I really enjoyed all of the 'Saw' films. I own them all and have seen them all, several times. What does that have to do with 'The Collector' and/or 'The Collection'? A lot, actually. Marcus Dunstan, co-writer and director of the 'Collector' films, was also the co-writer of parts 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the 'Saw' films. Maybe that's enough of an endorsement to sway you one way or the other, right off the bat. Maybe now. Either way, I really appreciate Mr. Dunstan's love of the genre and he has quite the eye for horror. His films have their own unique voice and vision. While they might not be the top of the heap, they're pretty damn amazing overall.
I recently talked about, on episode 65 of 'The Sunshine Happy Kpants Hour', the new crop of horror directors to keep an eye on. For whatever reason, I passed over Marcus Dunstan and that was a shame on my part. I'm now officially adding him to my list. I mean, after seeing how his films evolved from 'The Collector' to the 'The Collection', I can see big things in his future. His visual style reminds me of an early Alexadre Aja ('High Tension'). There was something very fresh about both of these films. This review is really for 'The Collection', but I feel that there should at least be some mention of the other films he's worked on. The world that 'The Collector' set up, is very similar to the world of 'Saw'. Where those films end, seems to be where 'The Collection' begins. It's almost as if it was a hybrid of those films.
'The Collection' begins with a brief back story on our main heroine and then quickly jumps right into the meat of the film. With the characters having already been established in the last film, there's no need for a ton of exposition. That, to me, is the way a sequel should be. You soon are re-introduced to the main character from the last film and all hell breaks loose from there. It's as if 'The Collector' was the appetizer and 'The Collection' is the main course. This film is amped up heavily with more kills, bigger sets, bigger production value, a meaner killer, a stronger set of heroes and a whole lot of horror. There's so much good going on in this film, that it's hard to find the negative. The big thing to keep in mind though, is that this is a horror film and not an academy award nominated film. It's meant to entertain and scare you, nothing more. Granted, he re-invents the wheel in some ways, but this won't re-write the genre. There's a lot of things here that are familiar, but it doesn't matter.... because there's so much more that's new and interesting. It's as if The Collector is Bruce Wayne/Batman, if he was a psychotic mass murderer with no remorse and no regrets. Not unlike the much lower budgeted 'Laid To Rest' movies. Those follow a very similar character arc and storytelling. The big difference is style and budget. Those are by far the lower budget movies. Mr. Dunstan seems to have some people with money that think he has promise and something new to say. It shows.
I feel like I'm heaping a whole lot more praise on these films then I did after the first time I saw them, but over time.... I've seen other movies and grown to appreciate what I missed the first time out. 'The Collection' is a fun, thrill ride that starts out strong and never really lets up. It has a memorable and likable cast. It has characters you actually care about and root for and it gives you an ending that leaves you feeling full and satisfied. It begs the question of a sequel, but doesn't assume that one will actually happen. My hope is, that it will spawn another installment, as I want to see where things go. I never expected these films to become a franchise, but with the path it's taken, I wouldn't be surprised if it takes on a life not unlike 'Saw' did. There's a potential here for another horror soap opera of epic scope. Even the potential to turn an extremely dark villan into a really dark anti-hero. I don't want to provide any spoilers for the endings, but things could head many different directions in part three.
If you're like me and you think that you've seen everything....twice, then this might be the film(s) for you. It's like settling down for another viewing of 'Friday the 13th' on a 25 year old VHS copy, that's been watched to death. Then, suddenly, putting in a Blu-ray special edition of it and watching it in full stereo surround sound on a 100 inch flat screen. It's night and day. This is the way horror should be made. Again, it's not the greatest ever and it's not adding anything new to the genre. It's really just a clean, fresh breath of air on a hot, muggy day. Just what that doctor ordered, whether you realized you needed it or not. It also has instilled a firm belief in me that Marcus Dunstan is a man to watch. He's just getting warmed up and I feel that there's some more amazingness headed our way soon. Mark my words.
3 out of 5 stars, heavily leaning on 4.
If you like 'The Collection', watch: 'The Collector', 'Laid To Rest' and 'Laid To Rest 2: Chromeskull'