a zoo in hell


The Collection (2012)

Discriminating horror fans have a tough time of it. Low budgets and potential high profits create a genre which occasionally delivers a movie like House of the Devil, The Last Exorcism, maybe even Trouble Every Daybut not before shoveling hundreds of straight-to-Netflix "horror films" out for to an audience which will seemingly watch anything. We expect more from the genre because we know and believe in the potential for this kind of film. We are not so easily fooled as to fall for just any masked killer movie.

The Collector emerged as a cult hit since its 2009 release. This praise was mostly justified, as The Collector combined the nefarious traps of Saw with the merciless attitude of gritty exploitation films of the past, and most importantly, characters who were more than just fodder for the slaughter. There was style to the film as well,  Brandon Cox filmed it with a keen sense of color and atmosphere. Marcus Dunstan (Feast) directed the course of the story with an eye for tension and action which is very rare in horror film of this kind. The Collector (Juan Fernandez) was an ominous presence which harkened back to greats like Michael Myers, but also delivered his own chilling touches. Much more than "torture porn", The Collector was an artful and harrowing film about survival.

The Collection is a direct sequel to The Collector. The Collector is still on the run, and Arkin (Josh Stewart) is still in the crimson trunk that the killer keeps his select victims inside of. Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick) is taken away from her studies by her friends to attend an underground party. Unfortunately, this party is being thrown by The Collector and he offers his unique hospitality to the hundreds of guests in attendance. Elena discovers Arkin after he escapes from the trunk, but is captured by The Collector as Arkin manages to throw himself out of a warehouse window. 

Elena has a rich father, Mr. Peters (Chris McDonald) who will do anything to protect the life of his daughter. To this end, he has his security man Lucello (Lee Turgesen) "hire" Arkin to navigate his team of hired guns through The Collector's warehouse fortress. Arkin agrees to be their guide, first for personal satisfaction, but ultimately at gunpoint. They enter the maze of traps and the game begins as one by one they fall victim to The Collector's Rube Goldberg murder machines.
Wally (Andre Royo) is in on the joke.

Really, that's it. While there are a few twists of fate and action, there is not much more to the film than a  cat and mouse chase through the halls of Collector's slaughtering imagination. The hired guns do little for their cause or the film other than ratcheting up the body count. Wally (Andre Royo) stands out, mostly because I had to wonder how an actor of his calibre wound up in this movie. His part is mercifully (for him) short and his departure takes most of the energy out the scenes with the team. Tergesen plays Lucello to the extent of the character, which is little more than a hard-boiled cliche of private enforcers we've seen many times in many movies like this.

Those aren't poisonous, you know.
Across the board, there is little to recommend in the performances. Josh Stewart's return to character lacks the conviction which drove Arkin forward in The Collector, and it's no wonder since this film has none of the guts that the first one had. At best, he comes of as a sneering Sean Penn clone, at worst his performance betrays the lines and the scene. For that matter, there are few actors in this film who seem to actually want to act. Emma Fitzpatrick does a decent job animating the wounded rich girl, but she doesn't have much more to do than be a stand-in for a kick-ass horror heroine from another movie. Randall Archer mimics Juan Fernandez's Collector well enough, but occasionally slips into rote stalker behavior which robs the character of all distinction and menace. A notable performance is offered by Erin Way as Abby. Abby's mixed allegiances is one of the most interesting, if finally predictable, parts of the film. 

The Collector throws bomb parties.
Honestly, I knew the film was in trouble as soon as Elena entered the warehouse party. The party scenes were shot with a style more fit for a soda commercial and an energy that just didn't click with anything else in the movie or The Collector. The Collector worked because everyone was trapped from the very beginning, and everything on the screen reinforced that claustrophobia. Glossy, sexy dancing  people do not do this. Thankfully, this stuff is cut short as the murders begin very quickly. Yet this industrial scale mass slaughter has little in common with the intricate traps which made The Collector interesting. The special effects in this segment do not help things either.

Jeepers creepers...
There are so many ways that this film is not like The Collector it is hard to understand how it was made by the same people. The cinematography lacks the subtlety and mood of The Collector, and is more reminiscent of a SyFy Saturday night cheapie. The soundtrack is clumsy and feels slapped on as a post-production afterthought. 

If there is a saving grace for this film, it is all the suggestions of what it could have been. The backstory of The Collector is only hinted at, but is one of the more interesting parts of the film. There's a massive gallery of mutilated bodies, crafted by Gary J. Tunnicliffe's Two Hours In The Dark Inc, which hints at a phantasmagoria to surpass The Cell, but only receives brief flashes of screen time. Instead of a nightmarish tour-de-force, we got what was essentially a hack-and-slash reminiscent of the soulless Saw 3D

That's not a centipede in there.
The Collection is a fairly independent film. The official budget is only $10 million, which seems remarkably low for everything this film does do. Yet it has none of the spark and verve which made it's ($3.5 million budgeted) predecessor more than just another wannabe Hollywood slasher rehash. Unfortunately, this low-budget horror film has fallen the way of other franchise sequels which have sucked the life of the genre even as they've milked every penny out of their fans. Maybe the joke is ultimately on us, the fans, as this team's entry into national filmmaking was the parody horror film Feast. Maybe they are more comfortable with the predictable funhouse which is The Collection than the genuinely unnerving horror of The Collector. That kind of film pays better, for sure.

Fighting a killer and a hangover...all at once!
We're all used to this, of course. Horror sequels of this sort are exactly what drives the industry and what also gives it a bad reputation as a genre. Perhaps the only pleasure from watching a film like The Collection is the knowledge that you can always rewatch The Collector and imagine what should've been. If nothing else, the missteps of this film highlight what The Collector did so well. We can only hope that Dunstan and Melton see this too. They've got other good films in them, so let's just leave The Collection to gather dust as soon as possible.

Article first published as Movie Review: The Collection on Blogcritics.