SEPTEMBER 22, 2012
It's not often enough that I am reminded of a particular action movie while watching a horror flick, and I'm sure they were actually thinking Aliens, but at a certain point in The Collection, a team of hardasses demands that an unwilling "expert" help them infiltrate a place he escaped, which is totally the scenario from The Rock, albeit with Cage and Connery combined into one dude: our hero, Arkin.
Arkin was the survivor of the first film in this budding franchise, and despite the 3+ year gap, this one more or less picks up the next day or so. Arkin has escaped from his box with some pretty major injuries, and the Collector is up to his old tricks, decimating a group of folks (in a scene that rivals/tops the opening of Ghost Ship in terms of mass slaughter) and collecting a new victim. But said victim happens to be the daughter of a guy who appears to have ties to the mob or something, so he has his right hand man assemble a team of hardasses to find her, with Arkin being the guy they need to navigate their way through the dungeon he just escaped.
Obviously, things don't go smoothly, as the Collector has his own lair just as decked out with booby traps as his victims' homes. The movie is then just a series of narrow escapes and the gradual reduction of the group's number; the Collector has some surprises up his sleeve (in addition to the booby traps, there are other living antagonists), but there's not really much of a story this time around. The whole reason Arkin is involved in this world is because he was trying to secure a chunk of money to save his wife and daughter from some loan sharks (or something, it's been a while), a plot that is completely ignored here. In the one scene with his wife she doesn't even mention the fact that there's a price on her head, and their daughter has seemingly been ret-conned out of existence. In fact, the movie might play better to those who haven't even seen the original - the revised history won't distract a newcomer the way it was to me, and they do a pretty good job of explaining the rest of the original's plot in the opening scene (presented via news broadcasts).
But while it lacks a complicated story, they more than make up for it with the number and variety of death scenes, which surpass what we got in the original (and, let's face it, is the reason we're here). By setting it in his own territory, we don't have to worry about how he had the time to set all this stuff up, and can just enjoy his skills as a demented Kevin McCallister. Sure, his ability to plan ahead for people's actions would make Jigsaw jealous, but it's all part of the fun, and the abrupt manner in which several characters are killed (one coming directly after another quick surprise) adds immensely to the film's sense of playfulness.
However, the best bit of violence is committed not by the Collector, but by Arkin on an innocent guy. At one point they find a barred window and see two homeless dudes warming their hands on a barrel fire a block away, and neither of them hear their calls for help. So Arkin does what you or I would do - he shoots one of them! Just in the leg or something, just to have a shot fired in order to get the police on the scene, but it's such a hilariously absurd/psychotic escape plan. It's glorious, and it's the sort of unpredictable moment that made screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan's (who also directed) Feast* films so fun.
They also wrote the last four Saw films, they have brought over composer Charlie Clouser and editor Kevin Greutert - a nice reunion for folks like me who miss the annual Saw-fest. And even on the script level this can feel a bit like those at times with the big abandoned factory, huge industrial traps, and characters who aren't exactly lovable. Again, our hero shoots a homeless man for no reason (couldn't he just shoot the barrel?), and the rest of our protagonists are basically thugs who treat Arkin like dirt. The heroine is likable in that she doesn't seem to be a piece of shit, but there isn't much to her character - she's a plot device, and one of her few traits is that she is hearing impaired, but that never really has a payoff.
But don't get me wrong, none of this stuff mattered to me in the slightest as I watched the film, as it was early in the morning and I was operating on very little sleep, so the movie was "perfect" as is - a nearly nonstop series of kills and nutty trap designs (big fan of the makeshift iron maiden, as well as the hallway that slices pretty much everyone running through it). Add in the 80 minute runtime and hilarious final line (no spoilers), and you have a movie that's essentially a cinematic energy drink: terrible for you, but it gets its job done awesomely.
What say you?
*Look for an all too brief cameo from Feast director John Gulager! I know we're supposed to be quiet at the Alamo, but screw it, I had to cheer my satisfaction.