Movie Reviews 231 – The Collector (2009)

The CollectorThe DVD box for The Collector clearly makes it a point to highlight the fact that the movie was written by the same guy who wrote some of the later Saw installments (Saw IV and Saw V if that makes a difference). While this may or may not seem important, it is a telling indicator of what to expect here.

Like the Saw movies which go to great lengths trying to devise clever new ways to ensnare hapless victims in timed ‘do or die’ mechanical contraptions, what we get in The Collector is an endless procession of deadly booby traps in a house. Another similarity between the Saw movies and this movie is that the machinations are all put in place by a mysterious masked adversary and we’re not sure what his motivation and intentions are. And finally, one last common component is a protagonist that straddles the line between good and evil.

But where Saw delivers genuine intrigue and mystery, The Collector stutters with a ramshackle and incoherent storyline with lots of gaps we either have to rationalize ourselves or, failing that, just go with the flow and hope things will sort themselves before the end. The problem is that they don’t and all these holes leaves the main plot as a smelly swiss cheese.

Seasoned safe-cracker Arkin (Josh Stewart) scouts a wealthy jeweller’s house while posing as a contractor during renovations. As the family is about to leave for vacations, his intent is to break in that evening when they are gone and get to a hidden safe. But that night he gets a nasty surprise as some other hooded prowler slithers through the rooms on his heels. As the cat and mouse game continues Arkin discovers that the homeowners have been savagely beaten by The Collector and are now being held in the basement. But the biggest surprise is that not only has the home become a veritable jungle of blades, nails, knives, bear traps, and sticky acidic goo, all exits are now obstructed, making Arkin a prisoner as well.

There is some tension building as Arkin tries to help the homeowners and even rescue their young daughter who has so far eluded The Collector, but not enough to salvage the film.

Who is The Collector and what does he really want? There is brief plot point that demonstrates that the The Collector is a recurring offender who begins each new household victimization by bringing one of his precursor victims, alive and boxed in a wooden container. His newest victims first begin their precarious journey innocently discovering the mystery box in their homes before being terrorized themselves. But why he does this is never explained at all and it just adds more confusion to the story.

Another problem here is the film makers tried to come up with a lame excuse as to why Arkin was determined to rob the house in the first place and how he has until midnight to get the job done. But the reason is a semi-coherent story about how his wife desperately needs money by the end of the day, and somehow even though Arkin finds himself in a ambulance at the stroke of midnight with a chunk of something he took from the safe (looks more like a lump of rock) he seems content on having ‘made it’ in time. (Say what?)

Much like the Saw movies themselves, if implements of torture and death are enough to satisfy you you’ll get a kick from the movie. But even the Saw movies provided a well defined antagonist in the form of Jigsaw over the course of the series. The Collector remains a figure cloaked (and masked) in mystery. Perhaps the producers ‘fleshed him out’ in the sequel, The Collection, but I’m not sure I’m interested enough to care.

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