The Collector (2009 movie) review…

The Collector (2009 movie) review after the break…

The Collector (2009 movie) review…

I blame the movie “Saw” for all of this. I honestly do.

I suppose it is only fair to write that I don’t ‘get’ “Torture Horror,” “Torture pr0n” or any of the other slang terms used to describe the sub-genre of horror movies where the main repulsive element is the grotesque torturing of individuals. I understand that such a writing element is a fairly cheap way at eliciting a response from the viewing audience. The special effects behind portraying gore is cheap compared to a well-written script; The costs of the physical props are quantifiable as compared to the very subjective element of suspense or mystery for which there is no guarantee of a financial return. A great film may be ruined by a bad director but even ‘lousy’ gore gets a repulsed reflex from all but the hardiest of viewers.

“The Collector” is a 2009 horror film about a safe cracker working undercover as a general contractor in order to steal a large gem from a prospective family. Pressured to steal the gem early, he enters the house only to find the family is being held hostage by a sadistic killer who has eerily jam-packed the place full of devious traps meant to maim and murder anyone who sets them off. His morals, and his own sense of self-preservation, kicks in as the killer and the safe cracker play as both the hunted and the hunter, switching roles as the movie progresses.

If you don’t like gore and you have a problem with seeing people getting tortured (even though it is all Hollywood special effects) then this isn’t the film for you. It’s just that simple. You aren’t a bad person for liking some genres and not liking others.

As I’ve stated previously, I’m not a fan of the torture sub-genre of horror films. The sub-genre and elements of it are a cheap thrill that often mask a shallow script and other aspects of a shoddy film effort. The family tree for this type of horror movie can be traced back to the serial killers of the 1970s and 1980s, the movie “Psycho” in the 1960s and even with such films as the Bela Lugosi rendition of “Dracula.” This particular strain of sub-genre has mutated the serial killers, who were once unrepentantly silent and evil (along with indestructible), into sophisticated serial killers who are sort of “bad-good-bad-good-bad guys.” They kill but they kill because they care. The killer in “Saw” only wants people to love life and, in the killer’s twisted logic, the only way to truly love life is to sacrifice everything to avoid death. See? They’re not “evil evil,” they’re evil with a positive message! The killer in “The Collector” likes ‘collecting’ interesting people and killing the rest. See? That’s almost ‘light gray’ compared to the pitch black souls of Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers!

No one walks into one of these types of movies expecting the type of entertainment one might find from “Masterpiece Theater” so the real question is: Does this movie entertain? Well, no. To entertain, you have to suspend a certain amount of disbelief. With the space opera genre, suspension of disbelief is a prerequisite – We all know traveling to another planet is hard enough but routine travel between solar systems and whole galaxies? For the torture sub-genre of horror, the suspension is set to a lower standard but it is still there. In the movie, the safe cracker leaves a completely normal house only to return to a certifiable death trap only hours later. The television series “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” known for quickly building a house in seven days or less, has nothing on this serial killer who demonstrates an elaborate death trap involving a golf club, a trip wire and a chandelier early on. Nearly invisible but highly sharp wires adorn another room like laser trip wires guarding a mountain of gold. Bear traps aplenty abound in another room while deadly yellow acid is spilled all over a bedroom, waiting for the first (and likely last) misplaced step. Quite simply, rigging a small apartment with all of these elaborate traps would take the better part of a day, never mind the mansion that this movie is actually set in.

Suspension of disbelief isn’t always necessary, though, for these types of movies to work. Some people can just “accept” that a serial killer (who is really just the literary equivalent of evil incarnate) can magically conjure up such concoctions. A well-written character or characters can certainly make up for an implausible plot, right? Unfortunately, the movie fails in this category as well. Our hero, as the movie would like for us to forget, is a robber. Yes, a robber with a heart of gold (after all, he’s robbing to help out his girlfriend and her child and, if you’re not going to rob for that then what can you rob for?). The movie even makes an attempt to show that he’s not even the worst of the criminals, being pressured by even meaner criminals in order to perform the safe cracking job. See? A bully of a bully is actually a wimp… Kind of… If you follow the logic of this movie. What about the victims, though? The hero doesn’t matter if the victims are all jerks. George Romero made the zombies, almost always the enemies whenever they’re encountered in a movie, into the heroes when he portrayed marauding motorcyclists as violent and unrefined during his classic “Dawn of the Dead.” Yet the family isn’t portrayed as being rich and snobby but just as a family that happens to be wealthy. Daughter Hannah likes to have imaginary tea parties (yes, the real tea parties, as in stuffed animals sitting around a table drinking imaginary tea). Older teenage daughter Jill (providing the only up-close eye candy the film has) is the typical rebellious teenager. Mom and Dad aren’t portrayed as snotty or annoying. So why is “The Collector” after them? There’s no explanation and that doesn’t help in suspending disbelief.

The movie sets up a lot of characters that don’t exactly resolve themselves. What happens to the safe cracker’s girlfriend and child? What about the other criminals? What about Hannah (the only family member left alive – Sorry… What? Like you were watching this movie for the suspense?). After all the abuse that the safe cracker has taken, I’m surprised he’s still breathing at the end of this movie.

Plot holes abound in this movie – What about cell phones? “Hi. I’m trapped in a house full of devious traps. Help me.” There’s the end of your movie right there. They never address cell phones or the internet or… Well, a lot of topics, like how such a devious serial killer can miss a teenage couple making out in a car parked on the premises.

You can’t argue with the production values of the movie itself – The effects look nice enough, the film wasn’t shot on Grandma’s new digital camcorder, the actors don’t slur their lines… Yet such efforts are meaningless if there isn’t a script for the actors to work with. The gore is meaningless if we don’t care about victims. The serial killer is ineffective if you don’t even have an inkling as to what truly motivates them (collecting people in a box and then… what?).

“The Collector” may well be a fresh angle on the terror sub-genre but the setting makes no sense and you never get the chance to care about any of the individuals involve. It’s like watching a baseball game being played on a soccer (futbol for the rest of the world) field by two teams you don’t care about. Why not someone who accidentally mistakes a warehouse address as your plot? You now have a likeable character in a believable setting. Everyone sometimes gets an address mixed up and if it’s the serial killer’s main place, they’d have lots of time to set up all sorts of devious traps.

From what I understand, a sequel is being made for this movie called “The Collection.” From what I’ve read of the plot, our safe cracker is forced to go into The Collector’s lair (because true serial killers miraculously heal from all of their injuries so quickly) to rescue another hapless victim. Fair warning.

Avoid “The Collector” unless you’re desperate for a few moments of female nudity or an avid fan of the torture horror sub-genre. This is one film that everyone else doesn’t need to collect or, for that matter, watch.

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