The Collector (2009)
When his ex-wife and daughter are under threat from a loan shark, an ex-con decides to do one more burglary in order to help them. He breaks into his employer's house, but discovers another intruder has beaten him to it. Not only are the family being held captive by a psychopath, but the house has been rigged throughout with deadly traps. Will he save them from their sadistic captor? And will he still be able to pay off the loan sharks before midnight as promised?
While The Collector has elements of the home invasion and slasher sub-genres, it is predominantly a 'torture porn' movie. Characters are tortured in uncomfortable, lingering detail (particularly the woman) for no particular reason. (We are given nothing about the killer's background or motivation.) There are some unpleasant moments of violence towards domestic animals too. This film is a hard watch, not so much because of the gore (the special effects are practical and impressively done), but because of the gratuitousness of it all. If you were to take out the motiveless torture, there would be very little left of note. It feels like a collection of gruesome set pieces strung together with a very, very thin story.
The 'gimmick' in this movie is the use of elaborate traps, which at times are incredibly convoluted and remind me of the Mousetrap board game if you added razor blades and fish hooks. Initially they're fun in a Home Alone kind of way, and might have benefitted from some comedy music and swanny whistles. But they very quickly become a distraction whose ridiculousness kept taking me out of the film. If the killer already has the family held captive, and isn't expecting anyone else to turn up, why would he bother rigging up so many complicated systems everywhere? Plus it would have taken a single man days to set it all up, so how did he do it in a few hours? The silliness of all this rapidly goes from mildly amusing, to unintentionally funny, to just annoying.
There are a couple of clever camera angles used, which look impressive. One aerial shot showing two characters simultaneously on each side of a wall. And another fixed-camera shot in a rolling vehicle. I also liked the initial set up of a 'criminal' turning out to be the 'hero'. But here ends the originality. The Collector is a mean spirited and nasty little film that offers nothing particularly original or fresh. Yes it's tense in places, gory, and the killings are creative. But it pushes credibility too far and has more than its fair share of horror cliches. A dangerous psycho in a mask, a vulnerable child, a dark and stormy night, a 'false' ending with a final surprise, lots of sickly green/yellow lighting, and a hero who fails to kill or immobilise his attacker when he gets the chance.
It's probably more fun to watch in a group, where you can laugh at each other's revulsion and shock reactions. But otherwise there's very little to recommend a horror film that seems to rely on scenes of torture rather than a decent plot or originality. Yes it has shades of Saw about it, as alluded to by the DVD cover. But if you liked Saw, go and watch that again. It's a far better film.