[Special Feature] Psychology and Horror: Inside the Mind of a Psychopath… Dissecting ‘The Collection’!

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Written By: Joseph Forsberg

There are currently more than 100 active serial killers in the United States and there is no explanation as to why a normal person could grow up to commit murder and sexual homicide. We see killing and rape as the most severe types of crime; we wonder how someone could find it fun to slit the throat of an unsuspecting victim and sexually assault the body. To a sociopath this is normal behavior; in fact, they find it weird that we do not have a similar impulse. Sociopaths have no conscience, they do not feel pain, they are impulsive, and will do whatever it takes to get themselves off! They are pure evil!

Today I am introducing a new segment to the site called “Psychology and Horror”. Each week I will break down specific serial killers from all of our favorite horror movies and give an in-depth explanation as to why these horror icons commit their crimes. My young friend “Mr. Guts” and I thought of Psychology & Horror when we discussed the reality aspect of horror movies. Are there really people who are as sick as Norman Bates, Mrs. Voorhees, Michael Myers and The Collector? As much as I want to give movie writers all the credit; the fact is that some horror movies are inspired by real life events. One such case would be Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho which was based on the life of Ed Gein. With that said, the real life story is NEVER as exciting as the movie; it takes a talented writer to take a real life incident and turn it into a classic that will never die! The Collector – from The Collector and The Collection (in theaters November 30) – will be the first killer I take on because of how unique and original he is. The Collector is different from Michael Myers and Jason due to the fact that he is human; he feels pain and can be killed. Arkin was more than able to bring out the human qualities in The Collector in the last 20 minutes of the movie. This movie takes on a realistic view because people like this exist; as a result, people begin to feel themselves get nervous while watching the movie, which has a long lasting affect! A movie where someone goes to hell and then ends up in space some in the following film (Jason X), just does not scream “HOLY SHIT THIS IS REALLY GOING TO HAPPEN!!” I am a Forensic psychology major and I admit I can be a little obsessive when it comes to horror movies.

Next week begins the “fans choice”! Choose from the following movies-Halloween Human Centipede 2 Psycho the original Friday the 13th or The Strangers. Users are also more than welcome to tell me what they would like to see in this segment!

The Collector

(Directed by Marcus Dunstan from a script he co-wrote with Patrick Melton)

The first killer I will discuss is the man known as “The Collector”. He is of course the serial killer in the movie The Collector and will continue his trail of carnage in the much anticipated sequel The Collection. Many people love watching these type of horror movies; they love the suspense, the gore, and they love being scared. The one thing holding these movies back is that most people do not believe this could happen; they love the movies, but believe they are unrealistic. Notice that new horror movies have taken on the “found footage” approach in an attempt to make their movie more realistic, and therefor provide the audience with a true sense of fear. While this new technique has proven to work, let’s take a step back and understand that The Collector represents a true psychopath; he is someone that cannot be reasoned with and someone who will never stop. Can someone like this really exist? Of course; let’s examine the most notorious serial killers in American history, which include Ted Bundy, John Gacy, and BTK. Both Bundy and Gacy sexually assaulted their victims while also dismembering them. BTK stands for Bind Torture Kill and he truly defined horror in the United States. BTK also displayed the most similarities to The Collector; their techniques were similar, but signature and MO were slightly different. So while these “found footage” movies (Paranormal Activity) seem more real, do me a favor and ask your-self one question; when is the last time you have seen a ghost? And then ask yourself the last time you heard about a serial killer or violent murder; I guarantee you will understand what I am saying.

The Collector would be categorized as a disorganized asocial offender; this means he is socially inadequate, but is still able to find a job that allows him to fulfill his fantasies. In this case The Collector was able to put on a fake image and work with the exterminators in the original film; although he did not really talk, his demeanor made him fit in. With this type of personality, the killer is not able to move outside of his comfort zone; he usually stays in the same area, lives alone, and has a secret hiding place. This type of personality is nocturnal and usually finds an external object that matches his personality (the spider/bugs). Although this personality also suggests some organization, no one serial killer can meet every standard within the definition. These crimes are clearly organized which tells us that this is not impulsive behavior and he is truly an unstoppable force. Although The Collector displays some of the characteristics found in an organized nonsocial personality, the majority of his behavior matches that of an asocial offender.

