Interview: The horror! 'Collector' scribe talks fright flicks

When Hollywood needs someone to write a horror movie sequel, it calls Evanston-raised screenwriter Patrick Melton and writing partner and Macomb, Ill., native Marcus Dunstan.

Melton and Dunstan, you might remember, won Bravo's "Project Greenlight" with their script for 2005's "Feast." They went on to write two more "Feast" films, pen four "Saw" sequels and 2012's "Piranha 3DD" (a follow-up to "Piranha 3D"), and assist with 2009's "Halloween 2."

Their latest film, "The Collection," in theaters Nov. 30, is a sequel to 2009's "The Collector," which they wrote and Dunstan directed.

The film revolves around Elena, a kidnapped young woman (Emma Fitzpatrick) held captive by the Collector in a booby-trapped hotel, and Arkin, an ex-con (Josh Stewart) who escaped the masked serial killer in the first film and has been asked to help a group of mercenaries get her out alive.

Here, Melton, who will appear with Stewart, Fitzpatrick and Dunstan on Saturday at the Days of the Dead convention at the Chicago Marriott Schaumburg hotel, addresses some of the biggest horror sequel cliches, and how he and Dunstan approach them:

Higher body count: "Like they said in 'Scream 2,' there's usually a higher body count and more blood. 'The Collector' featured only a family in a house, so 'The Collection' has a much bigger body count. (The sequel) goes to the Collector's lair, and there are lots of people there, and people infiltrating it."

Youth movement: "In the first movie, there weren't a lot of young people in it. It was just a family. There was a mandate when we started (the sequel) from financiers: 'Let's have a younger, sexier cast.' That felt like a cliche in itself. We asked how long we have to keep them alive, and they said, 'We don't care.' It's how we came up with the opening set piece (in 'The Collection'). There are a bunch of hot young coeds and hot dudes, and then things go bad quickly."

Recycled plot: "You're aware of what worked and what the audience wants to see, but you don't want to make the same movie again. That's boring and lame. 'The Hidden' had a cultlike following, but the (1993) sequel was terrible. If you buy 'The Hidden' DVD, they throw the sequel in for free. The second 'Fright Night' (in 1988) was also junk. You have to be smart about the sequel so that people aren't let down."

New protagonist, same villain: "We could have made ('The Collection') without Arkin and told a new story. That was discussed. Traditionally, the supervillain is the star of the sequels, and every other piece changes, like 'Friday the 13th.' We sort of liked the idea of staying with Arkin's perception, but we added a new character, Elena, that gives the film dual storylines and adds a new element to it.

Self-awareness: "If you want to do a serious movie, you don't want to be self-aware. That's not scary at all. We try to dispel horror movie cliches."

Sequels to sequel: "There might be (another 'Collector' movie). It sort of depends on how this one does. It cost more, so the movie needs to make more money. We don't have to tell another story. We generally try to write complete stories, but you can always figure out a way to make a sequel. The 'Saw' movies, those were different beasts. We always knew there would be another one. It allowed us to use a new protagonist each time."

Crowd pleasers: "('The Collector') ending always rubbed people the wrong way, according to some of the talk-back we heard. Half the audience liked that Arkin was taken, and the other half was bummed by it. It didn't leave hope, and people don't go to the movies to feel like (expletive). This one has a more upbeat ending. That's a response to the feedback."

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Days of the Dead convention

When: 5-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday ("The Collection" writers and stars appear Saturday only)

Where: The Chicago Marriott Schaumburg hotel, 50 N. Martingale Road, Schaumburg

Tickets: $25 per day;

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