The Collector (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
A couple (William Prael, Diane Ayala Goldner) just got home from a night out. When the husband flipped the light switch downstairs, none of the lights turned on. His wife screamed from upstairs. The dutiful husband ran in a hurry for his wife’s aid but she seemed to be okay. The two of them found themselves in front of a menacing red box in the middle of their bedroom. On top of it was a note which stated that it was for The Collector. Based on the screenplay by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, “The Collector” unfolded curiously while maintaining a nail-biting cat-and-mouse game between Arkin (Josh Stewart), a contract handyman who needed money so that loan sharks wouldn’t hurt his wife and daughter, and the mysterious masked figure (Juan Fernández) who was kinder to bugs than people, but the answers that we so very much deserved were denied with impunity. In order for us to understand the whole picture of whatever was going on, it begged for a sequel which just won’t do. It was a shame because the film did contain moments of creativity. When Arkin realized that the mansion that he was going to steal from was filled with booby traps, the camera was almost cheeky in the way it revealed the various devices and triggers. My jaw dropped: there were at least ten different ones–overkill–and yet I wanted to laugh but couldn’t do so. I was too worried that at any second Arkin was bound to take the wrong step or touch the wrong thing and the masked man, torturing the patriarch and matriarch (Michael Reilly Burke, Andrea Roth) in the basement, would discover that someone was upstairs. Running was simply not an option especially if invisible wires could cause the knives to be ejected from hidden corners. I knew I was very involved with it because when the protagonist did get hurt, I found myself covering my mouth. Somehow, I thought that if I didn’t scream from horror, he wouldn’t scream from the pain of being maimed. The first half was a lot of fun because the secret prowling around the house combined with very little possibility for an escape created increasing levels of tension. The picture began to fall apart, however, in the second half. While the chase scenes were exciting initially, they lost their appeal quite quickly not only because it became redundant, the plot failed to move forward. As corpses began to pile up, so did our questions. And while the lifeless bodies could be left by themselves, our questions could not. With its degree of violence, I wondered what the masked man was doing in the house and what exactly he wanted from the family. While a sentence or two offered an explanation, it wasn’t enough and it didn’t make sense. I found it amusing that the opening credits of the film, directed by Marcus Dunstan, was obviously inspired by David Fincher’s “Se7en,” from the grotesque images, quick cuts, and very unsettling music. While “Se7en” was violent, the screenplay showed that there was a point to the blood and mayhem with respect to its universe. In here, there seemed to be no point other than for us to watch a well-meaning thief struggle for his life as we winced uncomfortably in our seats. I did pull my limbs closer to my body for safety but there proved to be no comfort against the nagging questions in my brain.