13 Cameras – Review
A newlywed couple, move into a new house across the country, only to find out that their marital issues are the least of their problems. Unbeknownst to them, their grim and lascivious landlord has been spying on them from day one.
Today we are taking a look at a recent addition to Amazon Prime’s included movie catalogue – 13 Cameras. I should stress that this movie is known as The Landlord in the UK and as the working title Slumlord in Australia so keep an eye out for that to avoid confusion. You may notice I am focusing on a lot of Amazon Prime movies at the moment but that is purely due to the fact that we are in lockdown and I assume most people will have access to Amazon Prime or would be happy to grab a free trial.
13 Cameras takes us in to the home of a newlywed couple via the medium of of spy cameras located around the house. A nefarious landlord watches their every move as their lives fall apart in their new home. If ever there was a reason to check, check, and triple check a newly rented house, this is it.
A Very Real Threat
There is something very effective about voyeuristic horror. The majority of us see our homes as somewhat of a sanctuary from the evils of the world. You close your front door, the rest of the world is locked out and everything that goes on behind those doors is your own private concern; we feel safe. But what if that safe haven was compromised? What if our every action was exposed to a person wishing to take advantage of us? What if somebody could see everything we do? Would we feel safe then?
Indeed, this is a very real threat. In the age of lockdowns and stay at home orders, a great number of people have turned to apps such as Skype and Zoom to keep in touch with loved ones. We willingly place cameras in our front rooms, kitchens, and even in our most intimate places, bedrooms for example, with little regard to the risk. Imagine changing your clothes to get into bed without giving a second thought to the laptop sitting on your table, only to find that someone was watching you the whole time.
This is not fantasy, it is very much a reality. A fairly recent case involving a malicious individual spying on a young beauty queen and using the intrusion to black mail her is just one of many instances of criminals invading people’s privacy in the places they feel most at ease. Indeed, Zoom itself has been facing criticism for not doing enough to protect users and Zoom Bombing has become a new threat to people chatting to friends or colleagues.
Did you know that there are dozens of directory style websites sharing access to unprotected security camera systems, webcams, baby monitors, and more floating around on the internet? If you have a camera connected to an internet service and you don’t sufficiently protect your network, you are at risk. Go and slap a bit of black tape over those webcams and then come back here to read this review. Remember, if Mark Zuckerberg covers his laptop camera, there is probably a good reason that you should too.
Enter 13 Cameras
This is where 13 Cameras comes in. There couldn’t be a much more harrowing invasion of privacy than having somebody watch your every move. People are reluctant to download an NHS app to track their movements to control the Covid 19 risk so imagine how they would feel about someone watching them on the toilet. It is a brilliant setup for a horror or thriller movie and I am always intrigued whenever a movie like this appears.
13 Cameras follows a newlywed couple – Ryan (PJ McCabe) and Claire (Brianne Moncrief) as they move into a rented home. Obviously falling in love with the place, Claire puts aside reservations about the Landlord Gerald (Neville Archambault) and agrees to make the place their home. Claire is heavily pregnant so the first thought on her mind is getting the home ready for their unborn child and enjoying their new life together.
It isn’t long before the bickering starts and cracks begin to show in the couple’s relationship. Ryan is apparently a compulsive liar who is spending an excessive amount of time around another woman. Claire is obviously unaware but attempting to make things work. Visits from friends reveal more cracks and everything starts to unfurl over a very slow 87 minute runtime. All the while we, the viewer, are watching along on a series of 13 cameras installed around the house by the suitably creepy landlord Gerald.
An Interesting Gimmick
I think it is fair to say that, despite getting title billing, the cameras in 13 Cameras are mainly a gimmick. We have cameras placed all over the house but we tend to focus on only a couple. The poolside camera, bedroom camera, and the shower camera all seem to be featured pretty heavily. Obviously the shower and the bedroom are where we are at our most vulnerable so that makes sense.
I would hasten to say that we actually rarely view the action through the spy cameras. The majority of 13 Cameras is filmed in a standard horror movie fashion rather than going for an altogether Found Footage style. This will appeal more to some and less to others. I would actually have preferred an entirely found footage style approach but that’s just me.
Some of the camera placements are pretty strange. There is one that focuses on just the top part of the shower and apparently never gets steamed up. Aside from how pointless the view is, I would love to know how this is accomplished. I can’t even find an apparently “fog proof” shaving mirror to use in the shower that stays steam free let alone mount a camera in there and have perfect visibility.
We also have another pointless view as Gerald takes a stealthy trip over to the house, snorkel in hand, to install a camera in the pool. I am pretty sure this is purely so we can gawk at Ryan’s “friend” Hannah’s bum.. I can appreciate the final result but it seems like a lot of work for something you could get on google.
