The Collector (2009): If Vincent Gallo Were in Saw

SPOILER FREE! Gritty, Grainy, and Gory… oh and a Gallo lookalike!

This was a fun little treat, especially because I hadn’t heard much about this movie before seeing it. Sometimes I miss the days before the internet when it was easier to go into a movie with zero expectations because you knew nothing about it. Surprise is more difficult to come by and many of the films that have done really well still find a way to incorporate surprise by not revealing much in their advertising. Tangents aside, The Collector satiated my desire for a “kick ass killer” type of horror movie.


The opening sequence is great. It sets up some mystery, is shot in a bold, underexposed sort of way, and isn’t too long. It’s followed by a Se7en-style credit sequence (or perhaps I should credit Stan Brakhage), but I can’t get enough of those flashy celluloid visuals set to industrial music. What can I say? I’m a sucker for colorful, stylized cinematography and The Collector is full of scenes illuminated in vibrant reds, blues, and greens. It’s not like you are watching Suspiria by any means; think more in the line of a 90’s drug movie about dirty cops. The visual design is maintained well throughout the film, as we are given old school extreme close-ups and hard lighting. And they don’t overdo the 360 degree camera with speed ramping as in the Saw films.

Carrying David Fincher's reel

Our main character is not the girl next door, the angsty teen, or the pretty boy. Arkin (Josh Stewart) is a rough guy with a rap sheet and a desperate situation that pushes him to use his heist skills on the family who he is doing handyman work for. It’s refreshing to have a lead that’s not incredibly good looking or painfully generic. And he’s not a bad actor; nor is the rest of the cast who all seem to have been chosen well by the director.

Now for the horror. As you probably know, the house is full of macabre traps that admittedly are a bit too elaborate, but I didn’t really care as I was watching it. The killer has set up traps to appealing objects that one might grab for self defense, like scissors or knitting needles. Running through the house to escape is near impossible, as hooks and blades are behind every closed door. This concept adds a great layer of uncertainty and tension to the film. Every attempt to sneak around, outrun, or attack the killer gets your nerves going. And the killer himself is simple but effective. Clad in all black with a leather mask, the Collector’s eyes appear animalistic in the lighting and the sound designer pairs him with warped screams and howls. The fun thing about this film is that all of the technical elements are not necessarily geared towards realism. Many modern films attempt to make the cinematography, sound, and production design as natural as possible to render them unnoticeable to the audience. The Collector uses all these elements to further the story and tone.

What's happening? My basement was never juandice-colored before.

One of the downfalls to this film comes with its setup. It’s always difficult to pull off a film that is basically in one location the entire time, but you really do notice that you’re in the same place throughout the movie. A lot of that feeling comes from the repetition of specific locations within the house. Arkin runs up and down the same set of stairs at least a dozen times. Every now and then, a particular room pops out of nowhere and I’m thinking, why hasn’t he been in there until now? It’s a big house, so there’s plenty of room to move around and I wish it was explored a bit more. The other aspect of the film that was disappointing is the ending, but I won’t get into that here.

The Collector deserves a viewing, preferably while it’s still in its theatrical run, which is bound to be short. Yes, it’s similar to Saw. No, it’s not as pretty as those films. Yes, it’s by the Project Greenlight guys. No, it’s nothing like Feast. Give it a shot, that is unless you are too busy checking out The Orphan.


  1. Too busy checking out the Orphan. I hope not pfft. I loved the entire movie cept the end like you said. The style did rock and it was a serious horror movie that pulled off being cool, which out having to be cheesy like Raimi stuff. I thought the traps were perfect and the house set up was fine, I never got dull or had me wondering about the rooms. The action in it was really good too, very vicious at times. Excellent movie.

  2. See I think the style may be the dividing factor here, since it looks to be one of the elements that you enjoyed best Becks. I don't know why I was ready to accept the color tones in BLACK SABBATH or SUSPIRIA without question, but they only pissed me off here. Maybe the Gothic setting lends itself to the unnatural colorization more than something that is attempting to be more grounded in reality. But the rain drop, whyyyy???