Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Collector (2009)

Some people like to collect stamps, other people like to collect seashells. Some people have collections that others might find completely insane or bizarre. Some people like to collect brain cells – clearly those who made The Collector were not among them, as this is a seriously insipid, valueless piece of celluloid trying to be a movie.

Director: Marcus Dunstan
Starrimg: Josh Stewart, Juan Fernandez

(Co-written with Michelle and Kevin.)

If all you want is gore, gore and more gore, this will satisfy you. They succeeded at that goal. However I tend to think making a movie just to show off a bunch of torture crap is about as laudable an accomplishment as “Hey! I bashed my own face in with a hammer MORE TIMES THAN ANYBODY!” I heard about this movie back when it came out in 2009, but nobody ever talked about it all that much. I wondered why that was, especially for a movie that generated a sequel a few years after, up until I actually saw it. Then I perfectly understood why nobody ever talked about this movie.

We start off this movie with a couple finding a magic box in their bedroom. It sort of looks like one of the boxes a magician might use to "cut a girl in half." Since it's a suspicious object which shouldn't be there and obviously signifies that someone broke into their home, they call the police and ... HA HA HA, of course not. The idiot husband just goes up and, like a true idiot, opens the damn box, which is just a distraction for the movie's killer to grab them.

And it's allllllll downhill from this, guys!

After a credit sequence more befitting of a crappy CSI: Miami ripoff TV show, we get main character Arkin doing what he does best on the job: hanging out with little girls in their rooms and having tea. You know, the BEST parts of being a pest exterminator! The father comes in and is suitably indignant about it, as he only wants the plumber and the electrician to hang out with his daughter, NOT the pest exterminator.

Yeah this kind of credit scene was totally rad and cool ... when I saw it in Se7en 20 years ago.
The purposefully shitty picture quality combined with the awful audio doesn't make this retro, just ultralame.

It seems Arkin just can’t win though, as he goes outside and immediately gets the older teenage version of having a tea party: the other daughter of the family comes up and demands to take a drag from his cigarette. She’s the kind of person who flirts by asking what Arkin’s name means – truly a tantalizing and flirtatious question, I know. Then again, I guess ANYTHING sounds tantalizing when you mutter it in a voice so low the audience can’t hear a fucking word you’re saying. Yeah, this is one of THOSE movies … you know, the ones where the movie tries to disguise its own banality by making every line of dialogue a half-whisper like the characters are about to fall asleep.

Smoking is cool! Too bad the cancer spreading in our lungs right now will make it impossible for either of our characters to say a single line that isn't impossible to understand with the movie's bad audio quality!

So the daughter then goes upstairs and fakes an argument with her mom about going on some family vacation. Uh, OK? Why are we seeing this again? Maybe to confirm that the daughter is a bad actress, played by an already bad actress – it’s sort of like acting inception! Bad acting inside bad acting inside a bad movie.

So if you’re wondering if this movie has ANY real direction or coherence at all, the movie FINALLY gets off its ass and does something. Arkin goes to meet his girlfriend or ex-wife or mother of his daughter or whatever they are – it never really explains their relationship. He brings his daughter a stuffed bear, which causes his ex to get MAD because he should’ve been using that money to help pay off the loan sharks who will otherwise kill her.

I'm just blown away by how many shots there are in this fucking movie of Arkin up close in peoples' faces like that, holding the sides of their head. He does it like all the time! Weird thing to complain about, yeah, but even so - it's weird how many of these shots they tried to cram in. Also, you can't see it in my stills, but good luck not being nauseated by the jangling, unfocused mess that tries to pass for "camerawork" in this movie. Bunch of trendy shaky-cam crap, is what this is.

Yup, you know how it goes! The old “ex-wife owes money to the mob” love story. We’ve seen this a thousand times over in … uh … well, actually no, it’s just bizarre that THIS is what passes for drama in this movie. You seriously couldn’t think of anything else that could possibly drive the film’s conflict forward? It HAD to be “the mafia is coming to get me”? Maybe in a totally different movie, but in one of these torture-gore-porn flicks it just comes off as ridiculously extraneous and unnecessary - especially since they don't ever focus on it again, outside of a hollow reason to get Arkin into the torture-house pretty soon.

