Any self-respecting horror fan knows how sequels are supposed to work. To paraphrase Randy’s guidelines in Scream 2, the body count needs to be higher and the death scenes need to be more elaborate. Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton were clearly taking notes, because The Collection, the sequel to their inventively gruesome 2009 horror The Collector, turns everything up to 11.
While the action in The Collector was largely contained in a suburban home, this sequel starts with an insanely OTT nightclub massacre before taking the action to its killer’s own labyrinthine house of horrors. When the daughter of a wealthy businessman is taken by feared serial killer The Collector, said wealthy businessman’s chief muscle Lucello (Lee Tergesen) convinces Arkin (Josh Stewart) to help his team track the psycho down and get her back. Arkin’s essential, as he’s the only one to have escaped the killer’s clutches after enduring the first film. But the Collector’s house is full of the kind of cruel and unusual traps you’d expect, and several that you wouldn’t…
Dunstan and Melton cut their teeth on the Saw franchise (writing parts 4, 5, 6 and 7) and that gruesome sensibility is still very much in evidence. The Collector‘s traps and torture methods were essentially more outrageous riffs on Jigsaw’s own, without the restrictions of moral lessons (an unfortunate cat trying to unpeel itself from murderously sticky goo was difficult to forget). However, compared to this, the first film is practically a docu-drama.
The pair throw everything at the screen in an effort to find something that will make you cringe or gag. By placing the action in the killer’s home, they have license to pack the screen with all kinds of creepy paraphernalia, including jars of body parts, creepy mannequins and water tanks containing incorrectly reassembled corpses. They also show a tremendous love for Eighties schlock fests: the opening nightclub slaughter plays like Hellraiser 3 filtered through Final Destination, while there are later specific nods to Dario Argento, Wes Craven and John Carpenter. From creepy crawlies (take a bow, spiders) to people under the stairs, The Collection is a love letter to the gory and the ludicrous. The fact that one of the closest points of comparisons is Aliens should let you know what you’re in for.
It’s all very difficult to take seriously, but it’s played with a straight face by a strong cast. Stewart (last seen as Bane’s chief henchman in The Dark Knight Rises) reprises his role from the first film to good effect. Emma Fitzpatrick (The Social Network) is a strong heroine, Lee Tergesen (Generation Kill, HBO’s Oz) plays the determined team leader with a steely jaw, and Andre Royo (Bubbles from The Wire) pops up as his impressively faux-hawked subordinate.
Things do slow down a bit after the insane first half as Dunstan and Melton settle into a more predictable stalk-and-slash (punctuated by grotesque shocks) and, with a running time of a lean 82 minutes, there’s no room for anything as frivolous as character development. It’s also a film that’s pitched squarely at its target audience, which creates a pretty limited appeal. If you’re not a fan of the Saw films then this is best probably best avoided. It’s also, for all the blood and severed limbs, never really that scary. Dunstan and Melton rely more on unpredictability and gore rather than actual scares. We can’t even guarantee that devotees of the original will enjoy this is as it is so over the top.
However, the decision not to simply replay the first film should be applauded. This might not be the claustrophobic slasher its predecessor was, but if you’re on Dunstan and Melton’s wavelength then you’re in for a lot of schlocky fun. The Collection is frequently entertaining in its ridiculousness and the sense of glee, with which the filmmakers keep unveiling bigger, gorier, and increasingly batshit surprises proves to be quite contagious.