The Collection invites us back into the warped minds of horror masters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton. We continue the story almost where we left off, however now the public is aware that something is amiss. Our reluctant hero from the first film, Arkin (Josh Stewart), is still missing as speculation of his involvement is questioned. We are introduced to Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick) who unknowingly is wandering into The Collector’s chaotic web. After a brief introduction into Elena’s life we are led to a warehouse ‘password required’ party. Through a few meticulously misguided steps our heroine stumbles upon the infamous red box and its reluctant inhabitant Arkin. The trap is finally set for another brilliant cat and mouse game.
The Collection settles in with a series of bizarre twists and turns leading the audience down a demented journey to the place where fear resides. The characters are written and performed in such a way that you soon forget they aren’t real. The audience is pulled into the story so deeply that we too are trying to find a way out of the maze. We find ourselves rooting for a thief, a group of mercenaries, and an incredibly strong albeit stubborn girl.
Writers Marcus and Patrick have found their niche in the horror world. Knowing how to amplify the humor in fear and the fear in everyday life allows them to create something unique. Best known for writing most of the SAW films, they have now opened the door to another dysfunctional world with their own sinister villain. In The Collection we are re-introduced to the monster who found residency in the minds of those who watched the first film. There is a moment in every horror film where the creators have two choices: step back or push forward. Marcus and Patrick annihilate that choice and take us on a fun, crazy, disgusting and wildly disturbing ride. I found myself in a room full of strangers with each of us screaming at the screen. At one point I was in the fetal position in my chair, hands over my eyes, saying “no, no, no, no, no…”. These guys aren’t out to win over your hearts, they want to crush you before giving you the prize of redemption. Our stunned audience sat through the end credits feeling purged of every rough part of the day. We left refreshed and wanting more.
Being only his second feature to direct, Marcus embraces his place at the helm. In co-creating the character and story I believe he was able to focus on presenting his vision exactly how he imagined it. The location choices were a perfect match to recreate the isolation we felt in the first film. Even though this time around Marcus had more characters at his disposal, he still found a way to make each one struggle with their surroundings. Every character is drowning in their own flaws and purpose.
Arkin, perfectly played by Josh Stewart, is the bridge from madness to reality. Once again he is caught in the cross-hairs, and has to make a decision of fight or flight. His selfish nature is plagued with the need for his self-sacrifice. After escaping sure death he is forced into battle once more. Most heroes are portrayed as strong, honest, and worthy of our affection. Arkin is written far from worth of affection or admiration. Yet, we can all relate to him. Even though Josh has such a strong presence on screen, he shows us a broken man whose whole life is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It takes a strong actor to be able to portray thought. Josh allows the audience to feel the moment of his decisions. We struggle along with Arkin, accept him as he is, and root for his luck to change.
Elena is brought to life by the talented Emma Fitzpatrick. Normally this character type could have easily fallen into the stereotypical ‘rich girl in trouble’ bit. However, Elena shows courage and ingenuity in a situation where most anyone else would have faltered. The feat of escaping the box alone was worth the price of admission. Generally, I think it is difficult for male writers to write a female character hovering over the fine line of femininity and strength. Elena is the ideal blend of both. Those that come to save her inevitably end up saved by her quick thinking and intuition. Elena proves that sometimes the damsel in distress can take care of herself.
Lucello is played by the chameleon character actor Lee Tergesen. Lee transforms an everyman into a layered and complex character. Lucello is manipulative for purpose so we question his motives throughout the entire film. He is constantly balancing on the edge of a means to an end. How many are worth sacrificing to save the life of his ward? Lucello is someone you both love to hate and hate to love. Until we are sure of his intentions we cannot make the judgment call we long for.
Horror films have one objective: to make an audience’s skin crawl. Enter the incredibly grotesque special effects creations. Gary Tunnicliffe designed some disturbing and brilliantly primitive gore for the ‘trophy room’. There are not many things that really gross me out. However, more than once I had to close my eyes and find a happy place. When someone can’t handle the gore you know you’ve done your job. Thanks to the first film I still have to look down at a phone before putting it up to my ear. Now I’m going to look up, down, and sideways before entering a room.
The Collection is currently playing in theaters. Check your local listings.