Their work on later installments of the “Saw” series shows that Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton enjoy thinking up gory puzzles, but they don’t even attempt any complexity in this gruesomely awful attempt to start up another horror franchise. “The Collector” is an ugly, bloody mess, an incredibly dumb and repulsive piece of trash whose implausibility exceeded only by its unpleasantness and simplemindedness.
The script centers on a handyman/safecracker named Arkin (Josh Stewart), who’s estranged wife needs money to pay off a loan shark. So he goes back to his employer’s house—the guy and his family were leaving on vacation that morning—to steal a jewel from his bedroom safe. But once there he discovers that not only is the family still home, being brutalized by a masked intruder (Juan Fernandez), but he’s now trapped in a place that’s been fitted out (in a matter of mere hours, apparently) with all manner of elaborate booby traps involving fish hooks, bear traps, nails, cranes, chains, electrocution devices and everything else you can imagine.
How one man could rig all this stuff in the course of an evening is unclear, but so are his motives. We’re told at one point, by a previous victim (seen in a prologue) who identifies himself as “the bait,” that the malefactor is “a collector of people,” but since he just slices, dices and otherwise violates anyone he comes upon in the course of the night—the final body count is seven, I believe, if you don’t count the cat—that’s not really true. Maybe he just collects corpses. Anyway, Arkin turns hero, trying to save the family and doing a pretty bad job of it. He has an especially soft spot for little Hannah (Karley Scott Collins), who reminds him of his own daughter.
There’s almost nothing in this tawdry piece of junk to praise, save for the cinematography by Brandon Cox, which goes overboard in trying for some stylish widescreen visuals but can do very little with the claustrophobic interiors. Stewart tries to bring some energy to the ex-con would-be savior, but comes off rather pallid, and the rest of the cast is dreadful. Three editors—Alex Luna, James Mastracco and Howard Smith—are credited, but all of them snipping together haven’t been able to give much zip to what Melton and Dunstan have provided them with. But the sound team deserves some credit, I suppose, for making the footsteps throughout so incredibly loud, courtesy of sound designer Steven Avila, that the scenes where Arkin and the killer are chasing each other around the house, French bedroom-farce style, are pretty hilarious. Unintentionally, though.
Dunstan and Melton once showed promise with their screenplay for “Feast,” the Project Greenlight horrorshow that was gross, but also had some nifty gallows humor; but their work after that has all been downhill, and this is their nadir. If the torture-porn genre isn’t dead yet, this idiotic exercise in pointless sadism should kill it off for good.