Torture porn is a horror sub-genre that briefly flirted with the mainstream in the mid-noughties thanks to the success of the Saw franchise. Mixing jump scares with just about every attack on a person’s body that you could think of, and some that you definitely wouldn’t, these movies are seen as little more than an embarrassing diversion these days. Yet they have had an effect on pop culture as a whole. Thanks to directors like James Wan, Eli Roth, and even Quentin Tarantino, the cultural audience’s tolerance for violence has went up considerably. The gore of Hostel happens every week on the small screen in shows like American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones. The question is, apart from the high-profile examples of the genre I’ve already mentioned, is there any other films that are worth revisiting? The answer to this is a resounding yes, and those films centre around the Collector.
The Collector is a 2009 horror film directed by Marcus Dunstan. It’s a pretty standard home invasion thriller that is indebted to the Saw franchise, which it was originally billed a prequel to, through its use of sadistic traps. The film isn’t really worth your time as the scares are predictable, the characters paper thin, and it’s more of a Saw knock-off than a proper successor. Still, The Collector himself, whose plan of action is to take one member of a household for his own personal collection of people and kill everyone else in the house using said traps, is an interesting creation that is little more than a blunt monster in the first film.
The Collector gained enough of a cult following to get a sequel, for which Josh Stewart (the star of the first film) reprises his role as Arkin: the burglar who is captured by the Collector at the end of the first instalment. This sequel is called The Collection, which has found its way to Netflix, and its an absolute blast for fans of the genre. The Collection escalates this formula of its predecessor by filling in the blanks of the films antagonist.
At a teenage house party, Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick) stumbles across a red trunk that happens to contain the severely injured Arkin. During this discovery, many of the party goers are killed in a dancefloor bloodbath that sets the insane tone for what’s to come. Of course, this is the work of The Collector, who kidnaps Elena for his collection. With Arkin’s help, a group of law enforcement officers track The Collector to a run-down hotel that houses his entire collection of victims. If, at this point you start getting vibes of James Cameron’s Aliens, you’re not alone. Dunstan and writer Patrick Melton have put together the torture porn version of a war movie, as they use the hotel as a battleground between the Collector, his victims, and the people trying to save them.
Part of The Collector’s charm as a villain is how he can use unfamiliar environment to his own use. In the first film he turns a family home into a human abattoir. In The Collection he has the home court advantage which leads to lots of visceral scenes of dismemberment, decapitation, and other somewhat unpleasant situations. The reason why The Collection works much better than the first film is that the creators realise how utterly silly all of this mayhem is. Instead of scaring you, The Collection wants to shock you with its creativity, and for the most part it succeeds.
While the Collector is no Jigsaw, The Collection gives us the character in all of his glory and solidifies his cult status within the horror genre.