While I didn’t fall in love with The Collection, there’s something admirable about its ambition to not be more of the same. Its increased scope and willingness to stray from the beats of its predecessor, The Collector, indicate that co-writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (the latter of whom also directed) have an actual creative engagement with the material. So if the good news is that they’re not treading the same ground as the first film, the bad news is that – depending on what you’re looking to get out of the experience – it may not work as well.
I rarely play the “depending what you’re looking to get out of the experience” card. After all, what you want is a good horror movie, right? The Collection is certainly entertaining enough to qualify in that regard. But if you’re looking for something with the tension, intimacy, character, relative subtlety and nuance of The Collector… you might be in for a surprise. I’m not the first one to make the Alien vs. Aliens comparison, but I think it’s an apt analogy that breaks down the fundamental differences between the two films. While The Collection has plenty of scares, traps and gore it’s almost an action movie at heart, complete with hired mercenaries subbing in for the colonial marines of Aliens. Another key similarity is that Arkin (Josh Stewart), who we last saw being slammed into a red trunk at the end of The Collector, makes an early escape only to be pressured into playing the Ripley role by leading the mercs back into the lair of The Collector – a world that only he knows.
Why are they heading into said lair? To rescue Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick), the daughter of a wealthy man with the means to hire his own security detail to retrieve her. She’s kidnapped in spectacular fashion during a the film’s particularly inspired opening sequence. Gone is the slow burn of The Collector‘s first 30 minutes, this sequel hits the ground running. If I had to guess, I’d say that around 80 people die in the exhilarating opening 15 minutes of the new film. From the opening titles on up to the aforementioned bloodbath, The Collection demonstrates an impressive swagger – but it has difficulty sustaining it.
A lot of that difficulty stems from the fact that we don’t care as much about the characters this time around. Arkin seems to have lost some dimensionality (which sort of makes sense given his predicament) and the mercenaries are almost flat-out anonymous, relying solely on smart casting to make an impact. When I spoke to Melton and Dunstan earlier this week, they conceded that with an 82 minute run time it’s nearly impossible to allow for Aliens style introductions to our “soldiers.” So there’s a conscious trade-off here in which The Collection sacrifices some potential investment in its secondary characters for sheer momentum.
And, for the most part, that trade-off works. The movie flies by with an impressive amount of carnage to behold. The Collector’s lair makes for a menacing, intricate and surprisingly beautiful setting. The statuesque displays of his prior victims are interesting and artful (even if I’m not sure how storing them in water could at all preserve them). Even additions that are tonal missteps that clash with the first film’s relative practicality, such as a captive/submissive pixie dream girl who would feel more at home in The People Under The Stairs, keep us alert (if not scratching our heads).
If you’re a fan of The Collector, I would advise you to see The Collection with the knowledge that you’re revisiting elements of the original within the context of a new genre. If you’ve never seen The Collector, that’s fine. The new film works well enough on its own intentionally silly terms.