All murders are sexually motivated, and while The Collector did not have sex with his victims, he got off by the amount of power and control he had when torturing these individuals. He gets his power by knowing he can play god; he controls the victim’s pain level and knows he can make them do whatever he wants. Although he sets traps for everyone else, he picks certain individuals and kills them slowly; prolonging the crime gets him off. There is something about these specific individuals; he seems to pick the dominate person (The dad, husband, and Arkin) which allows him to demonstrate his strength and power. This man is not truly insane, but he does display signs of a personality disorder which I will get to later. Based on the information provided to me, I would consider The Collector to be Power/Control Serial Killer.

We are a product of our environment and childhood plays a huge factor in determining the type of person we are going to be. Most serial killers are abused in some kind of way (sexually, physically, verbally) or witness this abuse happening to others. When a child experiences this type of trauma, he is unable to comprehend the severity of the incident and does not recognize it as inappropriate behavior. This results in violent fantasies and prevents the child from having a normal relationship with children his age. Psychodynamic theory explains that childhood trauma leads to violent behavior; while the fantasies of children start out innocent, the isolation from the outside world and the continued abuse causes the fantasies to turn violent. Children begin to mirror their abuse onto others until it becomes difficult to distinguish fantasy from reality. At some point the child needs more than the fantasy; he might choose to kill animals if he is a victim from physical abuse, or molest a young family member if he has been sexually assaulted. In the case of The Collector, he loved the dominance he felt in the fantasies; he loved the control and felt sexual gratification. This is the same type of control he saw his abuser have when the incidents occurred. Psychopath and sociopath are used interchangeably; it is my determination that The Collector is a full functioning psychopath. He is unable to control his urges, no indication of fear or guilt, and fantasizes about murder, dismemberment, and torture. People like him walk among us; No treatment exists!!

About the Author: I am currently going to school for Forensic Psychology; I am finishing up my Bachelor’s Degree and plan on continuing my education until I receive my Doctorate. Although I am still in school, I spend hours a week studying human behavior and psychological profiling; my main focus is on sexual homicide but study all types of murder. I do not currently work in law enforcement or around people suffering from personality disorders; this psychological profile on ‘The Collector’ is based on years of research, school, and books written by retired FBI Profilers. – Joseph Forsberg bloodnguts666.wordpress.com

  • Batman555

    Holy shit this scares me to know there could be real collectors in the world! Nice post

  • Danz

    Very nice idea! I’m graduating in psychology and I also want to follow a career in forensics psychology, even it’s not a good “market” for it here in Brazil, we actually don’t study nothing related in college, so everything I know about it I learned for myself, but I hope to get a post-graduation on it. The only theory we study that can be used to thing about criminals like that is psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud, that’s the strongest theoric stream in Brazil, but not that common in the US. One difference I can see between the theory you seem to use and the one I study more is the connection between cause and consequence, as in this part where you say “he might choose to kill animals if he is a victim from physical abuse”. It’s too much cartesian for psychoanalysis to talk about cause and consequence. But both theories seems to put in childhood the bases for the extreme criminal behavior. Usually, the most common psychological structures of those real killers are, going a little away from psychoanalysis as I refered before and getting into psychopathology field, are psychosis (schizophrenic usually are desorganizad killers, like Richard Chase)and perversion (it’s more often associated with sexual assault, and it has it’s roots on sexual fixation in some thing, BTK fits in this category, so as Ted Bundy). It’s hard to imagine a normal neurotic person to became a serial killer, no matter how much trauma he or she suffers as an adult, he might kill someone, but not so brutally and insane like those other ones, and they will always have a critical view of what they are doing. It’s also important to talk about cultural differences in this subject. As we know, there are some cultures that consideer canibalism something normal, with spiritual value, but that must never be confused with canibalism by a serial killer, since his culture does not consideer it something normal.
    It’s hard for me to talk about that in english, because some words are or might be different, and I don’t know much about the main theory used in US, but I do love the subject!

