13 CAMERAS

Poffy The Cucumber

He sees you when you’re sleeping; he knows when you’re awake…

His carriage tilts forward when he waddles like a human-hippo hybrid, his breathing labored, his face the pallor of a fetid corpse, his loose-lipped maw hanging open in licentious drool, his stench overwhelming; he looks like the missing link between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon Man. And he’s watching you.

But enough about Donald Trump.

Neville Archambault is Gerald the Landlord, who, strangely enough, also fits Dumbo Donald’s description. 13 CAMERAS opens with Gerald renting one of his properties to a young pregnant couple, Claire (Brianne Moncrief) and Ryan (P.J. McCabe), who are both repulsed by him, yet drawn by the affordability. And unaware that Gerald has installed numerous hidden security cameras around the house, to watch their every private move…

Gerald sees Claire showering, sees Claire and Ryan arguing over marital problems caused by her pregnancy, sees Ryan having afternoon sex with his busty assistant Hannah (Sarah Baldwin) from work, sees Claire and Ryan having a barbecue with couple Paul and Audrey (Jim Cummings and Heidi Niedermeyer), sees Ryan take Paul into his confidence and tell of the affair, and sees Hannah get clingy and insert herself into Ryan and Claire’s life, threatening to snitch to Claire about their affair…

We presume Gerald has installed 13 CAMERAS, as that’s the title, but we never get a sense of how many cams there really are, because back at his “office space” we see banks of monitors showing numerous views of whatever he wants to see, fulfilling whatever plot point drives this thriller forward. There could be 13, there could be 33. All we know is, every time the movie switches to a hidden cam view (whenever Gerald is watching the screen or appears in the surveiled house himself) the movie is making us as voyeuristic as him.

Writer-director Victor Zarcoff crafts 13 CAMERAS with especial attention on when he switches to the surveillance cams, in an artful balancing act that could have easily turned into a kind of “found footage” crapfest. Rather, every time it switches to a lo-fi security cam screen, we instinctively know we shouldn’t be watching this. Movie ramps from simple voyeurism to the worst acts any human could perpetrate on another, from betrayal to psychological and physical damage.

Archambault is perfect casting as Gerald. Built and toned but somehow looking crippled and fat, he reminds us of the morbidly obese sociopath Laurence R. Harvey from THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2, more for his avocation than his stature. He watches his banks of monitors with a look of stunned amazement, mouth hanging open, and we never do see him actually lengthening his lizard. And of course, he drives a rape van. He visits the house every day when the couple have exited, maintaining his cams. (Movie does well to show these scenes, as it makes Gerald’s hobby identifiable – there’s a certain amount of legwork that goes into any hobby to sustain it.) What he identified to the couple as a locked “owner’s closet” in the hallway is actually a stairway down to a basement, which he converts into a soundproof chamber.

Gerald watches the monitors, as Hannah becomes more persistent on disturbing Ryan’s family dynamic. Eventually, when Hannah breaks into the house while it’s empty, Gerald, who doesn’t want to upset his perving subjects, takes her fate into his own hands.

Ryan is undone by his confidant, Paul, who blabs to his wife Audry about Ryan’s affair. And Audry turns up to tell Claire. When confronted, Ryan confesses about Hannah…

…who is screaming for help in the soundproof basement, being fed daily by pervy Gerald when the couple is out of the house.

Somehow, in our minds, Gerald crossed a line with the kidnapping and chaining of Hannah in the basement. Now the movie is unshackled to escalate to a morbid conclusion that finds Gerald ape-limping through the house wielding a hammer on people’s heads.

Though the denouement is gruesome, some might rationalize that Ryan got what he deserved for being a cheater. Same with Hannah. Claire’s fate is darker and ambiguous. But you know who got off scot free that should have gotten the hammer to the head? Paul, the whiny little snitch bitch. Every man knows that whenever your bro takes you into his confidence to tell you about his affairs – whether it be in remorse or a boast, or anything in between – that is a sacred compact; you may never divulge those details, especially to women, who are all looking for corroboration of their suspicions that their man is as big a cheater as every other man. Paul abrogated the bedrock trust between bros. He’s the real villain here, not the peeping tom who only wanked to women showering and beat a guy’s head in with a hammer.

Shocking to the end, 13 CAMERAS is an F-stop above your usual serial killer thriller, with a blackly humorous ending. Seems Gerald is taking baby steps toward redemption…

END

JohnWick3_title13 CAMERAS (Apr 2016) TV-MA
AKA: SLUMLORD
AKA: LANDLORD
Director, Writer: Victor Zarcoff.
Starring: Neville Archambault, P.J. McCabe, Brianne Moncrief, Jim Cummings, Heidi Niedermeyer, Sarah Baldwin.
RATINGS-06imdb
Word Count: 860      No. 1,471
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