Delivered with the efficiency of a fast-food value meal, The Collection—a sequel to the largely forgotten 2009 horror film The Collector, and like its predecessor, the work of the writing-directing team behind some of the later Saw sequels—doesn’t waste much time. Clocking in at a swift 82 minutes, counting the languorous opening and closing credits, the film almost immediately starts setting up its plot by letting a TV news broadcast recount the horrific efforts of a seemingly unstoppable killer. Then it sends its pixieish heroine (Emma Fitzpatrick) out into the night in search of a party, which she finds in the form of an underground dance club that’s secretly run by the killer himself. An athletic-looking figure wearing a black mask, he’s rigged the place with booby traps, including a thresher that, in the film’s most audacious sequence, mows down the dancers like so many stalks of wheat. Then Fitzpatrick gets kidnapped while Josh Stewart, The Collector’s hard-case hero, escapes, and a paramilitary group hired by Fitzpatrick’s father (Christopher McDonald) springs Stewart from the hospital to find the killer’s secret lair. These events unfold with the reckless momentum of downhill skiing.
The killer’s secret lair is the old, abandoned Hotel Argento, which provides one clue about the influences at play in The Collection. Another comes from the villain’s mask, which resembles that of the Italian pulp anti-hero Diabolik, memorably brought to the screen by Mario Bava. But the nods to classic Italian giallo are largely just that: nods. Mostly The Collection plays like a throwback to a more recent, but fast-fading into memory, horror-film era set into motion by Saw, one in which elaborate contraptions clank into action in ways designed to impale and dismember, no room is complete without unsavory-looking stains on the wall, and no door can be opened or closed without threatening to blow out the low-end of even the most state-of-the-art multiplex sound systems. In the Hotel Argento, every room is a death trap, and there’s always something squishy on the floor.
But even if it’s delivering the last gasp of its particular subgenre, The Collection still finds ways to make itself heard. That thresher sequence isn’t soon forgotten, nor are some of the images scared up by the film’s go-for-it attitude toward its thrift-store-goth production design, which includes everything from terrifying dolls to vats of fluid filled with bones assembled to resemble the skeletons of creatures that never walked the Earth. It also has enough nutty energy and oddball touches—The Wire’s Andre Royo shows up as a gun-toting, faux-hawk-sporting badass—that it’s never boring. Dumb, gross, gratuitous, and overly familiar, sure. But never boring.