The Raid: Repulsion, by Matt Warren
Is there a less appetizing combination of words in the English language than “torture porn”? The disreputable horror subgenre has long earned scorn for its artlessness and gratuitous violence. But Torture Porn’s real crime in 2012 is its datedness. Already TP seems like a relic of the second Bush administration, when Abu Ghraib-inspired nightmares of sadism and forced humiliation roamed the earth as freely as Twinkies and New England Patriots Super Bowl victories. Call it instant nostalgia, but Marcus Dunstan’s The Collection is very much a throwback to the bygone era of Saw and Hostel. Battleship Pretension’s official grade: two-and-a-half rusty fishhooks through the cheek out of a possible five.
Three pieces of info gleaned from The Collection’s Wikipedia page…
- Dunstan and co-screenwriter Patrick Melton first came to prominence in 2005 as the winners of Season Three of Project Greenlight. Their feature spec Feast was directed by human mudslide John Gulager.
- The Collection was originally written as a Saw prequel, which really explains the antagonist’s preoccupation with Rube Goldbergian murder apparatuses and sickly fluorescent lighting.
- The Collection is actually a sequel to 2009’sThe Collector, Dunstan’s feature debut. I had no idea this movie existed. At no point during the film did I realize that it was supposed to be the second entry in a franchise.
But as we all know, horror franchises are only as good as their monsters. In this case the baddie is “The Collector”—a sadistic, highly motivated serial killer in a patchwork leather S&M mask more than a little reminiscent of the getup worn by Slipknot vocalist Corey Taylor. This is indeed a Golden Age for horror films with villains resembling members of the late-‘90s Iowan nü-metal collective, with the recent horror film Sinister offering up yet another ghoul resembling ‘Knot rhythm guitarist Mick Thomson.
The Collector’s M.O. is to stage baroque, high profile mass-murders (in this case the wholesale slaughter of a sexy warehouse rave), allowing one victim to survive to be brought back to his gothic murder castle. Truth be told, the castle—or, more accurately, the abandoned hotel—is far more memorable than the bland, anonymously evil Collector himself. Equal parts Joel Peter Witkin and H.H. Holmes, it’s a fantastical nightmare house that’s a genuinely eerie place to spend 90 minutes.
The plot is simple. Droopy-lidded screwface Josh Stewart plays petty thief Arkin, who has apparently just survived the events of the first film, whatever the fuck those may have been. Arkin is recruited by private security chief Lucello (Lee Tergesen) to help rescue the daughter (Emma Fitzpatrick) of Lucello’s wealthy employer, played Christopher McDonald. Will Arkin, Lucello, and their team of transparently doomed cannon fodder well-trained mercenaries succeed? Imagine The Raid set in Knott’s Scary Farm and you have some idea how this all plays out: tripwires, scythes, bear traps, narco-zombies, attack dogs, razor corridors, tarantulas, techno, and bad goth art ‘n crafts (so many fucked-up baby dolls!)
I will say this: The Collection is not boring. Sure, there’s nothing redeemable about the film’s artistic ambitions or morality. But it does hum along with propulsive B-movie economy, and Dunsten’s genuine horror-nerd enthusiasm for the material is apparent. That the film’s violence and gore is so cartoonish is to its credit. I can’t imagine what the “serious” high-toned thriller version of this movie would look like. It probably wouldn’t be possible. Unless we’re talking about the literal Holocaust, this much gratuitous carnage inevitably veers into the realm of camp. Every single act of violence in Sinister carries more weight than all of The Collection’s literally hundreds of severed limbs and disembowelments, but as far as dumb, giddy ultraviolence goes, it’s undeniably effective.
Did I like the movie? I dunno. No. Yes. Sort of. I didn’t hate it. I’m the audience for this, I guess. I’m a horror movie guy. But The Collection is a movie more for the fifteen-year-old me—the guy who subscribed to Fangoria, loved TNT’s Monstervision, and thought Slipknot’s first album was pretty rad. I’m glad they’re still making movies for that guy.