This review was originally posted in September during our Fantastic Fest coverage. We’re re-posting in time for the film’s release this Friday.
When we last saw Josh Stewart’s Arkin in 2009’s The Collector, he was in a bit of a tight spot. Things were not looking good for the thief who, while on a job, met a lethal, black mask-clad, seemingly unstoppable home invader. I’ll refrain from repeating what went down at the end of The Collector, in the event you never saw it (and if you didn’t, maybe you should avoid this review). Nevertheless, I thought the first film was solid, entertaining, fairly ruthless and it boasted the visual strengths of Marcus Dunstan as a director who had, until that point, made his mark on the genre co-writing some Saw sequels and the Feast films.
With The Collection, Dunstan (and creative partner, co-writer and producer Patrick Melton) is back behind the camera with more confidence for a sequel that takes things to all-new extremes. If you really liked The Collector, chances are, you’re going to really like this next sick entry quite a bit. It’s a little less intimate than its predecessor; however, it’s bigger than and just as wicked as the first.
The stage is set with the kidnapping of Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick), the lone survivor of a nightclub attack in which “the Collector” pulls off his greatest massacre ever – one of the bloodiest and best on-screen opening scene bloodbaths since Ghost Ship. Trapped in a labyrinthine abandoned hotel by her well-armed captor, Elena spends the film attempting an escape with the help of a rescue team lead by Arkin. Said hotel, of course, is inhabited by the Collector and this nest of his is brimming with grisly traps and other surprises.
The Collection starts strong and ends strong, gleefully amassing a generous body count along the way.
Following the re-introduction of Arkin – who joins the rescue team much to his chagrin – the film’s momentum falters slightly as we get a feel for the Collector’s environment, furthermore, what makes him tick. Arkin, Elena and the others (including Lee Tergesen and The Wire‘s Andre Royo) separately wander from room to room – each more strange than the next and showcasing the bizarre and effective work of production designer Graham Walker. Once the gang is back together, however, The Collection rediscovers its footing and takes off with the force of a freight train, snapping bone and tearing flesh.
The tapestry of dangers the Collector has in his hotel is all rather effective, brutal and not for the squeamish. The only thing missing from the film is the intensity of the “Arkin versus the Collector” dynamic that was driving The Collector. By broadening the scope and introducing new characters with the sequel, the potential terror that came with the first film is replaced by more “go for the jugular”-style action and that’s perfectly okay because Dunstan knows how to shoot the hell out the nastiness with the giallo-esque vivid photography of Sam McCurdy.
The bottom line is that The Collection is a blast; it’s pulpy, grotesque and packed with the warped sort of humor we’ve come to expect from Dunstan/Melton. Furthermore, it’s a sequel that doesn’t dilute the impact of its villain (as some follow-ups are wont to do) and it pushes the series onward without repeating similar ground all that much. To what end game it’s moving towards, I’m very curious to see.