13 Cameras (Movie Review)

13 Cameras (Movie Review)
7 10

PLOT: Relocating from New York to California, a young married couple expecting their first child seem to have found the perfect home, even if the landlord is creepy. Unfortunately, he's creepier than they realize, having installed cameras throughout the property so he can spy on their most intimate moments.

REVIEW: Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Victor Zarcoff, 13 CAMERAS (which was formerly going by the title SLUMLORD) features one of the most disgusting human beings I have ever witnessed in a film. That's Gerald, the slumlord himself, as played by Neville Archambault. From the slack-jawed pervert expression on the elderly man's face as he spies on his tenants through the cameras he has installed in their home to the fact that one of those cameras is even inside the toilet bowl, Gerald is not nice to watch. This isn't a mark in the negative column, but a testament to how effectively Zarcoff and Archambault brought this character to the screen. You're supposed to be repulsed by him, that's why characters comment that he smells like "dirty diaper" and "spoiled mayonnaise", and the director and star have done a great job making him as gross as possible to elicit revulsion.

Sharing the screen with this shambling, gravelly-voiced creep are PJ McCabe and Brianne Moncrief as Ryan and Claire, a young couple expecting their first child who become the subjects of Gerald's voyeurism when they rent a camera-ridden property from him. They unwittingly provide their landlord with quite the drama to watch, as Ryan is cheating on his pregnant wife with his assistant Hannah (Sarah Baldwin). Claire is out quite often, getting prepared for their new arrival, which gives Ryan the chance to bring Hannah over to their home - and provides Gerald with some bonus nudity and sex to watch.

As bad as Gerald is, Ryan is almost as repugnant in his own way. A good portion of the film is made up of scenes in which Ryan is being a douchebag to his wife, his girlfriend, or both, and McCabe does a fine job of making his character come off like someone you'd like to punch in the face.

Of the three leads, Claire is the lone character of virtue, and although Moncrief has less to do than Archambault and McCabe because of this and doesn't get much chance to imbue her character with a great deal of personality, she is a heroine that you root for and hope to see escape this horrible situation and lousy marriage.

Gradually, Gerald begins to expand his criminal activities beyond the voyeurism. When he starts soundproofing the house's basement (which he had told Ryan and Claire was just a closet) and buying the strongest dog chain he can find, you know things are going to go far south. 

Other projects may have used the hidden camera concept as an excuse to be found footage, and while there are a lot of shots through the hidden cameras here, thankfully they are mixed with traditional filmmaking. Zarcoff did, however, fully embrace the voyeurism aspect, the idea that you're spying on the lives of these people and not every moment you witness is going to be super exciting. Although the running time comes in under 90 minutes, 13 CAMERAS has a deliberate pace, moving along with an ominous, droning score that helps build tension and dread even when we're just watching characters go through the steps of their day.

Because of the pace and tone, I would not recommend attempting to watch this movie when you're feeling tired. That caveat aside, it is most certainly a movie I would recommend checking out, as it is a disturbing thriller that marks a solid debut for Zarcoff. With a low budget, minimal cast, and just a couple locations, he has accomplished something very unsettling with 13 CAMERAS, both through the style of filmmaking and the perfect casting of its antagonist. Watching Gerald is an extremely unpleasant experience, but this movie does what it does so well that it may draw me back for repeat viewings to be troubled by him all over again. I just need some time to recover first. 

Extra Tidbit: 79th & Broadway will be releasing 13 CAMERAS into theatres on April 15th. It hits VOD the same day, courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.



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