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Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Collection (2012)

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The Collection follows the normal path of horror sequels. There’s a lot more gore than there was in the original. New characters are introduced, usually to be killed off quickly. But there is something bizarre and exhilarating about The Collection; it feels like a last-ditch effort, but without the fetid air of desperation that normally surrounds such second slashers. It is as if writer/director Marcus Dunstan realized he wasn’t going to be able to create a franchise based on his masked killer. He was lucky to get the sequel made. What if he just crammed every blood-drenched set-piece he could think of into one movie?

Beginning not long after the conclusion of the first film in the duology, The Collection follows Arkin (Josh Stewart). He was the final boy in The Collector, and he’s healing from his physical wounds in the hospital. After he learns that a girl, Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick), has been kidnapped by the mysterious murderer known as The Collector, Arkin is pressed into service by Elena’s rich family. A group of paramilitary specialists, led by enforcer Lucello (Lee Tergeson), is out to rescue Elena from the black-gloved clutches of The Collector, and only Arkin can lead them to the killer’s lair. 

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That’s a slightly dumbed-down version of the story, but no one is watching The Collection for the intricate plotline. This is a basic hunters-becoming-the-hunted tale, while Elena, the plucky victim, does her best to escape. The problem is that The Collector lives in a disgusting abandoned hotel which he has booby-trapped from hell to breakfast. There are tripwires, pressure plates, and spikes in the floor that activate larger, more deadly machinations.

The Collection isn’t precisely a cat-and-mouse game. The first film clearly paints the killer’s affinity with spiders. Both Elena and the rescue team find themselves in The Collector’s web; a labyrinthine multi-leveled building, intimidating in its complexity, and difficult to navigate. If anyone finds themselves in the wrong place, they could encounter an inescapable trap or The Collector himself.

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Saying this movie is gross is a wretched understatement. There are severed body parts and hunks of flesh everywhere in The Collector’s dwelling. Arms, legs, tongues; it’s like a meat market in there. It’s hard not to think about how that place must smell. The traps are fiendish and brutal. Giant hooks, swinging blades, and even a modern iron maiden make appearances.

While The Collection is filled with grisly images that stick in the brain, the real showstopper sequence takes place within the first twenty minutes. It is a grand, ridiculous segment that makes keeping track of the body count an impossibility. Elena is the last survivor of a rave gone bad. The Collector has rigged an entire warehouse to function as a trap. He’s the death of the party. Crowds of people are mown down, sliced with swords, and squashed with steel. It’s a slaughter. The sequence is also complete bullshit, if one thinks about the logistics of that whole concept. The Collector could not have set all that up by himself or without being noticed. There’s not an iota of realism in the whole thing. We also never see a single first responder or television reporter at the rave. Were there no consequences to the mechanized murder of a bunch of teenagers?

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But there is a horrid exhilaration that comes with watching a couple hundred NPCs get pulverized. Blood comes in fine mists, bursts, and jets. Hunks of human fly through the air and stick to the walls. The sequence is an example where Dunstan made a brave decision and really went for it. It’s dumb, to be sure, but it’s sure fascinating to watch.

Having such a bloodbath in the first act proves to be problematic, though. Nothing that comes afterward can even come close. It’s like being served the main course of a fine meal first, and then being given a raw sweet potato and a couple of peas. The script doesn’t allow us to become invested enough in either Arkin or Elena to truly worry about their survival. We hope they make it out of the building, but we don’t care if they do. The rest of The Collection feels incidental, anti-climactic.

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The Collector is a fantastic character, and he did deserve a sequel. More than one would have been just fine. His mask is memorable and iconic, and the way his eyes shine like an insect’s in a flashlight is remarkably creepy. But the killer gets lost in the killing. The traps are greater than the one who created them. This is because we get practically no back story for The Collector. He’s a guy, he likes bugs, he has a decent understanding of engineering. That is all we get! We got to see Jigsaw’s workshop in the Saw movies, for crying out loud, and Dunstan co-wrote some of those sequels.

The Collection mistakes excess for superiority. The traps are more complex, and the blood flows more freely than it does in the original, but that doesn’t make for a better film. It only gives us a grosser one. That has merit in and of itself, but it isn’t enough to propel a film, particularly a sequel, to greatness.  The Collection is cool as hell. That’s not the same thing as great. Fuzzy math means The Collection is a good movie and, when you’re in the mood for showers of viscera, give it a look-see.

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Jeffery X Martin is a pop culture journalist and horror author. His latest book, The Ridge, is available from Shadow Work Publishing through Amazon. Martin is a senior editor at the entertainment website, Biff Bam Pop, where his weekly article, Prime in the Dustbin, reveals the best things about the worst movies on Prime Video. His story, “Ready to Start,” was included in the St. Rooster Press anthology, To Be One with You. Martin lives in the dark, verdant hills of Tennessee with his wife, artist Hannah Martin.

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