I just love the implications of this, too; the ex-wife is clearly afraid of someone coming to kill her, so of course she brings her young daughter out in public where anyone could easily try to kill them! Genius!

The scene is droll and boring: the ex-wife just bitches at Arkin a lot and there’s really nothing of substance to latch onto. Arkin then goes to a sleazy nightclub where I guess it’s “I Know Who Killed Me” day at work:

Aside from the sad fact that I Know Who Killed Me (second pic) is actually better than another movie - even just in terms of production quality - can you even tell the difference between these two? Would you even guess they weren't from the same movie?

I guess Arkin is just there to see Laurence Fishburne’s drunk deadbeat brother, who is some kind of crime boss or something – I don’t really know, and he never appears in the movie again, so either way. What follows is an overly long scene where Fishburne-lite and his cronies burn the hairs off of Arkin’s hand and eventually just tell him they won’t help him and he’s on his own about the money. Why did we have this scene at all? To pad out the running time, of course!

So that's what happened to Marcellus Wallace after Pulp Fiction.

The following scene, where he breaks into the house from earlier, is also incredibly boring and pointless. Yes, we have to have a scene painstakingly showing him breaking in to bridge where the movie is going – but does it HAVE to be so incredibly bland? The only thing going on here is what a fucking piece of shit ingrate Arkin really is. Yeah, buddy, you break into the house of those people who trusted you to work for them! You’re a real upstanding guy!

It’s just amazing that we’re actually expected to root for this thieving piece of garbage, good intentions notwithstanding. Maybe it’d be one thing if he was a better written character in whom we could see the complexity and depth of his conflict, but in THIS movie? That’s a laugh – the only thing any of what’s going on before this point was good for was just padding before the movie turns into a torture fuck-fest of epic proportions. As an aside, he’s there to steal some kind of rare jewel, which this family conveniently has in a safe hidden behind a painting. Because I guess most suburban families just happen to have rare jewels they can hide in safes in their own homes.

I have to admit a couple of the atmospheric shots of the house are sorta nice, building up some tension. However, it’s all pretty much ruined as soon as Arkin opens his fucking eyes and suddenly realizes that the entire house has been booby-trapped the whole time and SOMEHOW he just missed it when he was coming in! This guy is the worst thief ever. How could he miss all these wires and traps set up? They’re literally all over the place!

"Guess I must have missed these obvious wires all over the place when I came in! When they taught about situational awareness in thieving school, I was passed out drunk by a dumpster outside of a Burger King. Whoops!"

Some of these traps are just ridiculous, and way too contrived and implausible to really be effective at captivating the audience’s imagination. He tries to call 9-1-1 but…

Ha HA! He didn't count on me wearing protective earmuffs to make a phone call in his sick torture dungeon house fantasy land! I have outsmarted the great Collector killer!

Yup, a spike in the phone – I guess the killer was COUNTING on whoever came inside the house jamming the phone to their ear hard enough to drive that spike in. Because you know, that’s how you use a phone!

So Arkin, bewildered that he’s appearing in the Jigsaw Killer’s interpretation of the Home Alone franchise, finds his way down to the basement, where the family is being tortured in horribly green-lit dungeons with so much grain on the camera filter that it’s like the movie spent too long sunbathing at the beach without a towel to lay on.

"Allow me to keep placating and comforting you without actually trying to save you or do anything useful ever, like I do with every other character in the film." Seriously, yet another worthless cliche straight from the asses of the writers. When will these movies learn that the whole "leave kidnapped victims where they are so as not to distract the killer" thing NEVER works?

These scenes are just amazing in how stupid they are, mostly because of one fact: Arkin now knows the killer is in the house and has found the victims left alone. Instead of just waiting for the killer to come back and surprising him or knocking him out or something, Arkin decides the best course of action is to tell the blindfolded, tied-up wife to scream and distract the killer while he goes upstairs to fuck around some more. The movie could be over in five minutes if Arkin just waited down there and beat the killer over the head from behind! But that can’t happen yet. We haven’t had the SUPER SCARY threatening tongue-cut-off scene with the wife:

Yeah because for one, a tied up, blindfolded woman in a bathtub being tortured is real fucking good cinema, right? Fuck you. Two, they don’t even take advantage of this while they have it on screen! As despicable as it would be to mutilate this woman’s tongue, AT THE VERY LEAST it would fit with the movie’s modus operandi of showing gore! But the killer doesn’t actually do anything to her, and she’s fine the next time we see her. This movie's failure is so all-encompassing, so universal, that it can’t even accomplish the ONE MINISCULE, SMALL-MINDED GOAL IT SET OUT TO DO.

