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AICN HORROR talks with the folks behind THE COLLECTION, the sequel to THE COLLECTOR! Plus a review of the film!

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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. A few weeks back I had the pleasure of moderating a panel at the DAYS OF THE DEAD Horror Convention in Shaumberg, Illinois, just North of Chicago. The Con was jam packed with horror icons, booths selling all sorts of horror memorabilia and knickknacks, and a few very cool panels. One of which was the panel for THE COLLECTION, the sequel to THE COLLECTOR, a cult hit from 2009 from writer Patrick Melton and director Marcus Dunstan, and stars Josh Stewart and Emma Fitzpatrick were all on hand to talk about the film with me. They also showed a preview of the first seven minutes of the film, which seemed to be a crowd pleaser. There was even a guy dressed as The Collector roaming the audience during the Q&A. Below is the interview I did with Dunstan, Melton, Stewart, and Fitzpatrick just after the panel. After the interview, I review THE COLLECTION, which comes out this Friday! Here’s what transpired in the interview…

AMBUSH BUG (BUG): OK, so I am backstage at the DAYS OF THE DEAD Horror Convention with THE COLLECTION Director Marcus Dunstan, writer Patrick Melton, lead actor Josh Stewart who plays Arkin in both THE COLLECTION and THE COLLECTOR, and your co-star Emma Fitzpatrick will be joining us in a second.

MARCUS DUNSTAN (MD): Hey, we’ve met a lot of fun folks out here and Patrick’s parents were able to come and see the panels and signings. We showed our clip twice, which is always a thrill to see the crowd reaction. And the crowd ate it up!

BUG: So why are we getting a sequel now to THE COLLECTOR?

MD: We came out in 2009 and the film was modest in scale. It seemed to catch on and time after time, at Halloween, cable and festivals would show THE COLLECTOR. So we thought maybe it was a good idea to start up the engine again for a sequel. Fortunately, our production company agreed. We received a phone call while we were writing the last SAW and they said, “Hey, what do you think would happen to Arkin if he went back into the gauntlet?” And I was like, “Thank goodness.” Because we didn’t want to leave that guy in a box. He was far too good of a character to be left under those circumstances. And while it tied a bow on the first entry, it opened a new bright door for the second. As soon as that trunk closes for the first movie, what happens when it opens in the second? And we pick up pretty much from that moment on. We were given so many resources. The crew from THE WALKING DEAD, every department head from that show came onto our set and raised our game immensely. That’s the why. The why is, there seemed to be an appetite and we aimed to fill it.

BUG: And obviously, from the crowd reaction in there, they want to see it.

MD: Yes, thank god. We are trying to do things that are quickly becoming harder to do. One, shooting on film. Sam MacCurdy’s cinematography is good in any format, but he actually was able to track down and protect our anamorphic lens packet and was able to fly it as his carry on bag from England. Just every day, he showed up and took our scenes and our sets and elevated them into that realm of the movies that we remember from the styles that we were wishing to pay homage to in the way we were shooting; the Argento films, the early Giallo movies. And then give it a little of a DIE HARD sheen as well when it had to be action oriented. It was a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to see how audiences react.

BUG: Josh, they mentioned that they left you in a box at the end of the first film. What made you want to come back for a sequel for more beating in this film?

JOSH STEWART (JS): It goes back to that kid mentality. It’s that kid who punches you in the face and then he takes off running. And you don’t get your shot back at him. It’s sort of like that. In this one, I get to punch him back in the face. It was good to return the favor for all of those beatings in the first one.

BUG: Emma, from the clip I got to see, it looks like you have a pretty powerful right hook. How did you become involved in this film?

EMMA FITZPATRICK (EF): I just auditioned like anyone else. I was attracted to the character because she was a strong young female and she gets to develop as a human being through the course of this film. Just reading a part where a young female has an evolution and gets to become something through the film and kick some ass in the meantime. And these guys aren’t so bad to work with when they’re not beating me up.

BUG: Patrick, I wanted to go through your process of coming up with these elaborate machines and traps and things that appear in this movie. What’s your inspiration? Too many TOM AND JERRY Cartoons as a kid?

PATRICK MELTON (PM): Actually, I’ve probably seen every TOM AND JERRY cartoon ever made. We went through this process with the SAW films. You try to find a theme and stick to that. We knew in this one the film was going to take place in the Collector’s lair. And this is something that he’s been able to create over a long period of time. His place has different floors, so we tried to have a theme for every floor in this one. So it’s really just a sort of analytical way of going about it. We think of things we’ve done in the past and try to build upon them without repeating them. And we try to have some sort of progression from one chapter to the next until we get to the end making things bigger and building in tension. Marcus had an image of how he wanted this film to end. So building to that moment was our goal.

