Desperate for cash, Arkin hatches a plan to break in and steal a valuable jewel hidden in his employer's safe. The family is supposed to be on vacation, but once he's inside the house, he realizes to his horror that they're still there. Even worse, they're not alone. A man in a mask is holding them captive, putting them through mental and physical anguish.
A criminal with a heart of gold, Arkin decides to help, but the masked man -- who we find out likes to "collect" victims -- has booby trapped the mansion, thwarting his efforts to free the family. As the clock ticks down to his wife's deadline, Arkin must figure out a way to save both his own family and that of his employer.
The End Result
The overall concept is certainly promising: a thief, an antihero, is forced to search his morals when he encounters a criminal worse than him and must rescue the very people he came to victimize. It seems like that pitch, plus the clout earned from the Saw movies, alone got this film greenlit, because little else works.
First of all, in a desperate effort to create a horror icon, the "Collector" himself turns out to be one of the more contrived, nonsensical villains in recent memory. Nothing is ever explained about who he is or why he plays his sadistic games. Why bother "keeping" someone in a trunk and lugging it to the scene of your next crime? And why in the world, once you have a family captive, would you then booby trap the house? Does he expect them to escape?
The ridiculous extent to which he jimmy-rigs the house -- from multiple locks to boarded-up windows to acid on the floor to razor blades, wires, knives and even bear traps -- makes the film all the more improbable and idiotic. Granted, exploitation movies like this are primarily about aesthetics, but the violence and mayhem needs to be grounded with some semblance of reality and common sense. The plot, which could've turned into an intriguing cat-and-mouse game between two criminals, becomes a flimsy, nonsensical excuse to throw in gratuitous scenes of the Collector torturing people for no good reason. In short, this movie scrapes the bottom of the torture porn barrel by presenting torture for the sake of torture.
Easing the shallowness of the story along is the lack of depth of any character other than Arkin. His wife in particular, whom he's supposed to be saving, is shrill and demanding, and we never find out why she owes so much money to a loan shark. The writing, which is supposed to be Dunstan and Melton's strong suit, is lazy beyond belief, full of plot holes, unexplained incidents and far-fetched circumstances. I mean, how would a man who has a life-or-death midnight deadline to steal a jewel for a gangster NOT carry a cell phone?
All of the effort and energy that Dunstan withhold from the script is seemingly funneled into his direction, which ends up way over the top. His heavy-handed style tries to force-feed fear with obnoxious music (which runs throughout the movie with no let-up), pseudo-dramatic slow motion and oodles of clichéd "edgy" torture porn aesthetics: dingy basements, oversaturated, decayed effects and bugs up the wazoo.
Dimwitted and derivative, The Collector places a sour cherry on top of the grim sundae with a tacked-on, predictable ending. Talk about torture.