    • Danz

      Sorry about grammar mistakes, I’m not a native speaker so sometimes I make stupid mistakes, like write “thing” instead of “think”.

    • bloodnguts666

      Danz,

      I very much appreciate your response and find your thoughts very interesting; while there are a combination of events that can cause this type of behavior, I was simply using one because I have no background on The Collector. After Seeing the second one, I could probably go further into his childhood. We have psychoanalysis Theory which is very similar to psychodynamic, except that psychoanalysis is more unconscious feelings that cause a crisis in someone’s life. Both theories influence thoughts and actions; however, psychoanalysis theory does not really lead to murder; this would more relate to severe depression or PTSD. Most serial killers, such as Ted Bundy and BTK are Sociopaths/psychopaths; this is not psychosis, this is a personality disorder that also includes perversion. And please keep in mind that abuse might not have played a factor in this, I was simply giving an example rather than a vague outline. Psychosis would imply that he is somewhat insane, which would also mean that he would not be able to function as well as he does; also keep in mind that this would mean he does not understand the consequences of his actions (insanity defense). So, it seems we can both agree that psychosis does not fit his profile. Socio/Psychopaths know right from wrong, they just do not care; this seems to relate best to The Collector. He really meets the definition of both Antisocial (organized offender) and Asocial (disorganized offender). The Collector is incredibly smart and organized, but lives alone, has a hideout, and sometimes has a very anxious mood during a crime. It seems we have similar, but also very different ideas on human behavior. This profile is something I learned from my psychological profiling class. I love this topic though; keep responding cause I would love to know more of your thoughts! Also, your Grammar was fine, I could understand everything!

      • Danz

        As I said, there might be some confusion about the therms. When I talk about perversion and psychosis I’m translating from portuguese, so I don’t know which name they got in english, but they refeer to the three structures of the human mind for psychoanalysis (psychosis, perversion and neurosis). In this way, Sociopaths/psychopaths are two kinds of perversions, so that’s why I put Ted Bundy and BTK in this group. I talked about psychosis as another possibility to understand some serial killers, not Bundy or BTK, I agreed with you, but some others like Richard Chase.
        I also agree with you when you say that psychoanalysis does not study violent criminal behavior, even some of the theorys might be used to it. Still on psychoanalysis, I’ve been thinking recently in the possibility of some serial killers being extreme cases of obsessive/compulsive neurosis, which I also don’t know the correct name in english. It’s really hard to explain that, but when I point to that I’m thinking about their rituals and their need to kill, taking as an example Dexter Morgan from the TV Series, and also The Collector. But it’s hard to think about that, because it could be a characteristic of perversion (fetish). I believe there’s a lot to think about in this subject, so we might discuss a lot of aspects yet.
        If possible, I would like recommendations of articles and books about psychodinamic theory on criminal behavior so I can study for myself, because as I said erlier, in my college there’s nothing about it.

        • bloodnguts666

          Sorry about the confusion, I understand what you are saying now; it seems like we agree on everything for the most part. I guess we just have different theories that suggest similar behavioral patterns. You can find psychodynamic theory in most criminology books. Psychodynamic theory states that many traumatic events in a child’s life can lead to personality disorders or other behavioral issues that cause violent behavior. So to make it simple; psychodynamic theory really refers to anything on the nurture side of psychology. would i be correct in saying that neurosis would refer more to nature? Alright; explaining perversion as a fetish makes it a little more clear, lol. There is a book called ‘Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives’ which refers to everything psychodynamic theory covers, it just does not use that name. Freud is known for psychoanalytic which is both a theory and therapy; psychodynamic refers to both his theories and those of his followers. It all goes back to childhood experiences; involves drives and forces. I guess this can all relate back to Freud’s structural model-ID, EGO, and Super EGO which I am sure you are very familiar with. I would say this; take everything from psychoanalytical theory but relate it to the causes of murder and other disturbing behavior. Because I specialize in sexual homicide, i focus a lot on personality disorders more than psychosis. It is strange at the amount of killers who have normal childhoods but turn into narcissistic sociopaths; people like Randall Woodfield (I-5 killer) would fall into this category. Someone like this would refer to Freud’s theory on sexual drive; Randall loved porn and participated in exhibitionism/voyeurism. The important thing to know is that although some of our terms are different, it all goes back to Freud.

