The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


13 Cameras

13 Cameras will make you glad to be a homeowner. People who are renters, on the other hand, may walk away with extreme paranoia. The movie opens with onscreen text saying that more than 8,000 people were watched in their homes without their knowledge last year. Whether that's actually true is debatable, but it sure is a creepy thought. Writer/director Victor Zarcoff gets a fair amount of mileage from the disconcerting premise, while also gifting audiences with one of the most unnerving screen villains in recent memory.

Claire (Brianne Moncrief) and Ryan (PJ McCabe) are a newlywed couple expecting their first child. They move into a perfectly nice home owned by a perfectly disgusting landlord, Gerald (Neville Archambault). The first thing they notice about him is that he smells like feces; that ends up being the least of it. (He also haughtily demands the couple not try to get into the “owner's closet” that is tightly locked.) Ryan, who confesses to a friend that he felt pressured into getting married, is carrying on an affair with a hot coworker, Hannah (Sarah Baldwin). Claire doesn't know. Gerald does, because he comes into the house every day to install miniature cameras all over the place. He likes watching Claire shower. As for the sexual hijinks between Ryan and Hannah...let's just say he has feelings.

13 Cameras is a slow-burn chiller. Much of the first hour is spent detailing Ryan's attempts to keep his affair hidden, while Gerald slips into the home when the occupants are out to hook up cameras and, eventually, do other creepy things. Zarcoff nicely cranks up the tension a little at a time, so that we know something bad is going to happen sooner or later. When it does, in the final half-hour, 13 Cameras really kicks into overdrive, even introducing moments of pitch black comedy to supplement the terror.

The secret ingredient here is Neville Archambault, who creates a cretin so appalling that he belongs in some kind of Villain Hall of Fame. It's a very physical performance. Gerald is overweight, yet muscular. He is unkempt and filthy. Even though we can't smell him, we believe Claire when she comments on his odor. Perhaps most menacing of all is the character's intense stare. He rarely speaks, but he glares constantly. Archambault makes him the kind of guy who is clearly thinking vile thoughts at all times, his darkest impulses reined in only by the knowledge that he has to wait for the exact right moment to strike. Patient villains are often more unnerving than those who show their cards right away. Gerald is patient beyond measure.

Moncrief and McCabe are good, as well, and the movie is eerily photographed by Jess Dunlap. That said, 13 Cameras doesn't reinvent the wheel; it's a fairly straightforward thriller, and one where the women are victimized more than the men. It also would have strengthened things to give Hannah more depth. Although well played by Sarah Baldwin, the character as written is largely a generic hottie mistress. The actress displays the talent to go deeper with the role, so it's too bad there wasn't more for her to work with.

By and large, though, 13 Cameras is the kind of thing that messes with your mind and starts to do some damage. It forces you to imagine uncomfortable possibilities about hidden cameras in places – home or public – where you would not want to be watched. It's not something you want to think about. And the thought that someone like Gerald could be spying on you? Good luck not pondering that while you try to sleep the night after seeing this film.

( out of four)

13 Cameras is unrated, but contains language, sexuality/nudity, and violence. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.

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