2009’s The Collector, the directorial debut of Marcus Dunstan and co-written with his screenplay partner Patrick Melton (the duo having worked on the last four entries in the Saw saga, the Feast trilogy and Piranha 3DD for Jon Gulager), cleverly fused hallmarks of home invasion and human mousetrap storylines, giving the audience a well defined protagonist in Arkin (Josh Stewart) combined with a simply defined and iconic villain in the titular Collector. The result was a solid thriller, with memorable traps and satisfyingly gory set-pieces, which didn’t perform at the box office as successfully as it deserved yet found a solid and respectful following once it made its way to home viewing, justifying a follow-up and potential franchise. The Collectionmight have been denied a cinema release but it is nonetheless a perfectly self-functioning story in its own exciting right. Dunstan and Melton delivering a sequel that doesn’t simply meet expectations but surpasses them.
The Collection picks up where The Collector left off, without the need to fill in the backstory, by informing us that Arkin, a thief who managed to escape the Collector’s fiendish devices last time round, has only gone and found himself caught, locked in a big red trunk and added to the man in black’s mysterious menagerie. Meanwhile Elena Peters (Emma Fitzpatrick) leaves her widowed, alcoholic, millionaire father (Christopher McDonald), who has recently been involved in a horrible car crash, at home for a night of hedonistic shenanigans with her cool young friends at a warehouse party on the outskirts of town. But it isn’t long before the screen explodes with fountains of the red stuff.
Escaping into one of the many anterooms on a separate floor, Elena finds herself desperately fighting to find her way out of the Collector’s labyrinthine lair, discovering various traps and specimens from previous collecting jaunts along the way, as well as accidentally causing Arkin’s escape. His freedom is short-lived, however, as he is soon approached by shady professional Lucello (Lee Tergesen) and his crack team of tooled-up mercenaries hired by Mr. Peters to break into the Collector’s heavily fortified combination theme park, museum and home, within a disused hotel of which only Arkin knows the location and must reluctantly guide them in order to get the girl and kill the baddy Aliens-style.
Employing previously trusted craftsmen and technical wizards from his previous filmmaking families, the effort that Dunstan has put into The Collection is an obvious labour of twisted love, with the rest of the cast and crew equalling his passion and professionalism. With practical effects in the capable hands of British make-up maestro Gary Tunnicliffe, not only are there memorable slices and dices as the survivors get picked off but some beautifully produced grotesques on display in the later levels, perhaps the most imaginative of their kinds since the display casesin Alien: Resurrection, also evoking Clive Barker, a previous employer of Tunnicliffe’s talents. Ex-Nine Inch Nails keyboardist Charlie Clouser, a soundtrack mainstay of the Saw Series, tries a few different tricks with this score and balances the hyperkinetic narrative with as much bombast as subtlety.
The Collector himself, this time played by stuntman Randall Archer, is as equally enigmatic, agile and intimidating as he was in the first round. Dunstan & Melton again resisting temptation to fill the plot with unnecessary back-story and countless revealing tidbits, everything’s contained within the action effectively.
In short, The Collection is heartily recommended to fans of the original and newcomers alike, a fun, twisted and relentless thrill ride.