Director: Marcus Dunstan
Cast: Josh Stewart, Juan Fernandez, Michael Reilly Burke, Andrea Roth, Karley Scott Collins
Watch The Collector online in the UK: Netflix UK / Shudder UK / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV Store / Google Play
Having written Saw VI, V and VI, Marcus Dunstan has clearly lost none of his taste for gruesome bloody torture, invariably followed by gruesome bloody death. His directorial debut, The Collector, sees a man trying to escape from a locked house, full of fatal booby traps. Think Home Alone reinvented as torture porn, but not entirely in a bad way.
Dunstan’s freshman outing isn’t as good as his pseudo-follow-up, The Neighbour, but he really knows how to hammer home horror. His tactic here isn’t to keep things off screen, but to shove the gore right in your face. Every dripping, dribbling, oozing last drop. And so the unsubtle experience begins, with an opening credits sequence full of big words and shouty music. Then, we meet ex-con and builder Arkin (Stewart), and things become rather likeable.
You see, Arkin has a daughter, and a girlfriend. And they’re in trouble with some loan sharks. So Arkin has no choice but to break into the house he’s working on and steal the family’s jewels to save his girlfriend’s neck. But enough about that back-story: Arkin is mid-heist when he realises that Michael (Reilly Burke) and Victoria (Roth) have fallen prey to the titular crazed sadist (Fernandez) and his sick plans. Will Arkin fight for his life? Sure. But he’ll also go all paternal and try and save Michael and Victoria’s young daughter, Hannah (Scott Collins), who’s in the building too.
So that’s OK, then. Arkin’s a nice guy. And Hannah’s an innocent person who deserves not to die. So far, so morally simple. Then, the traps start clapping shut all over the place. Chandeliers carrying knives, carpets covered in superglue, windows laced with guillotines – it’s one hell of a fun house the nameless bogeyman has set up undetected in an implausibly short time period.
But once the bodily fluids start flying, you get distracted from the plot holes and start focusing more on the cat-and-mouse game that unfolds. As Arkin creeps over creaky floorboards, the camera flying across rooms and through walls, Dunstan’s dynamic direction makes for a terrifyingly tense (and mostly silent) middle section. The ending is mildly unsatisfying (the moral structure that’s built up is rapidly dismantled), but it comes quick and fast, never letting the pace lag to anything lower than mental.
The result is a nasty, unsettling and depraved piece of cinema – it’s less Home Alone and more an extreme version of David Fincher’s Panic Room. While The Collector is disturbing to watch, though, it’s undeniably riveting stuff. You can’t look away even when you want to. And you do want to. Frequently. But if you can get past that squeamish barrier in your head, then you’ll find a surprisingly engaging and enjoyable movie.
The Collector is available on Netflix UK as part of a monthly £7.49 monthly subscription, and on SHUDDER UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, or £49.99 yearly membership.
Where can I watch The Collector on pay-per-view VOD?
For more on Shudder UK, including reviews of films available now, previews of what’s coming soon and an interview with Dearest Sister director Mattie Do, see VODzilla.co’s Shudder UK channel.