NB: these are my notes on the film, not a review – so you might not want to read them if you’ve not seen it yet.
‘… a ‘this time it’s war’ sequel to The Collector – fast, gory and suitably shocking.’
Director/co-writer Marcus Dunstan and co-writer Patrick Melton, who cut their teeth doing scripts for the Saw and Feast franchises (and, of course, Piranha 3DD) scored a minor horror hit with The Collector (2009), which had an ingenious premise that added something to the Saw-style gadget-obsessed serial killings by pitting its franchise wannabe antagonist, the Collector (nothing to do with the John Fowles novel), against a smart thief, Arkin (Josh Stewart), who happened to break into the house where the madman had targeted his next family of victims. Evidently, the film did well enough to get a sequel greenlit – but not for it to come out theatrically, so this bigger, bloodier, broader sequel has slid straight to DVD and may or may not be a template for further episodes, even if it does have a coda that suggests the villain has been bested once and for all.
Stewart is back as Arkin, and the film picks up from where the last left off with the survivor in a trunk as part of the Collector’s collection – his MO involves using the survivor of his last massacre to trigger his next. The first reel includes a quite spectacular display of limb-lopping, head-crushing carnage as new lead Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick) – dragged to a basement rave by her BFF (Johanna Braddy) only to find her faithless BF (William Peltz) stepping out on her and punching him in the face – opens the trunk and sets off an automated death machine which sends what looks like a giant lawnmower blade sweeping across the dance floor in a slice and dice motion that takes out hordes of extras. Elena is captured by the masked maniac (Randall Archer, replacing Juan Fernandez) but Arkin survives by using the wounded boyfriend as an airbag when jumping out of a window. He is briefly reunited with the wife for whom he commits all his (bloodless) crimes (Navi Rawat, replacing Lisa Alonso) and is handcuffed to his hospital bed by the cops. Sprung by Lucello (Lee Tergeson), a merc-type security guy working for Elena’s wealthy father (Christopher McDonald), Arkin uses the scars he has made on his arm while blindfolded in the villain’s van as a sat-nav to direct Lucello and his gang of well-armed grunts – including a wild-haired cool guy (Andre Royo of The Wire) and a tough ethnic chick (Shannon Kane) – to the abandoned theatre where the Collector keeps his collection,which includes bizarro artworks made with body parts, near-zombified former victims used as cannon fodder and (of course) more of his trademark booby traps.
There are obvious, if clever lifts from Aliens (though acknowledged as a super-successful sequel, it’s not often homaged this way): like Ripley, Arkin is told he only has to guide the gun-toters to the site but is then forced to go personally into peril and bonds with a waif victim as he resumes a personal struggle with the monster. Inside the well-art-directed evil lair are more spectacle-of-death mutilations and tricky business with a mad former victim (Erin Way, from Joe Dante’s Splatter) who has gone native and is working with the killer (a lot like the Shawnee Smith character in the Saw films). The grunts get taken down one by one, showing heroic spirit and (literally) guts or unworthily chickening out and getting carved up, but Elena, who uses her bra underwire to pick the lock of a trunk, demonstrates a final girl spirit that elevates her to co-lead status – crop-haired Fitzpatrick is appealing and smart as the kid who toughens up, and will probably go on to more prominent movies. The effects and sets may be bigger and more Christians get tossed to the lions, but it still has a dtDVD feel – with less focus on the hero’s struggle, it’s not as intense as The Collector, and it gets through its main plot in just over an hour, then the coda (in which Arkin tracks the killer to his secret identity by checking up on registered entomologists) adds a scant few minutes before a long end credits crawl that delivers a highlights reel for all the performers, reprising every kill.
Maybe if this franchise is to continue, it needs to take the crossover route – The Collector vs Jigsaw, The Collector Meets Insidious?