Friday, July 3, 2015

The Collector


Starring: Josh Stewart, Karley Scott Collins, Andrea Roth, Michael Reilly Burke, Madeline Zima

Rated R for Pervasive Sadistic Bloody Violence, Language and Some Sexuality/Nudity

During my junior year of college, I took an "Intro to Philosophy" course.  It seemed interesting, and plus it seems as though everyone has to take some sort of philosophy course in college.  One of the "thought experiments" was the ethics regarding a sadist.  Like, if you put a sadistic serial killer on a deserted planet, would you feel comfortable letting him loose?  Or something like that.

I thought about that experiment a lot while watching "The Collector."  While we unfortunately have not acquired the ability to travel through space, the mask-wearing psychopath would be a perfect candidate for this experiment.  The Collector relishes pain and violence to the point where by comparison Jigsaw, the villain from the "Saw" franchise that gave birth to the "torture porn" genre, look like Mother Theresa.  The movie has the villain, but sadly, not much else.

Arkin (Stewart) is a blue-collar fellow working on the house for the Chase family.  Of course, he has ulterior motives.  When the Chases go on vacation, he intends to break into their safe and relieve them of one very large, shiny, red rock.  To be fair, he needs it to pay child support for his daughter and ex-wife (who has her own trouble with a loan shark).  But when he gets there, he finds that someone else has already broken into the house and rigged it with grotesque and deadly booby traps while he takes his time torturing the family members in the most sadistic way possible.

Watching this movie, I got the sense that writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan started with the torture scenes and used the plot to fill in the blanks.  It's certainly what they concentrate on.  The camera spends more time looking at large cutlery/booby traps than telling a story.  Okay, fine, they also look at bloody, screaming people.  Sharp and shiny things first, terrified people second, plot third.  That's not a good sign, and it signals to me that Melton and Dunstan are people I'd probably rather not know.  Granted, horror movies never have plots worthy of Shakespeare, but a compelling story, even a formulaic one, can only help things.

On the acting front, only Josh Stewart actually does anything that can be called acting.  Everyone else screams and acts terrified.  Stewart is uneven.  When he's playing a low-key everyman, he's unconvincing.  With those half-lidded eyes, he looks like a heroin addict.  But when things get going, he becomes more credible.  Former kid TV star from "The Nanny" Madeline Zima has a small role as the Chase's teenage daughter Jill.

"The Collector" looks very unprofessional.  The shot selection is very stale, the acting is stiff, and the editing is haphazard.  The shots are constantly framed so tightly that we never get a sense of where anything or anyone is, and that leads to disorientation (that's not a compliment, by the way).

Still, some of the kills are creative and there is some suspense towards the end.  But it's only worth seeking out if it's on TV or streaming on Netflix and you have no other horror movies that you haven't seen a zillion times.  But at that point you might want to seek professional help instead.

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