Great Character Arcs in Horror: THE COLLECTOR & THE COLLECTION’s Arkin

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I’m a sucker for a good story. While I love heads and arms getting chopped off left and right, I’d much rather watch a movie where I’m taken on a ride with a character, experiencing their journey and transformation throughout the film…along with making some heads explode. So, with this column, I thought it would be nice to take a character from a film or series, one that throughout a film or two (or in some cases more) went through hell and lived (or died), after giving us a hell of a time.
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It’s never easy to introduce a character that well, to be honest, is a complete ass and make viewers be not only sympathetic, but end up completely rooting for said character by the end of a film. THE COLLECTOR‘s Arkin (played excellently by THE DARK KNIGHT RISES‘ Josh Stewart) begins his story in that film, as an ex-con who is working for the wealthy Chase family, installing their alarms, etc. His wife is up to her neck in debt to a local bookie, and Arkin immediately jumps at the opportunity to break into the family’s house during their supposed family vacation, in an attempt to steal a jewel from them. His motivations, while almost admirable (he needs the money to save his wife, and their daughter), are still really selfish and he has not even a single ounce of morality to his character, outside of his little world.
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What Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton succeed at doing, is making their audiences grow to love the guy, as he really begins to shine when he breaks into the house, expecting nobody there, and ends up finding the family being tortured by “The Collector”, a masked man who is definitely not a happy camper.

As Arkin goes through the first film, we begin to see more and more humanity to the character, as he’s continually forced to decide if it’s worth it to only worry about “number one”, or if he has it in him to put himself in danger’s way, in order to save others. It’s a solid film, and more than the gore (which is obviously there), it’s ABOUT the character’s humanity, which ultimately doesn’t end up so well as he’s captured by the Collector. You know that a script is strong, when after seeing the film, you’re dying to see what’s still in store for a character, and walking out of seeing THE COLLECTOR, I wanted to know more about Arkin, and not only if he survived, but if his journey would extend into a second film…which luckily DID end up happening.

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After being put through absolute hell during (and after) the first film, Arkin is accidentally set free by Emma Fitzpatrick’s Elena character in the film’s sequel,THE COLLECTION. When faced with the choice of saving himself or Elena, Arkin saves himself, allowing Elena to be “collected” by the Collector, which begins the second phase of Arkin’s journey as a character.

While THE COLLECTOR was about Arkin finding his humanity, THE COLLECTION is more about redemption and ultimately, revenge. After being forced to go on a rescue mission with some mercs to find Elena, Arkin finds himself stuck in the Collector’s maze of hell, an old abandoned Hotel, which is full of traps, dogs and even drugged up slaves of The Collector’s.
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One by one, the merc team is picked off, and while at first Arkin does what he can just to escape, there’s a turning point in the film, where he becomes not just a typical anti-hero, but a full on hero, doing his best to save Elena, even at what seems at the end of the film, the loss of his life.

After an intense fight between Arkin and The Collector (complete with Arkin getting stabbed in the cheek), Arkin gets the upper hand, beating the living hell out of the Collector, and setting him on fire. As the fire grows, and a piece of the ceiling blocks Arkin from escaping, he drops to his knees, ready to give up, and expecting to die. What made this scene so effective to me, is that it didn’t seem like he gave up because it was impossible to make it out, it seemed like Arkin finally put someone else completely ahead of himself. He saved Elena, at the cost of his own life, and dropping to his knees signified that to me, putting yourself in harm’s way to make sure someone else was okay. What makes the scene even BETTER, is the fact that Elena doesn’t entertain that idea for a single second. It’s almost instantaneous that she takes action, grabbing a huge pipe and busting fluid-filled trophies of the Collector’s, in order to put the fire out, and to save Arkin from dying.
(Start at 00:27) for proof of how great of a scene that it is.

