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Movie Review: The Collection Makes the Saw Films Seem Like Exercises in Restraint

The Collection is in many ways a terrible movie, but at least it doesn’t pussyfoot around. In this film we get to see: an entire club full of ravers shredded to pieces by a set of giant rotating knives; another set of club kids smushed to a fine pulp inside what appears to be a giant meat tenderizer; a meat hook go through a guy’s jaw; another guy impaled on spikes plunging from the ceiling; a woman nailed to a wall by her elbows and feet get her throat slit (because why not); and various bear-trap entanglements galore.

Still reading? Okay. The problem here, though, isn’t the gore or the cruelty on display (if you’re troubled by such things you probably weren’t interested in this movie to begin with), but rather the kind of all-of-the-above ethos that governs the enterprise. To wit: Our bad guy here is an unidentified gentleman known as the Collector (as featured in the previous film, The Collector, which didn’t even do all that well but somehow spawned a sequel), whose main thing is to massacre people in grotesque ways and then to “collect” one survivor. The survivors he keeps in large crates, sometimes torturing them, sawing bits of other people’s faces on top of their faces, and/or killing them in other ways. That’s, of course, when he’s not killing people in the usual ways, which is through the aforementioned bear traps, rotating knives, elaborate pulley systems adorned with sharp objects, and nooses and cages and meat tenderizers and meat hooks and machetes or whatever. But he also has some kind of zombified army he’s constructed out of survivors and plied with drugs, so they feel no pain. Oh, and dogs, too, he has dogs. And tarantulas. Did I mention he has tarantulas?

Maybe you’re starting to see the issue. The Collection isn’t so much a movie as it is a grab-bag of gruesome ideas, shorn of purpose. It makes the Saw flicks seem like exercises in restraint. Regardless of execution, slasher and torture porn films, while certainly getting a kick out of their killers’ seemingly omniscient power, also thrive on the bad guys’ self-defined limitations. Their villains have a “thing” they do, and the movies are usually, though not always, defined by the boundaries of said thing. Freddie Kruger comes to you in nightmares. Jigsaw kidnaps you and creates elaborate torture mechanisms. Michael Myers chases you around with a kitchen knife, Jason Voorhees with a machete. But this Collector guy can’t make up his mind. He wants to have it all ways, and for some reason that’s just not very scary.

The director, Marcus Dunstan, might be familiar to lay viewers as one-half of the screenwriting duo that created Feast, the movie that was filmed in the third and final season of Project Greenlight, that now-defunct Ben Affleck and Matt Damon–hosted reality-TV competition for indie filmmakers. He’s a smart guy, for sure: You could see him brimming with ideas back then, seemingly generating, discarding, and regenerating scenes and concepts out of thin air, and he and partner Patrick Felton have had a fairly prolific screenwriting career since (including a number of Saw films). But The Collection is proof that coming up with ideas is only part of the battle, and that what you choose to do with them is more important. The movie’s a smorgasbord of horror, and, ironically, that takes the teeth out of it. We’re not really in this villain’s world, because we don’t know what his world is, or what he is, or what he’s trying to even do. It’s like a nightmare designed by someone who’s heard a lot about nightmares but has never actually had one.

Photo: Bob Mahoney/LD Entertainment