Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, whose filmography includes the four final films in the “Saw” franchise and “Piranha 3DD,” recently spoke with Phoenix Movie Examiner about “The Collection” – the sequel to their 2009 horror flick “The Collector.”
In “The Collection,” which opens Friday, Nov. 30 in movie theaters throughout the Valley, Josh Stewart plays a man who, having escaped the vicious grips of a serial killer, is blackmailed to rescue an innocent girl (Emma Fitzpatrick) from a booby-trapped warehouse.
Question: How did it feel to be back on set with these characters and this story that seemingly mean so much to you two?
Marcus Dunstan: It was thrilling! We had left our character Arkin in such a moment of despair – we yanked him out of the world, we took him away from his family, we had left nothing but the hint of further mayhem on an epic scale – so it was nice to be able to come back to that and be like, “What if this gifted criminal had a second shot and what if there was an element of vengeance?” Now he is closer to becoming a horror villain than he ever was in the first film. He now knows that his down and dirty skill set was not down or dirty enough. So when he goes face to face with that killer one more time, not only is he terrified – as a normal person would be – but he now knows how deadly this opponent is and he learns a little bit along the way about how far he will have to go to be a formidable opponent.
Patrick Melton: It was exciting! It was fun! The first one was purposefully very brief. It was fast and frenetic because it was supposed to be this very focused, small world in this crazy moment. Now we had a little more time to make something a little bit bigger and flesh out the world a little bit more.
Q: So how did you two go about topping yourselves? In other words, how did you out-do the original?
MD: We both challenged ourselves to earn the opportunity to make this movie even after we had it in the sense that this film had to stand side to side with every other film on the marquee and earn its place. We wanted to justify its existence to even the hardest of hardcore horror fans and movie fans. It had to stand on its own two legs. It could not just be that endless middle that most sequels feel like. It had to have its own element of bloody satisfaction. The fuel that Patrick and I used to light this one up was the adrenaline of seeing a bully get his [butt] kicked. And we had toys this time to depict that. We had a budget that was so much bigger than the first one – which never happens with horror sequels. They are usually cut into fractions until they are that pale direct to video dump whereas with this one we jumped up in scale. Our director of photography was given 35mm anamorphic film. Who would have thought that that would be a rarity but there it is. We had machine guns, we had fire, we had explosions, we had packs of dogs, we had everything we wanted to make sure this stood head and shoulders of anything else that we had ever been a part of but also so far away from that first film that you did not really need that experience. We are giving you twice as much of everything so we had better give it to you twice as good.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about the characters and your intentions for them this time around?
MD: We have Josh Stewart returning as Arkin, who is marvelous and has a full character arc. He has a full cycle of fear, desperation and anger. It is the circle of life that we have plugged into that character. Then we have Emma Fitzpatrick, who plays the female counterpart to Arkin. She starts out hobbled in comparison to any other character in this movie – under-armed, chafed and terrorized – but she is not a typical under-dressed heroine who runs up to the top floor instead of out the front door. She is going to save herself. She is not depending on anybody. She knows how rough the world is. That excited me to go to work every day – to trap characters from other genres in a horror film. The horror movie villain simply wins. He dominates and sets out to destroy. The action movie, the thriller and the drama all have safety nets under them. But not the horror film. The horror film can sink to an abyss far darker than the imagination can ever reach. And that was a wonderful opponent to drag these characters across.
Q: That opening was just… wow. Without saying anything that spoils it for anyone, what was up with that?
PM: We wanted to do an opening that was kind of a misdirect and one that arrives with a huge boom that is going to set itself aside from a lot of the horror movies that have been done lately. This movie starts out as a movie you will not quite be expecting and then it sort of blows up into this massive set piece that gives the “Ghost Ships” of the world a run for their money for best horror opening.
Q: So what scares you?
PM: We are aware of what is out in the world and what happens. To be scared, just watch the evening news. It is terrifying. We may just be more aware of it than the regular person out there because a lot of the ideas we come up with are drawn from real life scenarios, stories we have seen on the news or have heard about before. Most of those are reality based because if you want to see scary you can just walk around. There is scariness in darkness and stillness because your mind starts to wander and you start to remember things from the past or whatever and you will see things that are not there. In your bed tonight, turn off all of the lights and make sure that there is no noise. There is something that you will hear. It is probably that branch slapping the window but you better believe that your mind is going to go to some sick individual tapping on the glass because he wants to get your attention to come to the window for when you do you will be grabbed through it and pulled outside. That happens to me all of the time. I try to tell myself that it is not real. But you know what? Sometimes it is.
Q: And hat lessons did you learn while making “The Collector” that benefited “The Collection?”
MD: Making “The Collector” as a first-time director, I was scared throughout the entire production and I was hoping to imbue that in the viewer. On the second to last day of shooting, when we had come out the other side and knew that we had enough movie there to make something special, I finally felt like I had a little more marrow in my bones. This time, I walked around with confidence and it took that in order to push the resources we had. I knew those resources and how to push them to the limit so that every single dollar on screen felt like a hundred. We had every obstacle thrown at us – from ice storms and floods to locusts and you name it – but there was always this vision before us of making this movie the very best and the very biggest it could be because you do not see this type of movie anymore. Most of time, we have just got to settle for the found footage something, the shakey cam something or the modestly budgeted give-a-few-scares show. We were missing that vintage New Line feel, where you had something like “Blade” or “The Fog” come out and it was supported, it was glossy and it had sheen. We wanted to contribute to that.
Q: Finally, this is being released on a day that LD Entertainment is promoting as “the real Black Friday.” They could have just called it Red Friday because even the phrase “buckets of blood” does not do this movie justice. Do you have any general comments about the gore factor this time around?
MD: We had fun with the first movie in that there was exactly one drop of blood yet it is known as a bloody movie. It was a CGI droplet on the forehead of Andrea Roth’s character when she pricks her forehead with her homemade Bolshevism set to do a little bit of Botox. This one we started out with 55 gallons of the red stuff pumping from every different direction. The idea was to wipe an entire stereotype out of this movie completely and with vengeance. It took that massive currant of red to wash it out to sea. So gobble, gobble. This Nov. 30, hang on to your guts.
Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton previously spoke with Phoenix Movie Examiner back in September to discuss “Piranha 3DD.” Read ‘Piranha 3DD’: Screenwriters talk sequel, ‘Valentine,’ ‘Saw’ and ‘Collection’