Director – Victor Zarcoff
Cast – Brianne Moncrief, PJ McCabe, Neville Archambault, Sarah Baldwin, Jim Cummings, Heidi Niedermeyer
Release Year – 2016
Reviewed by John of the Dead
13 Cameras is the debut film of writer/director Victor Zarcoff and follows newlyweds Ryan and Clair as they move into an older home, leaving their old life behind across the country. Clair is pregnant with their first child, but they aren’t quite bundled with joy. With marital problems coming to light, they miss the increasingly obvious signs that something is not right with the home. Sure enough, their landlord has been engaging in lewd stalking behavior after embedding 13 surveillance cameras in the home. It is only a matter of time until they find out, and when they do, things make a turn for the worst.
Going into the film I was hoping that it would give me something different in how modern technology (surveillance isn’t modern but these days we can monitor our homes from our phones!) would be used to elicit horror. We have seen surveillance footage used to catch horrific acts on film, like what is seen in Paranormal Activity, but I hadn’t seen such much of such footage used to exacerbate deviance. That is the case here. The story begins with the landlord, Gerald, speaking with a sleazy surveillance salesman about adorning the home with pinhole cameras. Gerald isn’t one for words, or bathing, so he comes off as the exact type of landlord one would be crazy sign a contract with. We don’t learn much about why Clair and Ryan move into the new home, but it is obvious that they had slim pickings if Ryan was able to easily convince Clair to accept the home. Immediately after moving in Gerald begins watching them from his undisclosed lair. While the “horror” (of being watched) kicks in pretty early, nothing crazy happens until the 49 minute mark. From then on out the tension is amped, although once again nothing major happens until the final sequences of the film. So what else is going on this whole time? As far as the horror goes – nothing. This effort is equal parts drama and horror, with horror taking a backseat to the couple’s marital issues. These issues stem from Ryan’s infidelity and lack of love for his wife, all of which Gerald gets to watch.
The biggest problems for the film are story-related. I did not enjoy the character play between Ryan and Clair, and found the dialogue to be unreasonable. This was made even more unenjoyable thanks to poor acting from PJ McCabe. To be honest, none of the actors gave a convincing performance. I have seen some other reviewers hark Neville Archambault’s performance for Gerald, but I was not sold. Sure he looked creepy, but he was also executed in a boring and sometimes cliché fashion that I was not a fan of. The issues with Gerald are both attributed to writing and direction, but the writing takes it. He was never a real threat to them and for the majority of the film only served as a creep. There are scenes when he would sneak into their home when they were gone, and even then, nothing really happened. When the story explodes during the final sequences it is simply too little and too late. You’ll be left asking yourself how Gerald was able to do this and do that, and that is because he comes off one way and is used another way. I cannot think of any convincing qualities to make your overlook the negatives here.
Overall, 13 Cameras disappoints in more ways than one. I suppose if you are unfamiliar with films like this then maybe you’ll find it okay at best, but the film is too weak and too uneventful for most horror fans. Skip this one.