Pulled from its planned Australian cinema run by a tentative distributor, Marcus Dunstan's 2009 horror opus The Collector has gone to find much favour amongst DVD cultists. With the announcement at the San Diego Comic-Con this week that Dunstan is nearing completion of post-production on its sequel, The Collection, SCREEN-SPACE examines where the collecting began in the first of our new Retrospective Review series.
Stars: Juan Fernandez, Josh Stewart, Michael Reilly Burke, Andrea Roth, Madeline Zima and Karley Scott Collins.
Writers: Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan.
Director: Marcus Dunstan
Bestowing any worthy words upon the repellent genre known as torture-porn immediately induces stomach- twinging pangs of guilt, but it is impossible to deny that Marcus Dunstan’s The Collector is a film of considerable style and effective story-telling.
Our reluctant hero is petty crim Arkin (Josh Stewart), whose job as a security-systems installer for wealthy home owners allows him to case mansions, aiding his true vocation – burglar. Late one night, he returns to the isolated country home of Michael (Michael Reilly Burke) and Victoria Chase (Andrea Roth), assuming the house to be empty. To his growing horror, however, he realises he has stumbled upon a full-blown nightmare of carnage and sadism, as the Chase family has been made playthings for the sick mind of The Collector (veteran character actor Juan Fernández, unseen behind a leather mask).
The Collector has wired the house with a variety of brilliantly malicious booby-traps, all designed to a) ensure that escape for anyone inside the house is impossible, and b) provide the most cinematically-graphic means of support-character disposal as possible. Initially, Arkin just wants out but, having bonded with the youngest daughter Hannah (Karley Scott Collins) and learning of her presence in the house of horrors, he turns saviour; he also met teen-vixen older daughter Jill (Madeline Zima), though her sexually-aggressive antics condemn her under horror film rules, so little time or effort is invested in her character.
Writer/director Dunstan, emerging from the ‘creative’ team behind a bevy of the Saw films, takes this relatively simple conceit and milks it for maximum chills. That said, much of the film’s gut-level effectiveness comes from his staging of some truly hideous moments; scenes involving fish-hooks, cockroaches, Alsatian guard dogs and bear traps go pretty close to crossing the line, as does the involvement of pre-teen actress Collins, who is party to several particularly heinous acts. (And cat owners...trust me, avoid at all costs).
There’s a 1980s ‘video-nasties’ nostalgia about the horrors on show in The Collector. Dunstan relishes in the details of his villain’s handiwork – a notable trait from a time when the likes of Friday the 13th’s Jason Vorhees, Halloween’s Michael Myers or ...Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger were who the crowds came to root for. Unlike those films, who cast support roles based upon how loud auditionees could scream, The Collector has a strong co-lead in Josh Stewart; empathy for this wayward character and a depth that some deftly-handled backstory provides is very welcome.
Collaborators on the film all seem at the top of their game – the film benefits from atmospheric, dreamlike lighting; Jerome Dillon’s music nods to electro-soundtrack maestros, Tangerine Dream; and restrained, precise editing, especially of scenes shot in slow-motion, adds to the overall ‘waking-nightmare’ impact.
The ending, staged with a wildly-indulgent sense of Grand Guignol, certainly points to the forthcoming sequel with visions of a multi-episode slasher franchise featuring the hooded torturer a very likely home-video prospect.