13 CAMERAS (2015)
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Written and directed by Victor Zarcoff, this is a creepy little thriller about an invasion of privacy and then a disturbing escalation that includes kidnapping and murder. The story finds a pregnant Claire (Brianne Moncrief) and her husband Ryan (PJ McCabe) moving into a house owned by the creepy Gerald (Neville Archambault). Unknown to the young couple, Gerald has installed cameras all over their apartment and in places where they are most vulnerable…did he really need to put one IN the toilet, too? He watches them constantly and Claire especially, is very unnerved around him…and she should be. When Gerald witnesses Ryan having an affair with his beautiful assistant Hannah (Sarah Baldwin), he prepares the apartment’s “owners closet” for an insidious purpose and now Ryan, his wife and his lover are in for a far more horrible nightmare than they could ever imagine.
Despite being about hidden cameras, thankfully director Zarcoff chose NOT to make this yet another found footage movie and it works better that way. He crafts a disturbing and creepy flick and we see a young couple’s privacy violated in the worst ways as Gerald watches then constantly and in their most private moments. If his voyeurism isn’t unsettling enough, we get a sick individual who resorts to kidnapping and even murder to sate his deranged needs. Watching him enter the house while Claire showers is bad enough, but he takes advantage of the couple’s marital problems to set up an abduction of the beautiful Hannah with the same intentions for Claire. All the more disturbing as she is pregnant. Zarcoff builds a chilling atmosphere as we watch Gerald invade this couple’s lives in more ways than just as a peeping Tom and there is some nice tension especially in the last act when Gerald unravels his end game for the couple and there is a cat and mouse pursuit in and around the house. The film isn’t perfect. Some of the things Gerald gets away with are a bit of a stretch, such as getting from his home to theirs quick enough to ‘fix’ things that might get him discovered…sometimes while someone is there. It’s also hard to accept that the owner’s closet is that sound proof that the couple don’t realize Hannah is being held captive inside their very home. The couple also have a dog that appears and disappears when convenient. It’s hard to believe that even with winning the animal over with treats, that it would quietly snooze when Gerald gets violent against Ryan and Claire. During the final confrontation the dog is completely absent. That much excitement would have a dog going nuts. The last scene also teeters between creepy and silly, depending on how far you are willing to go with this. Some plot holes, yes…but the creepy good outweigh the bad.
Neville Archambault is one of the reasons this works so well, despite those plot holes. He exudes creepiness in both his sloth-like appearance and in his mannerisms and obviously, his actions. He provides a disturbing villain and that goes a long way with making this thriller work as he makes us very uneasy. Brianne Moncrief is good as Claire. We get a likable young woman who is having some problems in her marriage and we feel horrified for her when she is watched, especially when alone. PJ McCabe is fine as Ryan. We start out liking him, but as we realize he is cheating on his wife with the curvaceous Hanna, our opinion changes appropriately and McCabe makes it work. Sarah Baldwin is also good as Hannah. The character may be selfish, but she is not portrayed as a bimbo and we do feel for her when she catches Gerald’s attention in the worst way. A good cast that make this little thriller click.
Despite some obvious plot holes, this little thriller still remained effective enough to get the job done. It gave us a really creepy…and dangerous…bad guy and a likable young couple as his prey. There was a lot to get creeped out about and some unsettling violence when the unhinged landlord acts on his deranged desires. The ending evoked both chills and some eye-rolling, but may effect viewers differently depending on their willingness to go alone with things. A bit flawed, but overall, an enjoyably unnerving little thriller.
3 surveillance cameras.