Collaborators Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton are back with a sequel to their 2009 film 'The Collector'; but where that film felt tight, focused and atmospheric, 'The Collection' perhaps expands its world a little too much and feels a bit deflated.

It would appear that director Marcus Dunstan and his writing partner Patrick Melton are in the business of diminishing returns. Their debut feature, 'Feast,' was a bloody good horror comedy that packed as many laughs as it did scares, but the two sequels that followed were each decreasingly engaging and well-made as the first. Their work on the 'Saw' franchise saw them take the helm for entry 'IV' through to the atrocious 'Saw 3D: The Final Chapter.' With each sequel, the pair made the 'Saw' world bigger and more complex -- but also more convoluted. When you start opening doors that wide to let more ideas in, you also run the risk of letting the air out.

The same sadly goes for 'The Collection.' 'The Collector' was a surprising little horror flick when it was released in 2009 -- an atmospheric and claustrophobic thriller that drew many jokey 'Home Alone' comparisons, but the dirty, harshly-lit way the film was shot, the grimy and grisly death sequences, and the blue collar approach to the serial killer's traps provided for some effective horror.

Three years later the duo are back with 'The Collection,' which finds the first film's protagonist, Arkin (Josh Stewart), escaping the collection box of his masked captor, who's busy staging a nightclub massacre. Though Arkin escapes, a young woman named Elena becomes the Collector's next trophy, and it isn't long before her millionaire father convinces Arkin to go into the killer's lair with a team of mercenaries to retrieve her.

The Collector has set up an intricate shop at an old motel, where his traps range from the sort of homemade stuff we saw in the first film to the increasingly complex -- it would seem that Dunstan and Melton haven't left their 'Saw' mentality behind. Gone is the harsh lighting and down and dirty film style of the first outing, which has been replaced with bright colors and generic cinematography. The biggest problem with 'The Collection' is that Dunstan and Melton have expanded their world too wide and given too much floor space to something that more adequately inhabited a smaller corner. The effort is admirable, but 'The Collection' lacks the efficiency and efficacy of its forebear.

Scares and tension have been traded for gross-out endurance tests -- the kind of torture sequences that are designed to test the will of the audience; the kind of stuff you might tell a friend about after, daring them to sit through the same. Can you watch this guy get his arm broken and set back into place? Can you watch a herd of club-goers as they're mowed down by rotating rows of spikes descending from the ceiling?

'The Collection' isn't a bad film, and it sure does try to impress with its elaborate set-ups, but the traps were never a problem in the first film -- if something isn't broken, why fix it? The appeal of the traps in 'The Collector' was that they felt more tangible than something that, say, Jigsaw would engineer. There was a certain simplistic appeal to them that made the traps even more brutal and squirm-inducing, but 'The Collection' wants its villain to show off and become larger than life; it's a harder pill to swallow and one that feels like a placebo -- all sugar and filler, intended to look like the others, but with no real effect.

Josh Stewart and Emma Fitzpatrick (Elena) give fine performances -- Fitzpatrick's fearful screaming and panic elevate sequences and provide some much-needed tension, while Stewart's interactions with the Collector colorfully (but never cartoonishly) illustrate the anger of a man who's suffered maybe a bit too much at the hands of this masked sadistic freak. In one of the film's more engaging and memorable moments, Stewart comes face to face with the wordless, masked killer while stuck in a giant cage -- it's here that the film has echoes of 'The Collector,' creating a more intimate moment between the captive and the vague captor, whose motivations are never revealed.

And while much of the film feels too elaborately staged for its own good, the ending is a fist-pumping, delightful little bookend which will hopefully serve as the end of this story -- although it sadly feels like mere set-up for an eventual third film. For Dunstan and Melton to return to this well would surely mean an even lesser experience the next time around. And the next. And the next.


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