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Case Number 18691: Small Claims Court

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The Collector (2009)

Genius Products // 2009 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // April 9th, 2010

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Tom Becker isn't bitter. He used to work for the Tollway Authority. The experience stays with you.

Editor's Note

Our review of The Collector (1965), published November 7th, 2002, is also available.

The Charge

He always takes one.

The Case

Handyman Arkin (Josh Stewart, Full Count) is hired to do some repairs and watch over the house of a gem dealer while the rich guy and his family take a vacation. But Arkin's girlfriend has racked up a debt to a loan shark, so Arkin makes a deal with a mobster to break into the house and steal an expensive jewel.

But when Arkin arrives this dark, rainy night, he finds not an empty house with a bauble in the safe, but a house of horrors—with a madman inexplicably abusing everyone in sight, including the rich guy, his wife, teenage daughter, and preteen moppet Hannah (Karley Scott Collins, Pulse 3).

Yes, it's superhuman sadist time again, and the micro-budgeted The Collector is a not-half-bad entry in the crowded genre.

This go 'round, it's a maniac in a leather bondage hood who lets the good times roll by setting up elaborate booby traps in someone's house and doing unspeakable things with sharp objects to anyone who ventures by. Fortunately, Arkin, our hero-by-default, has the constitution of a bull and the cunning of a canary. He suffers mightily at the hands and gizmos of the masked maniac, but his heroic side takes over his petty thief side, and he stays on to try to rescue the hapless and helpless family.

As far as these things go, The Collector pretty well delivers the goods. Pointy objects large and small abound, and while a spike can be deadly, a fish hook can be squirmier. Gallons of stage blood are let loose, and the soundtrack is caked with agonized screams.

Of course, The Collector's weakness is the same weakness that afflicts virtually all torture porn films: logic.

In addition to being the first of its kind, Saw worked so well because there was a motivation behind the grue, a puzzle that slowly came together. Jigsaw doesn't maim and kill for jollies, as he points out in one of the sequels; there's a method to his madness, his victims and their challenges are chosen specifically, and it's possible to survive his traps. Of course, the elaborate traps themselves are ridiculous, and the thought of setting them up, laughable ("I'd like a 50 gallon vat of sulphuric acid. Do you deliver? Great. Just set it down next to the rack."), but we suspend our disbelief because "the game" is so intriguing.

The Collector gets the whole traps thing right. Perhaps the best sequence is early in the film, as Arkin creeps through the house and encounters the various set ups, occasionally suffering mild to moderate injury. Spider webbing and insect imagery figure heavily into the lethal design.

If only the plot devices were as elaborate as the torture devices. Despite a quick explanation around mid-point and a completely useless reveal near the end, we don't know anything about the killer or his motivations. We're told that he's a madman who "collects people"—albeit, people who are covered in bloody gashes and have significant limbs and digits missing. But why does he "collect people," and why these particular people? This we don't find out, and the arbitrary nature of the bloodletting makes The Collector more an heir to the mindless slashings of a Friday the 13th movie than a remix of generation Saw.

But if you're a fan of lingering-death-and-pain high jinx, you could do worse than The Collector. Co-scripted by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton—who also co-wrote Saw IV through VII—and directed by Dunstan, The Collector sustains suspense through most of its running time. It's nicely shot and edited, and Dunstan makes good use of his primarily single-set location. If you're inclined to ask questions like, "How did the lunatic have the time to set up all this rigmarole, and why bother when the prey is a fairly docile family of four?" then you're probably not a fan of torturesploitation to begin with.

The disc sports a very nice looking transfer—particularly solid, given that much of the film is low-light—but a weak audio track, with music playing at a far higher level than dialogue. Extras include a commentary with Dunstan and Melton, some deleted scenes, an "alternate ending" that's a joke, a music video, separate selections of music from the film, and the theatrical trailer.

The Verdict

Not guilty in that "good for a rental" way.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 78

Perp Profile

Studio: Genius Products
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Crime
• Horror
• Independent
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Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Alternate Ending
• Deleted Scenes
• Music Video
• Music Selections
• Trailer


• IMDb

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