Amid a slew of high-profile, high-quality holiday releases, along comes The Collection

by Mark Burger

Amid a slew of high-profile, high-quality holiday releases, along comes The Collection (*) to bring things crashing back to earth. This is a sequel to the 2009 shocker The Collector, which was fairly tolerable but hardly warranted a follow-up — especially not one as dire as this. Bad sequel.

Bad movie. That’s The Collection in a nasty nutshell.

The film was written by Patrick Melton and director Marcus Dunstan, veterans of the late, unlamented but frequently lamentable Saw franchise. If there’s any novelty left in serial killers who employ lethal booby traps and gadgets, The Collection does its part to bury it.

The screen’s awash with blood and guts throughout — it’s almost surprising that a film this gruesome managed to escape with an R rating — but never outdoes an early sequence in which revelers at a nightclub are slaughtered by the score. It’s during this catastrophe that Arkin (Josh Stewart), the sole survivor of the earlier film, manages to escape, and also when this film’s heroine, Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick), is first captured by the resident masked fiend, the Collector (Randall Archer).

Arkin is persuaded to immediately lead an illicit “rescue” team to rescue Elena from the Collector’s lair, located in the seemingly abandoned and dilapidated Argento Hotel (ho ho) — a structure so enormous and foreboding that it’s a wonder that the city’s law enforcement, which has been tracking the Collector (thus far without success), never bothered to check it out first. Best not to look at things too closely, if at all.

Story progression is mostly predicated on the stupidity of its characters, which aren’t particularly interesting to begin with and, for the most part, aren’t around long enough to care what happens to them. This is the sort of movie where characters tend look for places to hide instead of picking up something that can be used as a weapon — and it’s not as if there’s a lack of sharp objects within reach. The Collection is less suspenseful or horrifying than it is numbing and depressing. Even by the generally low standards of slasher cinema like this, this is lower than most.

Aside from some flashbacks, the course of the film takes place a single night (it only seems like an eternity), although Arkin appears to grow a full beard by the finale. He also grows in heroic stature despite the repeated abuse he undergoes at the hands and cutlery of the Collector. It’d be nice to see what Stewart can do with a real character in a real film one of these days. As Elena’s worried dad, Christopher McDonald earns third billing with about three minutes of screen time. Lucky him.

The acting’s the thing — and very good it is — in A Late Quartet (**½), which marks the feature narrative debut of co-writer/producer/director Yaron Zilberman, who has assembled a first-rate cast.

For 25 years, the members of the Fugue String Quartet have been making beautiful music together. In many ways, they’re like a family — and like most families it’s not without its problems.

Like their instruments, sometimes their relationships require fine-tuning.

The future of the quartet is thrown into doubt when Peter (Christopher Walken), its bedrock and father-figure, announces that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and is uncertain he can continue performing at all.

For Robert and Juliette (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener, nicely reunited from Capote), Peter’s decision causes friction because Robert states plainly that he wants to assume the leadership mantel. Daniel (Mark Ivanir) would seem to be the odd man out, except that he’s having an unwise — and unlikely — affair with Robert and Juliette’s daughter Alexandra (Imogen Poots), herself an aspiring musician.

The character’s conflicts are interesting enough without Daniel and Alexandra’s romance and Daniel’s ill-advised one-night stand, both unnecessary and which propel the story into soapopera territory in the second half, although it’s hard not to be moved by the climactic recital.

Hoffman and Keener enjoy some intense sparring throughout and are completely believable as a couple whose relationship is on the rocks, and Walken is simply terrific in an enormously sympathetic, unexpectedly low-key role. He’s so good at playing offbeat characters — and so much fun to watch playing them — that it’s easy to overlook his considerable dramatic range.

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