Long gone are the days when a horror film’s primary concern was getting beneath the skin of the audience. Modern slashers are primarily focused on stomach-churning gore, contriving ever more elaborate methods to cut the cast down to size. They all follow a similar formula: make the characters suffer and then tear them limb from limb, preferably with the camera capturing every horrific second in blood-spattered slow motion. The Saw films have turned this wanton cruelty into an annual event, with a seventh instalment in the series due this Halloween. Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, screenwriters of Saw IV, V and VI, evidently aren’t satisfied with the carnage they have already wrought, so they have co-written this equally grisly tale about a robbery that turns unexpectedly nasty.
When good crimes go bad
Handyman Arkin (Josh Stewart) is part of a large crew working on the palatial home of jeweller Michael Chase (Michael Reilly Burke) and his wife Victoria (Andrea Roth). The money Arkin makes from the job isn’t sufficient to pay off the loan shark debts of his estranged wife, Lisa (Daniella Alonso). “Give me until midnight, all right?” he implores her, staring mournfully at his young daughter, Cindy (Haley Alexis Pullos). Arkin returns to the Chase house to plunder the safe of priceless gems, knowing that the family is on holiday for the next two weeks. Unfortunately, the thief quickly discovers that a dastardly criminal mastermind called The Collector (Juan Fernandez) has infiltrated the home and booby-trapped each room with lethal devices. Somehow, Arkin must overcome the traps that separate him from the stricken family, including younger sister Hannah (Karley Scott Collins), and get everyone out alive. Adding to his woes, he needs to get the jewels from the safe to Lisa before midnight to ensure she escapes a beating from the loan sharks. Decisions, decisions…
The Collector is totally divorced from reality. It’s inconceivable that the eponymous villain could break into the Chase home after eldest daughter Jill goes out for the night with boyfriend Chad (Alex Feldman), single-handedly rig each room of the house with elaborate traps and have everything in place for Arkin’s arrival. It’s equally laughable that Arkin could break in and make his way to the safe containing the jewels without spotting or setting off any of the traps, and only realise his predicament after a close shave with razor blades on a window. Stewart spends most of the film begging his co-stars not to scream and to stick by him in the labyrinth of misery, only for family members to completely ignore him and run to their grisly demise. Burke, Roth et al trade blood-curdling screams as The Collector enacts his horrific plan. The origins and motive of the titular boogieman have no place in Dunstan’s viscera-drenched film, which culminates in the obligatory set-up for a sequel. Sigh. Another gore bore.