There's never a dull moment in "The Collection," Marcus Dunstan's sequel to his little-seen, horror-cult favorite 2009 "The Collector." Early on rich girl Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick) heads out to an impromptu dance party where she becomes the latest victim of The Collector, a masked hulk of a man with a nasty grudge on the world that he acts out with icy, sadistic rage. (He's played by stunt man Randall Archer as a mute monster.)
Not having seen the first film, it is difficult to figure out what motivates him - a suffocating mother, steroids, Taylor Swift? But his viciousness is unparalleled, even by the standards of these kinds of gore fests. At that party, he activates a giant rotary blade - a very grim reaper that mows the dancing teens into a bloody mess of body parts. At first, Elena escapes, only to witness her best friend be crushed to death in an elevator and be collected by The Collector, who locks her in a red trunk and takes her away to the Hotel Argento. (Named for the famed Italian horror director. It's the only bit of humor in this otherwise mirthless thriller.)
She also manages to free Arkin (Josh Stewart), the victim tortured in the first film. But before he can recover from his horrific experience, he's kidnapped by a rogue-SWAT team hired by Elena's rich dad. Leading this alpha-male crew is Lucello (Lee Tergesen from HBO's "Oz"), the family's long-standing bodyguard, who will stop at nothing to locate Elena. Meanwhile she escapes her trunk, only to meet a batty blonde who may or may not be in cahoots with The Collector, and wanders through the maze that makes up this abandoned hotel.
Kudos to production designer Graham "Grace" Walker for creating the creepiest locale this side of "American Horror Story." Especially evocative are the life-size glass cases containing victims encased in liquid, as if from an avant-garde museum exhibit. That they also prove crucial to the film’s climax is one of the few clever twists. Stlll the film’s sleek, scary look and feverish editing makes it most watchable, even as what it is depicting is not.
That’s because in lieu of a coherent plot is a catalogue of various types of carnage. Characters are dismembered, shot, crucified, impaled, tortured, suffocated and strangled with numbing regularity. Many simply pop-up to be meet a grisly end. Others appear to have some kind of plot function, but are so clumsily drawn as to not make much impact. Perhaps the film would be more interesting if The Collector wasn’t little more than a masked enigma - a nightmarish figure that functions as a killing machine. His ruthlessness makes for uneasy viewing.
"The Collection" isn’t as much suspenseful as distressing: the gore is relentless, but the plot is predictable - "Aliens" in a haunted house. The SWAT team is eliminated one-by-one in increasingly unpleasant ways; Arkin saves the day, despite having his already injured arm re-broken in a particularly graphic moment; and Elena is reunited with her dad, though it is doubtful that she’ll be heading out to any secret raves anytime soon. As for The Collector, he gets his due... or does he? Fitting the illogic of the narrative, he reappears, despite being burned alive.
Dunstan and his co-screenwriter Patrick Melton first gained attention as winners of Season Three of "Project Greenlight" for their script for "Feast." Since then the team wrote scripts for a number of "Feast" sequels, as well as the last four "Saw" films, making them something of the Trey Parker and Matt Stone of Grand Guignol horror. Dunstan has a distinctive visual style that’s fevered and expressive; if only he didn’t focus his talents in a genre that fetishizes violence with such relish. It’s all a bit of a joke in its extremes, if only there was faintest hint of anything funny.