Economical storytelling and an admirable sense of invention power The Collection, Marcus Dunstan's oddly welcome sequel to his surprisingly engaging The Collector. The titular masked killer remained at large as the previous film ended, locking unlikely hero and small-time burglar Arkin (Josh Stewart) inside a chest to await further encounters with sharp things. Arkin finds release early on in The Collection, however, when the Collector (Randall Archer), in a bravura act of gushy slaughter, chops up a night club's worth of writhing bodies with an over-sized mower, and survivor Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick) finds and opens the chest, only to take Arkin's place minutes later.
Dunstan and writing partner Patrick Melton have built their names on franchises, having penned all three Feast features and the last four Saw installments, but neither The Collector nor The Collection feels as grim and laborious as the latter or as flagrantly silly as the former. The filmmakers' influences are clear, from The Silence of the Lambs to Se7en to, yes, Saw, and they brazenly fit their killer's lair with the trademarks of these landmarks, including framed insects and ultraviolet green and yellow grime; the heavy Frances Bacon influence is appreciated, if a bit gaudy. If nothing else, these stylistic elements make for a suitably eerie vibe when Arkin is blackmailed into helping the extravagantly named Lucello (Lee Tergesen) and his team rescue Elena from the abandoned, trap-laden motel where the Collector makes his home.
Whereas the later Saw films were hampered by bloated backstory, various ostentatious agendas, and self-satisfied sadism, The Collection feels utterly unburdened by anything but its lean, fleet-footed plot. The pacing is propulsive, the death pieces are creative, and though the performances are one-note, they're never stiff or distracting. The impossibilities and inconsistencies of the narrative are, of course, innumerable, and the film employs more than a few grating auditory shock-scares, but the filmmakers provide such focus and playful, trashy morbidity that one is moved to forgive these bothersome, perhaps inevitable totems. Familiar and sans frills, The Collection's unlikely muscularity is the simple result of indulging in the filth and anarchy of the genre rather than foolishly attempting to touch reputability.