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The Collector


Sleepy-eyed Arkin is a petty thief who uses his legit job as a day-laborer for a remodeling company to case potential targets. Desperate to raise the cash necessary to settle a debt with his ex-wife, who herself is in deep with some nasty loansharks, he goes for one last score by raiding the bucolic home of his most recent employer, a wealthy family that's just left town on vacation.

But when he arrives at the house to do the job, Arkin quickly realizes that the family never left; they became captives of Jigsaw — errr, the Collector — a masked maniac who's gone a step beyond the standard torture routine by rigging the entire house with a series of elaborate booby traps to ensure that anyone attempting to escape is met with an excruciating end. It's that latter detail that helps convince Arkin to stay and try to put a stop to the Collector's evil ambitions.


In the grand low-budget horror tradition, The Collector's cast is stocked with a group of attractive, little-known, modestly talented actors working presumably for scale, led by Josh Stewart (episodes of CSI: Miami and Criminal Minds), Andrea Roth (Rescue Me, one episode of Lost), Madeline Zima (Californication, an episode of Grey's Anatomy), Daniella Alonso (one episode each on CSI, Knight Rider and Without a Trace) and ... honestly, does it really matter who the rest of the cast members are? Most of them are drenched in blood and virtually unrecognizable for the most part, anyway.


Could there be a less appealing tagline to a movie than "from the writers of Saw IV, V and VI?" The phrase essentially means, if we're lucky, The Collector has a chance at being just as lame and played-out as those flicks have become. Huzzah!

As you might expect from the pedigree of its filmmakers, Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, The Collector's plot involves a sadistic madman subjecting assorted victims to various grisly, surprisingly imaginative forms of torture. But unlike the latter Saw flicks, The Collector manages to introduce some new elements that add a solid degree of suspense those films have increasingly lacked. In short, it's actually scary — in the beginning, at least.


The acting, not surprisingly, ranges from average to distractingly poor. But that's par for the course for films of this ilk. What's most unfortunate about The Collector is that it gradually dispenses with the horror and substitutes torture in its place, its tone transitioning disappointingly from frightening to repulsive during the second act. Then, as if to emphasize the change, the final third of the film is littered with one gruesome money shot after another. There's nary a sensitive body part that doesn't get punctured, torn, sliced or straight-up lopped off by the closing credits.


When Arkin first enters the house, director Marcus Dunstan pieces together a gripping cat-and-mouse chase as the Collector slowly stalks his uninvited guest. As the would-be thief encounters one disturbing trap after another in his vain effort to escape, Dunstan raises the tension to a fever pitch by blending tried-and-true horror devices (the creaky stairwell, et al.) with expert timing and camera work.


The Collector is like the MacGyver of horror villains, jury-rigging his adopted lair with enough ghastly booby traps — all made with common household items, no less — to impress the Viet Cong. The place is like Disneyland for murdurous sociopaths. rated this film 2 stars.