actor. His character isn’t the issue, a man struggling to stay connected with his daughter and ex-wife finds himself pushed to extreme limits to pay off her debts. It’s a rather interesting premise, one that relies on how much we can really connect with Arkin, and on the whole he’s a well-crafted anti-hero. Our leading man acclimatises to these situations rather instantaneously, with some good build-up beforehand to really sell the idea of a booby-trapped house and a one-man heist gone wrong. What impresses me most is that the film manages to go great lengths without any dialogue whatsoever. It’s a tremendously visual film that lives or dies on how you accept or reject its build-up, climax, and come-down.
We learn as our character does. Tripwires and nasty tricks around every corner, it’s interesting to see how quickly our character adapts to his surroundings and moves from a state of silent fear to adrenalin-pumping survival. For fans of the genre, you’ll feel right at home with what The Collector has to offer. As an outsider with no real interest in this sort of horror, I’m genuinely rather surprised at how well made the film is on the whole. Not too much in the way of interesting dialogue, what few scenes utilise writing are really rather low-brow and not at all engaging. Still, you can’t expect much from the minds behind Saw V and Pirahna 3DD.
Artificial sound devices and broody lighting make almost every second of The Collector feel like it’s trying to go for chills and thrills. Whilst these opening twenty minutes serve their purpose rather well, it’s not until we find ourselves amid a home invasion with Arkin that the jumps and horrors really make themselves known. Inevitably, things go wrong for Arkin, and that’s where the film comes together with genuinely terrifying style. The Collector is genuinely scary, something that most horror films fail to achieve. Whilst the story isn’t quite as snappy as the original Saw, director Marcus Dunstan is more than capable of bringing together a horror film that brings out a consistent, tense environment.
Visually, the film is a mix and match puzzle. Some achingly great camera shots, but with a grainy filter that I personally don’t care for. That need to capture the style of the Saw branch of horror is definitely felt throughout, but it doesn’t fall into the boredom that the later films in the series had to offer. They manage to avoid the errors of those films with relative ease, mainly because the story never tries to be anything more than a good bit of fun.
Smarter, more convincing traps than Saw ever has to offer, since it doesn’t have the faux moral pretence hanging over it. Home Alone meets Don’t Breathe in this rather gruesome, extremely fun horror flick. Taking the “what’s in a box” quote to extreme new levels, The Collector will be a delightful treat for those who hate home renovation and love gory splatter fests that can take the better aspects of Saw and blend them rather well with a simplistic, engaging story.