A Fair Bit of Tension
I think that is fair to say. Voyeuristic Horror movies always feature a decent level of tension and suspense and 13 Cameras is no stranger to that. I just want to add in here that I think the title 13 Cameras is absolutely terrible. It isn’t catchy and it actually feels a little awkward on the tongue when talking about it.
The tension built up in the early stages of the movie starts to wane as events drag on and, if you are anything like me, any good will the movie has built up will start to wane with it. Things just drag with no real progression only to suddenly snowball into an avalanche of ridiculous events. The plot of 13 Cameras is not an unbelievable one but some of the events are almost slapstick.
I feel as though this shouldn’t be necessary given the very legitimate threat of this kind of thing happening. People are spied on every day and there are a lot of criminals who have been prosecuted for installing cameras in rental houses and hotel rooms. With this in mind, why do I have to ignore some of the ridiculous events to try and enjoy this movie?
Gerald goes into the house when the couple aren’t home, feeds their dog, hooks up a radio and installs new cameras. On a few occasions he is using a drill, throwing wood around, and generally making a mess. He even installs a toilet camera. How would neither of them notice this?
Pregnant women have super human senses and would almost definitely smell freshly drilled wood and did the couple not notice the amount of dust in the air? I can’t put up a shelf without creating a sandstorm the likes of which the earth has never seen. A few wall plugs and a TV bracket and we will be cleaning up for weeks after.. How does Gerald keep it so clean? Did they never clean the toilet and notice the camera? I think you would notice that while you are running the toilet duck around the rim. Was it not strange to them that their doggo wasn’t hungry whenever they went out? Apparently this landlord smelled disgusting; wouldn’t the smell linger in the house after he had been sweating up a storm rigging the place up to look like the Big Brother house?
Many of the events in 13 Cameras are absolutely ridiculous and it gets to be majorly distracting towards the end. Gerald has a room in the house that the tenants are not allowed to go into and this room is used to hilarious effect. There is one scene towards the end involving said room where Claire is in the shower and Gerald has to rush over to sort something out while she showers. It is pure silliness and leaves you with so many questions.
On The Plus Side
On the plus side, Neville Archambault is absolutely fantastic as Gerald. He is pure creepiness in, what looks like, a 250lb frame. Perfect for the role and I am sure he will send shivers up some people’s spines. I wish the writer and director Victor Zarcoff would have given him some dialogue other than sounding like an ogre from Lord of the Rings but other than that he is great.
Acting for the most part is fine, PJ McCabe, as Ryan, is probably the least remarkable of the cast but at least makes you sympathise with Claire due to how unlikable he is. Brianne Moncrief as Claire is decent, cheerful, fairly likable and deserves an award just for putting up with that terrible baby bump prosthetic that she wears throughout the movie. Other side characters are fine, nothing to write home about.
Cinematography is okay, I think most people will enjoy the nice mix of spy camera shots and high quality film shots. In all fairness to 13 Cameras, the first half of the movie really ropes you in thanks to the sense of vulnerability and just how bizarre of a person Gerald is.
On The Negative Side
The movie just takes a nose dive from halfway in. The plot becomes almost slapstick at points and is far more likely to make you laugh than to actually scare you. The last 15 minutes are awful and you are just begging for it to end. The actual end is so ridiculous it will either make you laugh or regret seeing it through to the finish.
Pacing is really bad, there are sections in the middle that don’t need to be there and they just drag on. 87 minutes is far too long for this type of movie and, to be honest, it feels even longer than that. The sub-plot of the movie, though tied into the end, seems totally pointless and little more than filler to introduce another victim.
I would argue that there isn’t enough spy camera footage. I would have liked to have seen more everyday events from Claire while she is alone in the house. She is the vulnerable one in this movie so we need to relate to her more than the movie allows us to. We have the occasional scene with her doing stuff around the house as well as the occasional shower scene that works well for this type of movie but not enough to emphasise the threat she is under.
Is it a Knockout?
Honestly, not really. If you are a big fan of Voyeuristic Horror, Home Invasion Horror, or just big creepy perverts then maybe you will enjoy 13 Cameras. Honestly there are better movies of this ilk such as Alone With Her which I will be reviewing shortly.
13 Cameras just doesn't do enough; it is badly paced, slow, farcical, and not that interesting. The sense of threat towards the first half is pretty good but it starts to wane after awhile and events become silly and unbelievable. A great performance from Neville Archambault is not enough to save this movie from mediocrity.
Funnily enough, the critic score for 13 Cameras on Rotten Tomatoes is 77% with 10 Fresh rated reviews. The audience score is 34%, a handy reminder that the experts can't tell you what is good and what isn't. That is worth keeping in mind even when reading general horror movie fan reviews such as my own. Whereas I may dislike the movie, you might love it so even if I don't recommend it, it may be worth checking out.