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The Collector
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2009

Format: Movie
By:   Marcus Dunstan
Genre:   Horror
Review Date:   August 07, 2009
Audience Rating:   R
RevSF Rating:   6/10 (What Is This?)

"I’m gonna need you to scream." –- Arkin

Despite some people’s hopes and fears, the “torture porn” subgenre of horror seems to be, unlike its victims, alive and kicking.

The latest entry into this bloody arena is The Collector, brought to us by the gang from Saw IV, V, and soon, VI. And you can tell it’s by these guys, because the movie is full of some clever deathtraps.

When I heard the premise of The Collector, I got excited. The idea of a cat burglar playing cat and mouse with a psycho killer sounded ingenious. Most times, killers go up against helpless, brainless teens. The thought of one vs. a skilled opponent is new and exciting.

How would a talented thief, already used to defusing alarms, handle killer traps? Could the psycho handle someone who doesn't run and scream? The setup had me primed for a great time.

Sadly, the movie isn’t the skill vs. skill throwdown I expected. Lead guy Arkin (Josh Stewart), isn’t the skilled master thief I imagined. He’s a good thief, mind you, but he’s no Simon Templar. He is a very human crook with a talent for safecracking. And that's it.

Arkin has cased the house of a rich jewelry broker as he is working as a contractor putting in the replacement windows in the guy’s house (naturally, it's in the middle of nowhere).

Arkin’s under pressure to complete the robbery quickly, as his wife owes cash to a loan shark, putting her and Arkin’s young daughter in jeopardy.

There’s a lot of setup of Arkin’s motivations and character in the beginning, for which I give Dunstan and co-writer Patrick Melton credit. They build a believable world, with honestly motivated characters. They show the motivations instead of telling us about them, including Arkin being cool under pressure when he finds a hornet nest, and showing that Arkin can handle pain when he doesn’t flinch when his fence burns Arkin’s hand.

Arkin is believable when we see him with his daughter and the daughters of the jeweler. We sympathize with his desperate situation, even if he is a thief, because we know he's committing the crime to save his family. So we care when he stumbles into the deathtraps that the psycho killer set up in the house.

Speaking of traps, there are some interesting ones. I don’t want to ruin them, as they’re the main reason to see movies like this. They’re mostly clever and vicious, even if they feel like ones that didn’t quite make the cut for the next Saw flick.

The killer is sharp and twisted, who has a slick mask and is played with sadistic glee by Juan Fernandez. His eyes shine in the dark like a cat, reflecting light back at the camera. His killer is strong and silent like Jason, while also being nimble like Freddy, but without his flair.

The movie lives up to the cat and mouse premise, and Arkin is a good, but not super-talented mouse. The cat, er, killer, is fiendish and smart.

The fatal flaw is the movie doesn’t deviate from the Psycho Killer template. It has an ending you can see coming. There is a tiny reward for staying through the credits, so I gave it a point for that.

If you’re looking for a good horror flick to enjoy at the theater, The Collector will scratch that itch. But you won’t miss too much if you wait for DVD.

It reminds us we need to run extensive background checks on renovators. Also, don’t live in a house in the sticks. How many times do I have to warn everyone? Stay out of the backwoods! The character you save may be you!

RevSF writer Gary Mitchel cares when he stumbles into deathtraps.

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