Tag: marcus dunstan

The Collection

The Collection (2012)
★ / ★★★★

When Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick) catches her boyfriend, who had called less than an hour earlier with an excuse to cancel their plans for the evening, making out with another girl in a club, she punches him in the face, leaves him with a bloody nose, and storms off the dance floor. She ends up in one of the rooms at the back which happens to have a red trunk inside. To her horror, it begins to shake. Curious as to what it contains, she opens it and out comes a man covered in blood. Concurrently, the young people in the club are killed by rotating blades while those who manage to escape are flattened like pancakes. Amidst the panic, Elena is abducted by The Collector (Randall Archer) while the man covered in blood, Arkin (Josh Stewart), jumps out of the building to escape.

While “The Collection,” written by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, is generous when it comes to maiming and killing, it is more disgusting than a suspenseful experience. It does not answer very many questions brought up in the first film, “The Collector,” which makes me question the necessity of the story having to be told in three parts. Although it is not a very good movie, I admit that the last scene made me excited for its conclusion.

When not showing a person getting stabbed or limbs being chopped off, the film results to usual tricks in the horror genre. For instance, when a desperate character peers through a hole, we expect the eye of someone from the other side to appear within five seconds. This is supposed to be scary but it just comes off lazy. Another example that is equally cliché but more tolerable is when a character faces two possible courses of action but is pressured into taking one before thinking things through because the killer’s footsteps can be heard from a few feet away. It holds no excitement or thrill.

The well-placed traps have more personality than the team hired to break into the Collector’s hotel of horrors and rescue the girl. With the exception of Arkin, who has kindly decided to help them to a point, and the leader of the pack, Lucello (Lee Tergesen), everyone feels like he or she is there only to be killed in the most gruesome ways. As their number dwindles down, it feels like a death march to the inevitable final confrontation.

There is one scene that stands above the rest but only to an extent. There is nothing original about the protagonist being in a room with flickering lights as the antagonist moves closer from behind. And yet it works here because I was reminded by its predecessor’s ability to make me squirm in my seat. As he was in the first film, Stewart has such a wonderful presence about him. He is able to exude a balance of toughness and vulnerability which makes us want to root for him. We care what happens to his character not just because he is a potential victim or we do not want to see another person scream in pain.

Directed by Marcus Dunstan, “The Collection” tries to expand its universe by showing more visually. This feels like a most shallow approach, not at all dissimilar to action picture sequels that do everything bigger and badder but are ultimately more hollow. If the writers had focused more on the characters, like giving us more information about Elena other than she is from a rich family and hinting at why the Collector is driven to do the things he does, it might have had a semblance of creativity aside from the by the numbers splatter.

The Collector

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.

Saw 3D

Saw 3D (2010)
★ / ★★★★

In “Saw 3D,” written by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, the supposed final installment of the commercially (although not artistically) successful “Saw” franchise had three strands. First, Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell), Jigsaw’s wife, was on the run from Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) so she took refuge at a police station. In return for protection, she was willing to divulge information about the infamous murders. Meanwhile, Detective Matt Gibson (Chad Donella) was in charge of solving a new crop of grizzly murders. Unlike the ones before him, would he be lucky enough to survive? Lastly, Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) claimed to have been been kidnapped by Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and was successful at escaping his famous traps designed to teach a macabre lesson through painful irony. He and his entourage benefited from his fame based on untrue information. When he was kidnapped, was he capable of living up to his promise? “Saw 3D” was an excellent example why the series should simply end. I found no redeeming quality in it because every other scene was a flashback to the other six “Saw” pictures. Flashbacks are normally used to enlighten its audiences, not drive us into further confusion (and frustration). When I read reviews from fans of the franchise, they claim that they love the movies because “everything is connected.” No, it’s not. Just because a flashback makes a reference to a one minute scene from another movie, it does not necessarily mean there is a strong connection between the two. Aside from the first “Saw” movie, the rest lacked logic. Somewhere in the middle the central theme was lost. The victims were led to believe that they could get out of the traps. In reality, the possibility of escape was zero. How can we root for the character if we know she’s doomed? But I digress. “Saw 3D,” directed by Kevin Greutert, was plagued with clichés. From the cops’ arrival three seconds prior to the gruesome kill to a foggy night when something bad would eventually happen, it was one disappointing scene after another. The only comfort I found was to laugh at the ridiculous situations the characters found themselves in. I particularly enjoyed the scene of the woman, equipped with a shrill voice and in charge of public relations, who had a fish hook (along with a key necessary for her escape) stuck in her stomach and Bobby, using a string, had to pull it out of her mouth. It was bloody, flinch-inducing, grimly ironic, and fun to watch. Throughout the years, the franchise earned the label of “torture porn.” I thought it was appropriate. The acting was as bad as the ones seen in the very best pornographic films. I had to wonder where the casting directors found the actors. Maybe the actors knew the material was egregious but they just needed a big break. Who could blame them?