Theatrical review: The Collector

A different kind of repo man.

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Certificate: 18
Director: Marcus Dunstan
Screenwriters: Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton
Cast: Josh Stewart, Michael Reilly Burke, Andrea Roth
Distributor: Icon
Running Time:91 mins

With Hostel and Saw, Eli Roth, Leigh Whannell and James Wan birthed the infamous torture porn genre, a reinvention of the Eighties slasher cycle typified by its insistence on grisly and unflinchingly depicted violence, and it is a genre into which the gorenographic The Collector (un)comfortably fits.

From the mind of director and co-screenwriter Marcus Dunstan, a Saw franchise alumnus, it pits Josh Stewart’s burglar Arkin against a masked assailant with a most unique hobby. Arkin breaks into the Chase’s rural family home to rob them only to discover he has been pipped to the post by a masked ‘collector’ who has tied the family up in the basement (with barbed wire!), tortured them, and set the rural homestead up as a hellish helter-skelter maze of booby traps. What follows is a cat and mouse chase as Arkin tries to save his own skin, literally, and protect the family from a man for whom flesh is but a canvas for Leatherface-styled depravity.

Set up as a kind of Frontier(s) meets Home Alone, The Collector is a survival horror with all manner of devilish tricks up its sleeve. Animal traps in the hallway, searing acid in the bedroom, eyelids and mouths sewn shut, it delivers in the bloodletting stakes with a relentless barrage of squirm-inducing set pieces. Dustan’s direction takes the premise one step further too and, as the hunter becomes the hunted with Arkin creeping round the house, the threat of impending violence layers every footstep and creak of a door in this nerve-shredding minefield. Imagine the closing scene of Silence Of The Lambs stretched to feature length, and with razor-blade traps at every turn, and you’re halfway there. Yet while competently executed it may be, if you’ll pardon the pun, Dunstan and Melton’s screenplay lacks the depth to pull all the savagery together with any real purpose.

The ‘collector’ remains a motiveless boogeyman, his prey faceless fodder for his insane contraptions, and it is all wound up with a climax that stretches credulity too far. But while it certainly delivers the shocks and scares that Hostel: Part II and the Saw series’ later instalments struggled to find, and works well within torture porn parameters, it fails to take the horror genre anywhere new. Compared to Freddie and Jason, the ‘collector’ is no match either.

A grisly house invasion horror, The Collector is a terrifying ordeal, yet surprisingly easy to forget.