  • Devilinside

    I know nothing about psychology, but I enjoyed reading this. This whole thing kind of reminds me of criminal minds, which I never really thought about being real. I like the explanation and hope you do another after we all watch The Collection and see more of this character.

  • jkrisper31

    I love the collector and cannot wait to see the collection!! You make a pretty good point; because of the history of slasher films I really only watch them for fun and gore, not to be scared. Movies like V/H/S and paranormal activity have been more of a scare. After reading this, it makes sense to think about the amount of murders in the news. Obviously there are all those stupid paranormal shows, but we all know those are fake. Ted Bundy and BTK are real..and so could someone like the collector. My vote for your next post would be human centipede 2

  • Collectorfan102

    Wow this is very interesting and well thought out! Nice job! Would like to see a segment on the Poughkeepsie tapes killer next! That would be awesome!

  • Collectorfan102

    Oops! Forgot the rules… Would love to hear your theory on the strangers!!!

  • jjnorthland

    Well thought out article. Its always interesting to read or hear what other people think about when they analyze a movie. Hope to read more of your articles!

  • DJSeanMac

    You lost me at “all murders are sexually motivated.” They aren’t. And I’d wager that the degree of planning and methodical level of execution required for The Collector is far from disorganized. I strongly suggest reviewing the cases Jonathan Demme gave to his crew for review while making Silence of the Lambs. Demme consulted with FBI on ritualistic homicide and excerpts of several cases are found on an early edition of the DVD (Criterion?).

    What would make for a really entertaining dissection of the film is how, on an exterminator’s budget, The Collector is able to assemble all of these traps – and in such a short amount of time. I’m sure that, like Saw, it’s going to be revealed at some point that he’s not alone in his work. But even in the Saw franchise, it’s unfathomable that the group of villains had the money, resources, skills, and potential to execute most anything they did outside of the brilliantly simple first film.

    I’m waiting on Craftsman tools to sponsor a horror film. “You like how a full crew of laborers on ‘Yard Crashers’ change a yard in two days? Craftsman can do one better and help you make a torture maze series of death traps in just a few hours, all by yourself!”

    • bloodnguts666

      When I say he is disorganized, I am talking about his personality, not necessarily his methods of killing. I mention that no killer can fit the exact profile of a specific offender type. His crimes are obviously well organized; however, the scene itself is not. Also, keep in mind this is based off of one movie as I wrote this prior to seeing ‘The Collection’. All crimes are sexually motivated; I do not mean that killers have sexual intercourse with the victim or body, I mean that they get sexually aroused when committing their crimes. This is not a dissection of how he committed his crimes, it is a analysis on his behavior. Silence of the Lambs was a completely different movie because we are given a lot more information on the killer; I am doing his off of a couple of kills. After seeing the second one, I would make changes in my profile. I also never said being an exterminator is his job; I simply said that he finds jobs that enable him to fulfill his fantasy. In the case of The Collector, he needed opportunities to gain access to the homes of other people. He blends in, he does not stand out; he is someone that people would not necessarily remember. His crimes are organized and he is rather intelligent; this fits the category of an organized killer. However, there are more characteristics that lead to an asocial killer (lives alone, hunts at night, chaotic crime scene). In an organized crime scene the bodies are usually moved, and there is little evidence; this is not the case in either movie. Psychological Profiling is a science and it has never successfully solved a crime by itself. Again, I am a student, and this was simply done for the purpose of relating horror movies to real life.

      • bloodnguts666

        Whoops, I meant psychological profiling is not an exact science.

        • DJSeanMac

          You miss my greater point: you’re stating “all crimes are sexually motivated” first, then justifying it later. As a student or analyst, you should approach an investigation with an open mind. Sexual gratification is not the only kind of gratification or release a serial killer may be seeking. I’ve known an accused serial killer and it wasn’t sexual gratification he was after, at all (I say accused – he died before trial). Keep an open mind.

