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Film

Blood, sweat and tears

Talking horror with the creators of Saw and The Collector

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Published 8/5/2009

Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan are the writers and director of The Collector, a low budget attempt to meld two popular film genres: the tense thriller and the blood-spattered horror flick. In it an unsavory jewel thief who needs to score money fast breaks into a house where a serial killer has captured the family and turned each room into a trap-laden horror show.

You'll have to read Corey Hall's review to decide whether it's your cup of gore, but the filmmakers offered up some interesting observations about the two genres and show boundless enthusiasm for the finer points of cinematic pain and suffering.

Metro Times: The Collector deviates from the typical diabolical psychopath movie in that it's not just survival of the least dumb. This changes the stakes and pushes the boundaries of what the genre usually delivers. What motivated the idea?

Marcus Dunstan: We really liked the idea of a conventional thriller being rudely interrupted by a horror film. Traditional horrors are typically very reactive. Killer attacks. Victims try to escape. In our story the protagonist knows as much, if not more, than the killer, which puts him in a more proactive position.

Patrick Melton: We wanted to elevate the whole home invasion subgenre by adding the extra element of Arkin [the jewel thief], who could have had a story on his own. He gives an interesting moral dilemma to explore. Is he going to just flee and save himself or is he going to help this family, who we learn in the first act that he actually knows. The thing with most horror movies is that once you get to the chase that's all it is: running, running, running. I've seen that movie a lot.

MT: And yet, your film does feature extreme violence. I think I read you wanted to push "R" as far as it could go. What is the purpose of going there? Is it really necessary to the experience?

Dunstan: Well, yes, we wanted the uppercase "R." But for the first act, we barely show any violence. It's only as the stakes get raised, as these two bad guys start going after each other and their tactics become more extreme so does the damage. Our gore isn't a punch line; it's meant to be unsettling.

Melton: I wouldn't say we were interested in gore for the sake of gore. All the action and the blood is supposed to be organic. Gore and violence can become numbing in most horror movies. But when we go there it's in the climactic moments near the end where hopefully it's earned.

MT: But let's be honest, there's an economic reality to this, right? Gore attracts a certain audience. Isn't that why you're screening The Collector for horror and gorehound sites rather than conventional film critics? It's a market calculation.

Dunstan: In this particular case, though, we have two different movies, which bring different strengths. I mean the setup in a horror film is rarely as interesting as a thriller and the bad guy in the thriller isn't usually as good as the villain in a horror film. We wanted both. We intentionally cranked up horror elements to test the idea that the two genres together would be something cool.

MT: It sounds like what you're trying to do is very interesting but do you worry that the extreme horror elements will push all other audiences away? And if that's so, haven't you just attracted the same audience you would have had in your Saw movies?

Melton: A lesson we learned with the first Saw was that even though it was essentially a thriller, Lionsgate marketed it as a horror because that's an easier audience to hook. It may seem like we're playing to our audience, and we are, but we're trying to build buzz because of the thriller elements. We want to be smarter than the average bear. Hopefully this means it'll cross over to wider audience, who doesn't want to see Hostel but will go see Seven or Manhunter.

MT: In the past, Hollywood created serials based on the adventures of heroes rather than the sadistic predations of evil motherfuckers. What does that say about out culture that that approach is flipped on its head?

Dunstan: Well, an excellent horror film springs from its threat. So, if you want to create a successful follow-up you don't bring back the victim, you bring back the threat. It's like riding the rollercoaster and looking out between your fingers before the first big drop and you kind of hold onto your guts and see what happens. That's the kind of experience you want again and again, and you chase it like nicotine. ...Or it could just be that if we're going through tough times we want to turn on a horror movie to see someone having a worse day than we ever could.

Melton: It's like Silence Of The Lambs where we walk out laughing with the villain who just killed five people and is going to eat that guy. How demented is that, that we're cheering that? But sometimes it's just that flawed characters and villains are more interesting to follow and dissect and see how they evolve.

Dunstan: And it's more fun.

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