BUG: That reminds me, in the first film, you had some really good sequences set to music. Do you always write to music and do you make the films and hope you can get the music to add in later?

MD: Absolutely, we wrote and shot and edited to Bauhaus in the first one. And we really wanted Depeche Mode in there. And I’ve learned that a soundtrack is something that helps bring the movie close to us as an audience. Everyone has a memory to a song. It was a soundtrack to our life at one point. So it’s cool to take that and riff it across a horrific environment then its giving it that added layer. And I loved that. So in the second one, knowing how good those scenes turned out in the first, I was lucky enough to get some more of those favorite songs of mine in the sequel. In this film, the soundtrack is almost an entire sequel to “The Downward Spiral” from Nine Inch Nails. And we had Charlie Clauser, who worked on that album, guiding the ship. So playing “The Day the World Went Away” works wonderfully in one scene in the film, and we worked for eight or nine weeks just tweaking that song to fit the film and it’s wonderful to see the audience react to it.

BUG: You’ve hinted that this film is going to look a little bit under the mask of the Collector himself. Do you think an origin story would be made at some point, or would that ruin the character for you guys?

MD: You can’t over-explain the villain and try to justify it. You can’t say, “Ahhh, his uncle fingered him…”

[Everyone laughs]

BUG: That’s a spoiler right there, right?

MD: [laughs] Yeah, spoiler warning. That’s the revelation, it’s all because of Uncle Fingers! That’s the prequel title; THE COLLECTOR: A NIGHT WITH UNCLE FINGERS!

[Everyone laughs]

MD: But something like that would be taking too much light to something that was meant to be an absolute shadow. We wanted to make it seem like anyone’s a target and this is a complacent entity who murders. That feels the best. But if we’re going to reveal anything of his past, it has to have a payoff in the present. Not just some origin fodder.

BUG: Where’d you guys come up with the distinct look of the Collector?

PM: We had an idea of what we wanted for the mask. Originally in the script he was just called “the Man”. So we just wanted this dark figure that lived in the shadows of this house. In the first one, we had a lot of imagery of spiders and insect dropping into the frame and we wanted the Collector to sort of move like that.

BUG: So is it hard to write a sequel that doesn’t feel like a sequel and doesn’t repeat itself, but still retains some aspects from the original?

MD: See, I never knew there was a movie called ALIEN. I just saw Cameron’s ALIENS when I was a kid and I didn’t know that anything had happened before this character of Ripley wakes up from cryo-sleep. ALIENS was a story that grabbed me and was its own functioning world. Then I saw ALIEN afterwards and I was like, “Ah-ha! That was the slasher movie that precursed the war film.” That set such a high mark for horror and sci fi that it inspired us to go, what if we didn’t have those resources to go back on. You could have seen the sequel coming for this where you have the Collector 2 and the two L’s in the middle make up the Roman Numerals II in the title and ooooo, this time it’s in an apartment building!

PM: [Laughs] That’d have been great! Why didn’t you have that idea two years ago?

JS: That’d have been awesome!

[Everyone laughs]

PM: We’ve been involved with a lot of sequels and we know how frustrating it is for a viewer to see something end with more of a question mark and it’s kind of lame. The first film was never really conceived as being sequelized. So with the second one, we wanted to end with a fulfilling resolution.

BUG: Emma and Josh, what was the toughest day on the set for you two?

MD: It was their last day because they had to go home.

[Everyone laughs]

EF: Right…yeah. [laughs] I had a particular tough day with some spiders. They were live tarantulas and I kind of thought I was going to be a baller the day of and I was like, “Oh it’s fine, you can put a tarantula on me. Sure. Just let me meet it before hand.” But by the time we got to the scene, I had been crying for like six hours and I just looked at Marcus and I was like, “There’s no way in hell you’re going to put that spider on me.” So even while shooting it with CGI, I was bawling and shaking. Just the thought of it in my head. Marcus was whispering in my ear, “The spider is crawling on your neck!” and I was terrified.

BUG: Josh, how about you?

JS: We shot with a lot of fire. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a building that is burning on four walls from propane?

BUG: Nope. Never have.

EF: Not very often, no.

JS: It’s not fun. I was in a wife-beater and they gelled up my arms to protect them. And my neck and hair so I wouldn’t get burned obviously. Well, it got so hot in there that it scorched my wife beater. The heat was scorching the clothes I was wearing. I remember there was one take where we were shooting the big finale. And have you ever been tricked where someone holds a lighter to your jeans? Well, imagine that feeling from your butt cheek to the back of your knee. And once I felt it, it was way too late. So I was like a dog, dragging its ass all over the floor trying to put my jeans out.

