I don’t understand the serial killing in “The Collection.” I mean, what’s the nutjob killer into? He wraps his head in a high-end leather luchador mask that you could totally find for sale on certain luxe shopping sites. He stuffs his victims into trunks. He rigs deadly contraptions. He snips out human tongues and puts them in jars. He arranges remains in big glass tanks that he arranges just so. He doesn’t mind the piles of bodies at the bottom of the dumbwaiter shaft. He appears to have scores and scores of victims — living, dead, and somewhere in between. Maybe he’s attracted to the young woman he’s nailed to a wall, or to the one he’s tried to turn into the Courtney Love who appears in the video for “Doll Parts.”
Who is this man with the satanic soul, art dealer’s eye, and Mexican wrestler’s headgear? And what do all these fetishes have to do with each other? And how do we explain his competence? He can devise and build a contraption that mows down an entire nightclub full of people (mass murder on the dance floor!), but he can’t grab a victim 3 feet in front of him? Why does he bother with knife fights and hand-to-hand combat? And what’s he doing while a heavily armed rescue squad inches deeper inside his booby-trapped horror house (“This hotel has been abandoned for years!”)? If he’s willing to blow the place to smithereens in the last act, why not in the first?
The director Marcus Dunstan and his co-writer, Patrick Melton, strike again. They’ve overseen the demise of the “Saw” franchise and, three years ago, were permitted to embark on their own torture series with “The Collector.” That movie took a fine “Twilight Zone” premise (an ex-con tries to a rob a house whose residents have already been slain) and smeared it with excrement.
This sequel is an improvement of sorts. The rescue squad finds the ex-con (Josh Stewart, who works very hard) and forces him to find a woman (Emma Fitzpatrick) who survived the nightclub massacre and is inside the abandoned hotel.
They’ve halved the gore and copped to action-movie imperatives. Dunstan has actually learned how to build tension in a horror movie, which is rare in the world of slashings, snippings, and crucifixions. And the finale is rousing in its relentless, enjoyably ridiculous way. But he and Denton have done nothing to rectify the “give me a break” factor. The movie doesn’t make five seconds of sense (the coda tries to offer an apology) and most of what they’ve done they’ve borrowed — from movies, music videos, and art installations. This boogeyman is made up of so many other maniacs and boogeymen (Michael Myers, Jason, Freddy Krueger, Buffalo Bill, Jigsaw) that, even by the loose standards of horror-movie sloppiness, he’s a mess. To that end, “The Collection” is an honest title. The movie is just a lot of other people’s greatest hits.
Wesley Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.