The Collector (R)
A jewel thief gets sidelined by a serial killer in The Collector, a grim but suspense-filled horror movie.
Arkin (Josh Stewart) has all sorts of problems — he has a young daughter (Haley Pullos) he wants to buy something special for and a wife/girlfriend-type (Daniella Alonso), his daughter’s mother, who owes some undisclosed amount of money to some undisclosed dangerous people. To get her the money, which she of course needs tonight, he decides to rob the home of a jewel dealer where he has been working on a renovation for the past few weeks. He knows and seems to like the family — the dad Michael (Michael Reilly Burke), the mom Victoria (Andrea Roth), the young daughter about Arkin’s daughter’s age named Hannah (Karley Scott Collins) and the sassy teenage daughter Jill (Madeline Zima, who before she was on Californication was the youngest daughter on The Nanny — and thusly I’ve saved you from “I know I know her from somewhere…”).
Arkin doesn’t want to rob this nice family but he doesn’t want to lose his own nice family, so he takes his safe-cracking tools to the big dark house, knowing that they’ll be away on vacation, and he gets to work.
But then he realizes he’s not alone.
Someone else is in the house.
First he hears creaks, then footsteps. Eventually, muffled screams — seems the family isn’t away after all and before Arkin showed up to rob them, someone else came around with far worse intentions.
Before the movie begins its inevitable showcase of bloody suffering, it actually does a very neat thing with Arkin and the unknown person sneaking around the house. A squeaky stair sets up an early warning when anyone changes floors. Overhead shots show the masked man peering around one door as Arkin hides behind another, waiting for him to move so Arkin can make an escape. For Arkin, the way to finish his burglary and get out alive is to keep the other intruder, whose purpose Arkin doesn’t know at first, from knowing that he’s there. Later, Arkin must chose between his own escape and helping the family — a task also made easier if he can hide his existence. It’s a surprisingly suspenseful little puzzle that the movie sets up and one that is technically very impressive to watch.
It can be hard sometimes to differentiate between a movie that isn’t very good and one that simply isn’t your personal taste. The Collector would not necessarily be my choice for escapist fun — I like my gore goofier than it is here. But I appreciate the way the movie is put together. It’s smarter, tenser and scarier than you get in your standard perverted-killer movie. The quiet chase between Arkin and the faceless, wordless intruder is well constructed and really does put you on the edge of your seat. When this movie is imitated, and you know it will be, I can only hope it’s done with half as much finesse as we see here. B
Rated R for pervasive sadistic bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity. Directed by Marcus Dunstan and written by Dunstan and Patrick Melton, The Collector is an hour and 25 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Freestyle Releasing.