The film, and Arkin’s journey ends with tracking down the Collector’s house, and when the crazed killer comes home, “collecting” the Collector, with plans of subjecting him to all of the horrible things that he did to Arkin. It’s a neat scene, and a good ending, but for me, the big payoff was seeing Arkin grow as a character throughout both films, starting out with thinking of only himself, and ending up taking charge of the situations to make sure people were okay. It’s good storytelling, and the character definitely had a great arc.

  • vdoun

    I saw the movie last night after watch the Collector. I have read reviews from Rottentomato and IMD its kind of ironic most of these people who trashed The Collector then went on to compare the sequel as not being as good as the original? So they are saying they hated the original but they hate the new one more than they hate the original?

    I agree with you on the character development of Arkin. and for every person out there who doesn’t have creativity, talent, or any natural story progression out there. They have an outlet called the internet in which they can whine about stuff. Those people are called critics and their opinion isn’t worth the toilet paper they should be using to stuff their mouth shut.

    The original was shot in grainy greenish hue, it made it even more terrifying that we only got to see Arkin’s expression throughout the film. We were put into a makeshift labyrinth with a human being instead of a labrat. The most excruciating part was seeing the traps go off. Arkin has the type of charisma that makes it easy to cheer for him. He is alert, intelligent and insightful enough to see what the killer is seeing. We are actually witnessing a classic chess battle between good and evil. One person is committing robbery to save his family and another is committing murder for his own amusement. You choose the lesser of two evils, and Arkin is an anti-hero. He is not a cop, he isn’t a detective or some lovestruck schmuck hoping to win his love back. He is a convict with a dark past.

    The sequel enjoyable to watch. Because we see that the Collector has been doing this for a lot longer than we thought. Arkin was part of his collection, they one that almost got away! Now instead of torturing familiies in the countryside, we see him going after college aged people at a nightclub. It might be morbid of me to actually enjoy seeing them being mowed down one by one.

    I don’t feel any sense of empathy for the new character Elena. She is just a foil she is a damsel in distress. She needs to be rescued. It is more of her perspective that the new viewers are seeing this maze through. But for the fans of the first movie we are looking through darker lens seen by Arkin. We know every corner a trap is waiting for an unsuspecting victim.

    I saw the Mercs push Arkin around. They think they know ‘shit’ they think they have experience true horror. They know nothing Jon Snow and one by one each Mercenary comes to a terrifying realization, “I should’ve listened to Arkin”

    What you didn’t mention was the Checkmate. Yes Arkin outsmarted the collector but he did it in one small maneuver most people would pay no attention to. The two homeless men at the fire barrel. With only two bullets left Arkin knew he had to change the rules of the game. They were on the Collector’s turf, they were playing by the Collectors rules.

    Arkin fired a shot, he brought law enforcement into the game. With 2 shots fired he upped the ante on the entire game. Now the Collector was playing Arkin’s game. That was a checkmate moment. Who was smarter the Master or the Student?

    The Collector played his one last hand and it was to engulf everyone in a raging inferno. He even locked them up in a cage. The collector shows his competitive nature when he looks Arkin straight in the eyes for 8 seconds which lasts closer to an eternity. Arkin challenges him to a 1 on 1 fight. And the Collector desperately wants to fight his challenger but he knows his collection is more important. He will escape and he will begin a new game, with a new group of people to torment.

    The movie could’ve ended there like so many SAW movies. But the writers chose to give us closure instead. This is where most Horror fanatics blame the sequel as not being as good. They want to see The Collector winning.

    Arkin outsmarts the collector a 2nd time, escapes and helps other escape. How can a good guy be so lucky? The answer isn’t luck, its sacrifice and determination. Arkin knew he had one chance and he took it. I highly doubt many of us would’ve thought of the same solution as him but I am certainly glad that he did. Elena grows also as a person by trusting Arkin in his decision.

    The Ending as you said before was absolutely wonderful.

    For any fans or ‘critics’ who said that the movie sucked or that it failed to live up to their expectations, I challenge them to make a movie that is better. They will find themselves failing and other critics jumping to criticize their works in return.