Upstairs, Arkin finds a bloody guy in the closet inside that box – the same guy who discovered the magic box from the opening. This guy is really only here to spew exposition like a leaky sewer pipe: the guy in the house is called the Collector, and he “collects” people and kills everyone else. That’s it – that’s really all the story you’re going to get with this. Just the image of the killer putting that guy in the box and hauling it to this house on the off-chance someone would actually find and open it in the fucking closet is astounding to me. How did this guy even survive that long trapped in that tiny-ass box? Did the killer just put a mini-fridge and A.C. in there for him? I guess it wouldn’t surprise me, given how implausible and insane the rest of this is.

Like, really, was putting hot yellow mustard-colored acid on the floor of a whole room a great idea? All it amounts to in the end is a cat getting caught in it. Arkin does the sensible thing and rips the cat out and hurls it toward the window – you’re not playing football, you inbred moron. What, you couldn’t have tried to save it? You had to throw it like that? The cat lands on the windowsill, which the killer anticipated: he outfitted the windowsill with a motion-sensing guillotine that clamps down and cuts the cat in half.

Huh. That’s two movies in the last three weeks I’ve seen where cats are killed. I don’t know how to feel about that!

We then see another trademark of the film – the killer just can’t seem to find Arkin. Part of me thought this was because he knew Arkin was there and was just playing with him. No, though – he can’t even see him right there:

"If I stay here long enough, maybe he'll get bored and go home!"

Don’t play Hide n’ Seek with this guy; you’ll stump him so bad he won’t EVER find you. Speaking of which, what’s with the killer’s outfit anyway? Was it made solely from the ass-cheeks of leather pants made for fat people? Personally I was more intimidated by the GIMP mask guy from Pulp Fiction.

Two Pulp Fiction references in the same review. Damn I'm good.

We then see the film’s ultimate height of stupidity as the older daughter comes back with her boyfriend and finds the house locked. The killer, somehow sensing them, opens the door for them and then hides. They come in and have maybe the worst sex scene I’ve ever seen, just for one fact – HOW DO THEY NOT SEE ALL THE TRAPS SET UP AROUND THE LIVING ROOM?! Even if you’re gonna tell me they’re just so into each other, even then – it still wouldn’t make sense. The traps are ALL RIGHT THERE. CLEARLY VISIBLE. OUT IN THE OPEN. These characters should see them, freak out, run outside the way they came and RUN. But nope, we need nudity in the movie, so we get some right before their unceremonious deaths:

And he's just sitting there watching them; what a fucking loser this killer is. "Hmm, well I was gonna torture and kill everyone, but I think I'll take a break to watch two people have sex." Pfft.

I gotta admit, the death scene by way of a bunch of bear traps is almost worth it. Almost. Not really though.

Arkin, finally having had enough, actually escapes and gets out of the house through an upstairs window. He could easily run to the cops and get help, but instead he sees the little girl of the family through a window and has to go save her:

No, the right answer is STILL go find law enforcement and get help. Not go back in the torture house it took you like an hour to escape from already!

Why are you so worried? Oh, I guess it’s because The Collector knows she’s in the house and is just biding his time to go get her! Actually no, he has no idea where she is. He can make ALL THESE DETAILED TRAPS ALL OVER THE HOUSE but he can’t find a 10-year-old girl hiding in a room. At first I once again gave the film too much credit – I figured maybe The Collector had kidnapped her and was hiding her in the room for later. But nope, I gave the film too much credit for even that miniscule level of brain activity. He doesn’t know where she is.

They hide in the bathroom, where of course there are a bunch of fish hooks hung up everywhere. Because yeah, if someone had already bypassed every other trap in the house, the fish hooks in the bathroom would get ‘em. Also I love how dumb-ass Arkin manages to see the hooks and duck the young daughter’s head under them, but then gets hit by them himself. What an idiot.