[Everyone laughs]

ES: What a great visual!

JS: It was. It was not fun.

BUG: Did you catch that on film?

MD: Well, Josh just revealed the twist ending!

[Everyone laughs]

BUG: Do you have another COLLECTOR movie in mind? THE COLLECTIVE, perhaps?

MD: Well, in fact, we’ve been able to finish this and over the last few months and we already had the question posited to us, “Well, if America elects to go see this film opening weekend, would you like to do it again?” Now that this film has been completed and it is its own entity in itself for the audience, then yes. We would all accept the challenge to raise the bar yet again. But only if it’s another different experience. We want it to be a complete experience. We’ve had far too much of the cash grab sequel. This has to be about “I never saw that coming!”

BUG: I have to ask. I know there are some folks I saw the first film with and some folks have criticized the first film about how the Collector had the time to set up all of those traps in the house so quickly in THE COLLECTOR?

MD: Well, we had to figure that one out. We had to answer that question for the performer while making it and for the producer and for everyone making it. We determined that there was enough time. We had a scene that we actually cut where we actually left the house and we went to a truck, his extermination van, and it’s very empty in the end because it is very filled in the beginning. When those double doors open up, there’s all the bear traps on the one side, here’s the microwire, here’s the vat of sticky goo, and the crate is always in the center. So he needed how much time to do that? Six hours. And he had that in the film. Some folks pointed out that he had to set the traps on the ground floor up some time after Arkin enters the house, and my answer was, “Of course, he set up the top floors first and made his way down.” Then others asked, “Well, how’d he cover all of the windows?” Well, we had to pre-make the windows and they were just drilled in at four points. OK, so the Collector did that as well. That would not take a lot of time because the whole bottom floor had already been barred by Arkin earlier in the film. Arkin actually made it harder on himself to get out earlier in the film when he was working as a handyman installing those windows. So it all worked out and it turns out he does have time.

BUG: I’m thinking ahead at what I’m going to hear in the Talkbacks and sometimes, as you know…

PM: Oh we know…

[Everyone laughs]
BUG: Sometimes they can be unkind.

MD: Yes. Almost exclusively.

BUG: Yes, the term “torture porn” is thrown around as a naughty word in horror these days. How do you feel about that term and does THE COLLECTOR and THE COLLECTION qualify as torture porn?

PM: I don’t have a problem with that term. Someone who uses that term is probably not going to see the movie anyway and it’s easy to dismiss it by using that term.

BUG: Marcus, how about you?

MD: Only if KRAMER VS KRAMER is drama porn. And only if JAWS is shark porn. If you’re coming to see a movie for drama and it fills some specific desire, then that’s ok. So why is it that it’s bad for people wanting to see horror? I mean, we’re making a horror movie. This film cannot be defined just by that term. As the clip we showed depicts, this has elements of action. There’s a ballet of violence that’s happening simultaneously. It doesn’t have that element of sheer absolute cruelty of holding something innocent down and harming it. There’s always an element of “you’re askin’ for it” and a whole lot of “you’re gettin’ it” with this film.

BUG: One last question for everyone. What do you have coming up next for each of you?

PM: We are working on a few projects. GOD OF WAR. A soccer movie called RISE at Warner Brothers.

MD: And another one. We’re really excited because the script for BLACKLIGHT is with Mike DeLuca and we’re pumped that one of the creators behind IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS is collaborating with us and that’s coming out in the next few weeks.

JS: I just finished a movie not long ago I starred in called EVENT 15 which is a PTSD trial drug psychological thriller about these three soldiers it’s pretty trippy. And I just finished directing my first film. We’re just now starting the editing process. It’s called HUNTED and I directed and starred in and I’m not the smartest for doing that, but we shall see.

EF: I have a couple of TV spots coming out soon and other than that, I’m waiting for these guys to write a sequel.

BUG: Thanks guys and gal for taking the time out to talk. Best of luck with the film! Below is my review of THE COLLECTION which will be in theaters this weekend!

In theaters tomorrow!


Directed by Marcus Dunstan
Written by Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
Starring Josh Stewart, Emma Fitzpatrick, Christopher McDonald, Lee Tergesen, Erin Way, Johanna Braddy, Andre Royo, Navi Rawat, Randall Archer
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here.
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I think the term “torture porn” is thrown around pretty freely these days. I feel a lot of folks are made uncomfortable by horror upping it a notch with intensity, gore, and violence. I’ve seen my fair share of films solely made to show people suffering for no plot or reason. There’s a ton out there, and I believe that the term torture porn applies to some of them. To me, if there is no investment I the characters, no plot, and no purpose other than to show gore and torture, then the term applies. If you wrap a story around it and give a rhyme and reason to the violence, it may be hard for some to watch, but it is far from porn. Even though the SAW films are guilty of setting up elaborate set pieces solely for the sake of knocking off one actor after another, still there is a story, actually a pretty complex and intricate story going on. Now, are the SAW films my favorite type of horror films? No. Not really, but to write them off as torture porn just doesn’t jibe well with me.

