Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Collector

  Apparently it's possible for a total gem like The Collector to completely fly under the radar of an obsessive movie watcher/horror buff like me. Before anything else, the movie pulled me in with a really mysterious and horrifying hook within the first five minutes. Then... the opening credits. Right away the movie hit me with it's stylish editing and vibrant visual flair. It has the energy of a hardcore music video for a grungy, ear-shredding, genre song. Once the plot kicked into gear, which didn't take long at all, this movie is exceptionally well paced, things go crazy and only get crazier as the movie goes on. I'm kind of dumbstruck by how good this flick was. I had no idea it was going to be so good, but boy am I glad I watched it.

  You know you're in for a treat when the name of the song that plays over the opening credits is "Shut Up and Bleed". Nuff said. Anyways, our protagonist is hard working ex-con named Arkin, who's in a tight spot when his ex-wife, and the mother of his daughter, is in deep with some loan sharks and doesn't have the money to pay up. So he decides to resort to what he knows best: burglary. Only, the house he decides to burglar, one he was sure would be empty, turns out to have already been invaded- by a mask wearing homicidal psychopath no less. This could've been a very cliche and boring movie, but writer and director Marcus Dunstan turns a simple concept into a fresh and creative horrifying gauntlet of blood and booby traps.

  This psychopath who's captured the family in the house, has been torturing them in various ways and has rigged their whole house with tons of traps. The creativity is endless and the movie makes fantastic use of the premise, being as much of a labyrinth as the house in the actual movie was. Arkin might be a thief, but he's not a bad guy- he sticks around to try and help the family- and considering how horrific the situation is, that says all I needed to know about him. In the scenes where he's first realizing the scope of what's going on, he runs through the house, trying to find a way out and instead only finds more traps. A frantic person would've triggered said traps but Arkin is calm, scared for sure- but still calm. He uses his head and thinks on his feet.

  He's a refreshingly smart protagonist even if you don't realize it right away. The family in the house is rather two dimensional unfortunately, but they're not bad or unlikable. In fact, the father is a pretty nice guy. The mom seems like an image-obsessed trophy wife, their teenage daughter is a rebel, and their little daughter wants to be a mermaid who has tea parties. See, it's typical stuff- but familiar. Familiar enough that we don't need them to be incredibly deep characters. They're archetypes, and that's okay. Arkin is the main character and he gets 99% of all the relevant development here. That's not a problem though, because it's a foregone conclusion that (spoilers...? I guess?) nice guy Dad and trophy wife Mom are goners from the outset.

  The villain is pretty interesting as well, especially because we only ever know so little about him. He's incredibly meticulous and thoroughly prepared for just about every eventuality. We know he 'collects' people, but only ever 'just takes one'. Where does he keep the people he 'collects'? I assume he has a collection. As the title of the sequel would seem to suggest. The air of mystery around him is great. His motives and backstory are irrelevant because this movie is about one thing: survival. Arkin is trying to keep these people alive, and somehow manage to survive himself- but this guy hasn't made it easy on them. Razor wire, acid slime, nails galore, locks, switches, tripwires, knives, fishing hooks- you name it. This guy has rigged a trap out of it.

  You could kill yourself fifty ways from Sunday in this house, just walking around in it. How the killer managed to set all this up himself... I'll never know. Yet, it seems like an irrelevant detail. If he's meticulous and smart enough to devise all these traps, it's not that big of a leap to assume he's most certainly capable of rigging it all up himself as well. His mask is creepy, his eyes are creepy, and he never says a word. Though he's always accompanied by horrific sounds. Speaking of which, the whole sound scheme in this movie is awesome. It's really unconventional and creative, using mundane and ordinary sounds, as well as screams and crying, mixed into the music score- and all that somehow gives a terribly creepy vibe to the movie that's with it from beginning to end.

  On top of that, the cinematography is insane. The camera often bobs and weaves through a scene, turning and tilting with the motions of the characters, but you know what we never see here? Shaky cam- thank god. Everything in this movie is plainly visible in that regard. Coupled with superb lighting and a vivid color scheme, The Collector is a real visual treat. Moreover, it's one that realizes that gore isn't scary. Sure, the movie is quite the bloodbath- but the real scares come from the nonstop nerve-shredding tension that builds throughout the movie. It's literally a non-stop ride once Arkin gets in the house. I had to remind myself to breathe at one point. So amazingly suspenseful.

  Even though the movie is one long set piece once Arkin gets in the house, it manages to divide a lot of this up into smaller sequences, and even segment off a hell of a climax. I really really like this movie.  So much so, I already consider it a genre favorite. It's fast, brutal, merciless, and overflowing with style and atmosphere. What more could you want? Sure- despite all that it's still not high-brow, but it's not a dumb movie either. If anything, I would've liked a bit more closure- but I can accept the way it ended just fine. I really can't wait to watch the second one though. As for this one, I give it a full recommendation for genre fans.

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