"Owwww, I could have easily ducked and NOT been hit in the face with fish hooks, but that would have made too much sense and I need to provide more gore for the camera!"

The Collector finally gets Arkin and tortures him in the basement. I guess he’s about to go find the daughter, when Arkin commits the unforgivable sin of calling the Collector a faggot and screaming profanities at him – truly a sign of his mental wit and word-wizardry. The greatest part about it is that it works. Yes, I'm serious; the Collector, this bad-ass torturing serial killer, gets his widdle feelings hurt when his captive victim calls him a faggot. Is there something you want to tell us there, buddy? Some insecurity you feel you have to defend your honor from?

"I spend my day disemboweling helpless victims, cutting off limbs and sewing their lips together, but don't you DARE call me a faggot! That offends my feelings!"

If this movie wasn’t worthless enough yet, we get the same dumb cliché we see in every bad horror movie: the cop who comes up and almost catches the killer, but is then killed by a cheap foil right before he can do anything useful. You waste of existence; you absolute void of anything creative or interesting.

I'm starting to think these scenes are like a neurotic tic bad filmmakers can't stop doing: the cop shows up, comes within an ass-hair of catching the killer, then gets killed off by some last-minute implausible scenario. It's been done a billion fucking times before and I am sick of it. I mean, what, do you HAVE to do every rehashed, trite scene in the book? You really couldn't resist the impulse to put this in the film?

But it's OK - the dog is killed shortly after when Arkin shoves a flaming bucket on its head and then throwing it in front of the Collector's shotgun blast, prompting it to literally explode in flames.

Tonight for dinner, chunks of exploded murderous German Shepard...

After finally escaping the Collector and trapping him in one of his own traps, Arkin gets away and he and the girl get to safety. Arkin is being taken away for his injuries in an ambulance when a truck slams into the ambulance. It’s actually the Collector, who amazingly has super-speed powers now and can catch up to a moving ambulance despite being incapacitated just moments before. So he kills the paramedics, overturns the ambulance, kidnaps Arkin and locks him up in another box! And I guess the wife just gets axed by the mafia or whatever, since Arkin definitely won’t be delivering that ruby to them now!

This was crap. It’s got no suspense, no character development, no real point to anything that happens beyond “HEY! LOOK AT ALL OUR TORTURE AND GORE, GUYS!” Not to mention the ass-load of bottom of the barrel disposable horror cliché this movie has all over it like a cockroach infestation. The whole thing is just one implausible, ridiculous scene after another. The traps were so ridiculous in how elaborate and set-up they were that it's impossible to believe even one second of this movie's plot.

Come to think of it, how did the Collector even get all those traps in the house in the first place? It's sort of implied that the Collector was actually one of the bug exterminator guys who was at the house at the beginning of the movie, and scoped out the house that way. Did he just put all of that stuff in while he was supposed to be exterminating the bugs in the house? "Oh, yeah, don't mind all the bear traps on the living room floor and the fish hooks hanging up in the bathroom! THAT'S JUST HOW WE CATCH BUGS, IT'S NOT WEIRD!" The only other option is that he somehow came back and set them up later without the family noticing, which is equally stupid.

Director Marcus Dunstan said in an interview that the Collector was supposed to be like a spider, hunting its prey – thus all the spiders seen in the movie at various points, I guess. It’s really not much of a metaphor, though, as the film fails to do anything clever with it. So the killer is sorta like a spider – so what? How does that help the meaning of the film or add any dimensions to it? It doesn’t at all. It's not good symbolism, and in fact the idea of this film having any symbolism is kind of like etching Shakespeare verses into a literal horse turd: it doesn't exactly help your case.

Maybe this movie could have been okay if the traps weren’t so prevalent and over the top; if it was just a home invasion movie about the family being kidnapped or whatever. It still wouldn’t have been good; it would have been turgid water-treading sewage without any real writing talent even then, but it at least would have been better than what we got here.

Overall I think this is a wretched experience with nothing good about it whatsoever, and I hope every copy of this movie burns in a garbage can where it belongs. You could get the same effect from looking at a stubbed toe through the night-vision filter on your video camera. With that said, tune in next week for the sequel!

Images copyright of their original owners. I own none of them.