Strictly for auds who enjoy the grisly Grand Guignol spectacle of the “Saw” franchise but could do without the moral lectures and melodramatic mythology, “The Collection” is an energetic but utterly weightless exercise in slice-and-dice cinema. This sequel to 2009 chiller “The Collector” is in many ways bigger (more characters, more locations, more carnage), but in no way better than its predecessor. Theatrical is merely a pit-stop on the road to home viewing for a product with niche appeal even among horror buffs.
Picking up where “The Collector” left off, “The Collection” establishes an anonymous urban locale terrorized by a psycho killer with no method to his madness. Without the luxury of the first film’s slow-burn opening act, the sequel leans on pre-existing iconography to build tension: the Collector’s black mask obscuring everything but his beady eyes and predatory mouth; the red trunk he uses to “collect” a lone survivor of each massacre; an ominous tripwire connected to something sharp and lethal. Once filmmakers (and “Saw” sequel alums) Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton hurriedly introduce new protagonist Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick), it’s off to the races for nonstop, nonsensical brutality.
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Elena and pals head to a secret underground club (the password is “nevermore,” natch) where the Collector waits in the shadows with a plan to orchestrate mass murder. In what should be one of the film’s standout setpieces, dozens of clubgoers are simultaneously slaughtered by a massive combine-harvester blade rigged to descend from the ceiling. But the sequence is little more than a jumble of frenetically cut-together closeups, and the first of many examples of the film’s “more is more” philosophy coming into conflict with the constraints of a low budget.
While Elena is dragged off to the villain’s secret lair, the pic reintroduces the first film’s scrappy survivor, Arkin (Josh Stewart), who manages to break free only to be recruited by Elena’s mysterious protector, Lucello (Lee Tergesen). Lucello has assembled a team to hunt down the Collector and rescue Elena, and they need Arkin’s help. But this time he’s on the Collector’s home turf: The rundown Hotel Argento (wink, wink), a more elaborate version of the booby-trapped mansion from part one.
If “The Collector” was inspired by the suspenseful setup of “Wait Until Dark,” Dunstan and Melton take their cues this time from one of the great genre sequels: James Cameron’s “Aliens,” with its team of tough-talking grunts navigating perilous terrain as they battle an unstoppable foe. Still, the raison d’etre remains gore, gore and more gore. There’s no attempt to explain how the Collector sets up his elaborate traps, and only the vaguest speculation as to what motivates his insatiable bloodlust, which could be frightening if his actions weren’t so preposterous.
Performance and tech credits are adequate by genre standards, though the only imaginative contribution comes in the design of the Collector’s depraved displays of disemboweled victims and stitched-together body parts. He’s quite the interior decorator.
Pic manages to end on a satisfying note that may or may not lead to a third installment. Perhaps the limited amount of title variations — “The Collected”? “The Collectors”? — will spare everyone the unnecessary trouble.