I had lunch many years ago in Chicago with novelist Stephen King, who told me something he has repeated to others: "I try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud!"
Marcus Dunstan's horror movie "The Collection" isn't proud. It isn't Stephen King. And it isn't much on terrifying or horrifying per se.
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"The Collection"★ ★ ˝
Starring: Emma Fitzpatrick, Christopher McDonald, Josh Stewart
Directed by: Marcus Dunstan
Other: An LD Entertainment release. Rated R for language, nudity and violence. 82 minutes
But going for the gross-out?
Now we're talkin'. And flinchin'.
"The Collection" can charitably be called a high-grade splatter film, something that ranks a couple of notches higher than torture porn on the subgenre horror scale.
Where infliction of pain and torment on human beings becomes the raison d'ętre in torture porn, the graphic, hard-R-rated gore and violence in "The Collection" don't linger on the suffering.
They go for the screaming, maiming, shrieking and dismemberment. And let's not forget plenty of old-fashioned yechy goo.
The ghastly killings in "The Collection" -- they dwarf the body count in any "Friday the 13th" chapter -- tend to be quick, gruesome and creatively executed by a mad man with:
1) lots of money to buy expensive equipment and pay exorbitant power bills
2) a sociopathic predisposition that takes schadenfreude to ridiculous levels
3) an engineering IQ of 300 to whip up creative death traps activated by tripwires and electrical switches
4) the sewing skills of Betsy Ross to artfully stitch together body parts suspended in giant glass display cases.
"The Collection" begins where 2009's "The Collector" left off. If you haven't seen "The Collector," don't panic.
The sequel shoehorns the essence of the first film into a tidy opening montage recounting how a violent sicko runs around town, trapping and slaughtering people in offices and homes, while always taking one hostage alive from each crime scene.
The moment that Dunstan and co-writer Patrick Melton -- both veterans of the "Saw" horror franchise, which gives you an idea of what to expect here -- introduce the lovely Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick), "The Collection" lurches into a spectacular, nonstop assault on good taste and the senses with a ridiculous sense of morbid fun.
Elena goes to a huge rave party where the masked, heavy breathing villain called the Collector carries out an elaborate mass execution, using spinning blades to slice and dice trapped dancers, then crushing a room full of screeching young partygoers like grapes in a wine press.
Elena escapes death, but becomes the Collector's prisoner.
Meanwhile, a previous tortured prisoner, Arkin (Josh Stewart), escapes from the Collector's night(mare)club and goes to the police.
In short order, Elena's dad (Christopher McDonald, barely phoning in his sketchy character) hires mercenaries to rescue his daughter by tracking the Collector to his uber-lair, an abandoned hotel tricked up with elaborate booby traps that would baffle Indiana Jones.
Once the team enters the hotel, "The Collection" ramps up the action with chases, escapes, blood and carnage as Elena, Arkin and the mercs try to get out alive.
That's pretty much the whole movie: a series of stale, tried-and-true shock devices (how many times have we seen someone look into a peep hole, only to be startled when another eyeball suddenly stares back?) mixed with just enough new twists (Elena and Arkin turn out to be incredibly smart and resourceful) to keep from sliding into banal, rehashed horror trash.
Where was this movie in October when we needed it?