Review: 'Collection' a nastily efficient chiller

Emma Fitzpatrick as Elena in "The Collection."

Photo by LD Entertainment

Emma Fitzpatrick as Elena in "The Collection."

LOS ANGELES — Not that anyone was exactly clamoring for it, but "The Collection" is a sequel to Marcus Dunstan's little-seen 2009 horror film "The Collector." The director and his co-screenwriter Patrick Melton have written four of the "Saw" films, and this similar exercise in gratuitous sadism and gore follows roughly the same template, although with the lack of originality suggested by the redundant title.

But this nastily efficient chiller offers some effective chills along the way, beginning with an early sequence depicting the elaborate massacre of dozens of teens at an underground dance party that features the most fake blood seen onscreen since "The Shining."

Rated R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and brief nudity

Length: 81 minutes
Released: November 30, 2012 Nationwide
Cast: Christopher McDonald, Daniel Sharman, Lee Tergesen, Navi Rawat, Josh Stewart
Director: Marcus Dunstan
Producer: Brett Forbes, Mickey Liddell, Jennifer Hilton Monroe, Julie Richardson, Patrick Rizzotti
Writer: Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton
Genre: Horror
Distributor: LD Entertainment

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Attending the party is beautiful rich girl Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick), who manages to survive the grisly goings-on long enough to open a trunk and rescue Arkin (Josh Stewart), the hapless thief who was the first film's primary victim. Although he manages to make a daring escape by diving out of a window, she's taken prisoner by the masked killer (stuntman Randall Archer) who totes her back to his lair.

Unfortunately for the traumatized Arkin, Elena's father (Christopher McDonald) has hired a crack team of mercenaries to find his little girl. Bursting into his hospital room, they demand that he lead them to the killer, whose location he apparently determined via strategically timed, self-inflicted cuts to his arm.

Led by the father's right-hand man Lucello (Lee Tergesen), the team ventures into the Collector's house of horrors located in the "Hotel Argento" (if you don't get the reference, this isn't the film for you). There they encounter a series of booby traps — more rudimentary than the Rube Goldberg-style constructions in the "Saw" films, though no less deadly. They're also forced to contend with many of the Collector's still-living captives, who have been drugged to the point of brutal mindlessness.

Most of the film's running time is consumed with this cat-and-mouse game, with the proceedings resembling one of those elaborate haunted house attractions that spring up every Halloween. Needless to say, several of the characters meet their demise in the process, with the timing of their deaths generally keyed to their degree of likeability.

Running a taut 82 minutes, the film maintains a considerable degree of tension throughout, with a few scenes standing out. Particularly effective is Elena's encounter with several tarantulas — arachnophobes would be well advised to stay away — and another simple but well-staged sequence involving a flickering light. There's also a nifty bit involving the re-breaking of an arm to facilitate an escape that provoked an intense audience reaction.

But director Dunstan is clearly mainly interested in ratcheting up the gore content via endless scenes of bodies being dismembered, impaled or blown up that well showcase the talents of the special effects and makeup teams. Production designer Graham "Grace" Walker has also done a terrific job with the sets featuring an array of such spooky sights as mounds of body parts, corpses floating in tanks of water, and horrific paintings that make Francis Bacon's look wholesome.

Unfortunately, the Collector simply isn't a very interesting screen villain. Clad in a black mask that reveals only his eyes and mouth, he mainly communicates by heavy breathing. It makes one yearn for the perversely witty chatter of Jigsaw.

The performers go through their masochistic physical paces in admirably committed fashion, with Stewart particularly convincing as the victim who finds himself coming back for more and Fitzpatrick proving a plucky screen heroine. And it's fun to see Tergesen acting in full badass mode. But despite their efforts, this latest example of the increasingly exhausted torture porn genre will be of little interest to any but its most obsessed fans.

© 2012 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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