I mention SAW because inevitably, due to the fact that THE COLLECTOR and the sequel which is released this weekend THE COLLECTOR, were made my the writer and director responsible for SAW, the films of this franchise is lumped into the same mold as the SAW films, which themselves have been labeled as torture porn by some. But though it does have its fair share of violence, THE COLLECTOR and its sequel THE COLLECTION is far, far, far from torture porn.

In fact, THE COLLECTION turns out to be a pretty thrilling little film. Picking up practically where the last film left off with THE COLLECTOR’s star Arkin (played by the gruff and charming Josh Stewart) locked in a big red box, THE COLLECTION opens with Arkin falling out of it as Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick) the daughter of a well to do businessman (played by Scooter McGavin himself Christopher MacDonald) stumbles into the box while trying to escape from an underground dance club which the Collector has set up with another one of his death traps. The one thing I liked about the SAW films and now THE COLLECTOR films is that, like the early HALLOWEEN’s and FRIDAY THE 13TH’s, these films begin almost right where the last left off. Though often (but not in THE COLLECTION’s case) produced by different teams, but the story seems like an ongoing one. Kind of like STAR WARS with lower production and more blood and guts. The interconnectedness of THE COLLECTION and its predecessor is impressive. Though it might not be the level of storytelling or filmmaking of STAR WARS, this does tell me that the people behind the film have passion for this project in wanting to tell an expansive story that feels seamless from one movie to the next. And dammit if I don’t respect that type of passion.

THE COLLECTION expands on the story by widening the lens, yet tightening the focus. This is a bigger story, not trapped in a house as with the first film. In this one, the Collector is known by his prey and is the one being hunted. We enter his home this time, which sheds a little light on the twisted character who wears the mask. It also shatters some of the questionable plot holes from the first film (which were addressed in the above interview) that the Collector wouldn’t have time to set up those elaborate traps. Here he has the time. And the levels of traps, be they snarling dogs, razor wire, foam-frothing meth head zombies, or just your typical bear trap, are fun to see sprung by the soon to be victims.

Now criticisms are abundant. THE COLLECTION is not high art nor does it ever claim to be. Like the FRIDAY THE 13TH films before it, it serves to dazzle with some elaborate traps, whack some obnoxious people with those elaborate traps, and give us a charge when the few characters with redeeming qualities come close to springing those elaborate traps. For the most part, this is one set up for one Rube Goldbergian TOM AND JERRY style trap after another with a couple of decent actors in the middle of it. Only with blood. So if you hate this type of film, then basically you’re saying you hate TOM AND JERRY and that, my ghoulish friends, is downright unforgivable in my book.

The thing is, the acting in this film is pretty good. Josh Stewart, gave a multi-layered and intense go at it starring in the first film and does so again here, though he does amp up the macho a notch or two. Emma Fitzgerald is a bright, beautiful face and delivers a ballsy performance despite her waifish frame. Plus we get OZ’s Beecher/Lee Tergesen playing the tough guy as a hired merc sent in to bring the Collector down. Add a cameo from THE WIRE’s Andre Royo and this is pretty fun cast.

I don’t want to oversell this one. This is basically a FRIDAY THE 13TH film where some better than average actors play a group of survivors and a bunch of hired merc to track the silent killer down and take the fight to him. But guess what? I unashamedly love those old FRIDAY THE 13TH films, so I found a lot to like about THE COLLECTION too. Haters of the first film are gonna hate this one too. Plain and simple. It delivers a lot of the same the original did (which I liked quite a bit too), only bigger. But we do get to see a little bit of who the Collector is and the film is left on a note that proves for an extremely interesting, and extremely different film if they decide to go through with a sequel. There is the level of horror such as THE WOMAN or LOVELY MOLLY which chill me to the bone and resonate a horror which reverbs on my soul. Then there’s the popcorn fun scares level that I loved as a kid with films like FRIDAY THE 13TH and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. They were fun, had some nice jolts, and in the end, I left smiling at the ride I was taken on. THE COLLECTION is one of the latter and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over eleven years & AICN HORROR for two. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be available on iTunes and soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK last year from Zenescope Entertainment & look for his exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81 released August-December 2012. Mark will be writing GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES to be released in February-June 2013. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.

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