Now to take the next two films from my collection and flip them around, against the alphabet system. Why? Because alphabetically THE COLLECTOR comes after THE COLLECTION, but as far as the two films go, THE COLLECTOR is the first film and THE COLLECTION is the sequel. So with that in mind, let’s review THE COLLECTOR.
Well, I certainly had one hell of a weekend. I watched the next three films from my collection that I had to review, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, THE COLLECTOR, and THE COLLECTION. Damnation!!! Had I jumped ahead and viewed CUJO as well I may very well have been completely traumatized. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is so in your face over-the-top and brutal, THE COLLECTOR is just as brutal, but in CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, the documentarians getting destroyed in the end is somewhat okay because they were all dicks and had it coming. In THE COLLECTOR, we’re exposed to some ingenious traps, awful torture, and gore gore gore. Only difference is all of the characters are likeable and are killed without a good justification. As for THE COLLECTION, we’ll talk about that one later.
I think that is probably the reason I find this movie so disturbing and unsettling. We have no reason to dislike any of the characters in the movie (with the exception of The Collector). When you see them tortured and murdered you just want to throw your shoe at the TV and scream “WHY?!?!?”
And this isn’t any normal torture, this is sadistic, which isn’t surprising as it’s directed and written by the two guys that wrote SAW IV through SAW VII: THE FINAL CHAPTER. So they’re no strangers to torture and gore. It’s certainly not their first rodeo. But good grief, the things they came up for in this film, makes me shudder.
That all being said, this is one of my favorite horror films of the past 15 years. It pushes—and sometimes disregards entirely—the boundaries of what you can do in a horror film. The story is mysterious and had me looking for clues as to why this is happening to this particular family (spoiler alert: there aren’t any). I was completely invested in all ninety-something minutes of this film. Even though it made my stomach do flips, I couldn’t look away. It has a villain truly worthy of being the bad guy (one of the best bad guys in horror history, to be honest), and a good guy who was deeply flawed (he’s a burglar, which is how he gets involved), but shows his true colors as he tries to help everyone escape.
It’s a fairly straightforward and simple story. The Collector takes a random family hostage, sets traps around the entire house, and waits until they get themselves killed, or does it himself. In the end, he always takes one. But to gum up the works, a burglar named Arkin breaks into the house to steal a rare gem to get money to his ex-wife that owes some loan sharks. If he can’t get her the money, she leaves town, taking his daughter with her. The Collector always has all his bases covered, but throughout most of the movie he isn’t even aware that Arkin is sneaking around the house, trying to save the lives of the family without alerting The Collector to his presence. What takes place is a battle of wits, and flesh up until the end of the film. Who wins? I’m not going to ruin that for you.
THE COLLECTOR, with all its traps and devices is sort of a mature and horrific version of HOME ALONE. Which is funny to think of it that way, but watch the film and you’ll see that for yourself. If you keep making the comparison, it’s easier to stomach all the horrible things this film has in store for you. Believe me, it has some truly horrible things to show you.
Don’t think Arkin gets off light, here. He takes a lot of damage throughout the film. At first he keeps ticking because he’s looking for a way out of the house. Later he keeps ticking because he’s trying to save the life of the little girl (who thankfully hadn’t been caught by The Collector up to that point). He takes some seriously awful punishment. Including fishing hooks tearing through his flesh, yanking his hand out from between two sets of razor blades, A few blows to the head, and one particularly cringe-worthy sequence where a slice is made in his abdomen and The Collector holds a jar of cockroaches up against it and heats the jar up with a lighter (the goal being that the cockroaches crawl into Arkin through the slice in his abdomen in an attempt to get away from the uncomfortably hot surface of the jar. That’s not even the full list of what happens to him. You can now see that I’m not messing around when I call this film a non-stop brutal assault.
Actually, funny story, I saw this film in the theater with a few friends. After the movie, when they dropped me off at my at-the-time apartment, I was freaked out thinking someone like The Collector had snuck into my apartment and set traps everywhere. Then I breathed a sigh of relief, convincing myself that an apartment would be a bad idea to hit because a few screams and the neighbors will hear. The Collector usually strikes out-of-the-way homes. In other words, I will never be able to rest easy if I lived in one of those homes. I’ll stick to the city, thank you very much.
This movie is really good if you can stomach the awful things that happen in it, so I don’t recommend it to the weak of heart or easily frightened. Because this film WILL, in one way or another, creep under your skin and deeply disturb you. If it doesn’t, you might be a sociopath. There’s still plenty of things in this film to appreciate, the cinematography, lighting, and especially the cat and mouse game Arkin and The Collector play, all combine to make this film the best film to ever make you want to vomit.