Saw meets The Strangers as introduced by Rube Goldberg. Oh, and there’s spiders.
After a combination of factors between his family and old acquaintances force him into a deadline, Arkin (Josh Stewart) makes the decision to rob a family’s home who he knows just left on vacation. Reluctant from the start, Arkin soon discovers that he isn’t the only one inside. Moreover, clever and deadly little traps have been set everywhere to narrow the amount of actual travel space between rooms, but for what reason? Only The Collector (Juan Fern??ndez) knows for certain.
Okay, this is another attempt by the people who brought you Saw to create another super psychopath. Unlike The Strangers (from the film of the same name) who apparently travel from random place to random place without so much as a thought given to planning, The Collector turns his victims’ home into his own personal battleground (with plenty of hints that he sees himself as something of a human trap spider). While the traps are well thought out, The Collector’s key motivations are not, likely fodder for future sequels, but it doesn’t forgive the huge plot holes that are created when the film turns from suspense thriller into horror slasher.
The plot thankfully doesn’t dwell on too many points to drag out the story, but neither does it rush. We meet Arkin and learn why he goes to the house, but we also learn why he would also be motivated to not only save his own neck. With the camera focused on Arkin’s emotion trying to raise himself up to be a hero, the Collector himself mostly stalks, watches, and stalks. Like the Jigsaw Killer, we don’t see how long it took for the Collector to create his lair, and the complexity and thoroughness of it in the allotted time shown is where we have to start taking it on faith that the crazy masked man is just as good with a portable screwdriver and zip ties as he is with throwing knives.
In the creation of a future franchise, the Collector throws out plenty of memorabilia, from a plain steamer trunk with a sinister old-world appearance to a unique mask and gloves. Stopping short of saying his throwing knives are actually stylized, it’s the character’s kinship with spiders which makes him the most interesting if not almost relatable (everyone needs a hobby, right?) Taken as a whole, there were more than a few missed opportunities to show how clever or adaptive this new fiend could be, and while neither as clever nor as cautious as Saw, we’ll take The Collector over those inbred Strangers any day.
(a two and a half skull skull recommendation out of four)