          • bloodnguts666

            behavior is motivated by two >instinctual drives: Eros (the sex drive & life instinct) and Thanatos (the aggressive drive & death instinct). Both these drives come from the “id”. with any psychological or personality disorder the sexual drive becomes part with the aggressive drive. Nothing is certain, but when making a profile, we use deductive and inductive methods which means past crimes and victimology are involved. Because most past crimes have been proven to be sexually motivated, I chose to take this approach. I am not here to teach psychology; I am here to give my breakdown of The Collector. I did not feel the need to breakdown everything that was said. Everyone else has taken this article for what it is…a fun way to relate horror to real life. pleasure is related to sexual drive and the life instinct; this is why i stated serial killers receive sexual pleasure. you could say anger is the reason, but killing would give him moments of pleasure and a release from anger. Its a cycle of fantasy, anger (or whatever else), and release. The release would be the crime, in which the person feels pleasure. Do not question my thoughts and opinions when you did not know your friend was a serial killer. And keep in mind profiling is based on opinions; many psychologists other than myself believe these types of murders are sexually motivated (become aroused); my professor is one of them. The thrill itself could make the offender sexually aroused. Lets take my future posts for what they are. I am not attacking your opinion i am just defending mine.

  • mark madsen

    First time logging on here and I am new to this website, but I find all of this very interesting. I do not know much about forensic psychology however I do think there are some common denominators with people that commit these kind of crimes. I do not beleive that all murders are sexually motivated, however I do beleive that “serial killers” are sexually motivated or have had some type of trauma in their past. I remember watching a 20/20 special (or one of those news shows) regarding serial killers and when they interviewed many of these famous serial killers, they all had one thing in common. Pornography. They all were avid readers/viewers of porno. I am not suggesting that every person that looks at that stuff is going to end up a serial killer, however all of these serial killers did have that in common. To me it just goes to show that there is a link between our environment, how we are raised, and what we “feed” ourselves day in and day out. Garbage in, garbage out is usually the rule. At any rate I found this article very interesting and look forward to watching the movie. I am usually more into the movies that scare me rather than just the usual blood and guts movies. I remember one of the scariest movies I ever saw was the original “when a stranger calls”. It was extremely frightening because this was something that could happen. Not only that but you never even saw the killer or anything until the movie was almost over. At any rate, great article!

    • DJSeanMac

      These posts sound like parents in the 1980s, hyped up with concern their kids were going to turn into mass murderers because they watched unrated gory b-movies from the video store. I thank John Waters for addressing that humorously in Serial Mom, where Chip’s teacher expresses concern over gory comics, but it’s Beverly who is the killer.

      • bloodnguts666

        These are people’s opinions; rather than attacking what everyone has said, why dont you respect them and keep an open mind. Multiple studies have shown that we are a product of our environment; this does not mean gory comics make killers. Again, I am not attacking you, just know that these are OPINIONS!

  • bloodnguts666

    I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment on your first time to the site. You make some very good points about serial killers; however, porn is more of a link between offenders when it is sexual homicide (not always0. An obsession with porn can only satisfy the offender for so long before he fantasizes about it becoming a reality. When this happens, the offender usually participates in exibitionism and/or voyeursim and it escalates from there. The common link seems to be violent fantasies and environment in which they grew up; so your thoughts on the subject are pretty accurate. As far as sexual motivation; I was referring only to serial killers as it relates to this post. Obviously crime of passion and things like that would not apply.

  • 4brettfavre

    Insightful, with good fact based knowledge of subject matter. Keep up the good work. I look forward to reading your column in future weeks.

  • Feleron

    This is a great article. It is intuitive and tells a great deal about why the Collector is who he is. It talks about his mindset and how he is more of an animal and predator than a normal human being. Without fear or emotion people can become violent and dangerous to others because they do not care. Their only goal is to reach that high they reached when they kill, so to get that, they have to kill. Great post and I look forward to more.
    -Kristian

  • harris3186

    I have to say this was very interesting to read; I do not know a whole lot about psychology but i agree serial killings are sexually motivated. I knew what you meant, I did not need the explanation like some of the people. Not all killers have sex with the victims, but they get sexually aroused off of each kill. Always circumstances when that is not true; for example if the person was insane, like the lady who drowned her children. But that would not be considered serial killings. Great post!