Film Review: 14 CamerasThe sequel to the 2015 high-tech peeping Tom thriller '13 Cameras' takes the premise up a notch with genuinely creepy results.
Every-parents Sarah and Arthur (Chelsea Edmundson and Hank Rogerson) want to enjoy a real family vacation with their teens Molly and Kyle (Brytnee Ratledge and John-Paul Howard)—she’s just started college, he’s a high-school junior—so sight unseen they rent a spacious, modern house in New Mexico, complete with pool and not far from the distractions of clubs, bars and movie theatres. The kids are less than thrilled, especially when they discover that their definition of “not far” does not apply. But at least the ’rents were generous enough to invite Molly’s best friend Danielle (Amber Midthunder)—on whom Kyle has an awkward crush—to come along.
Sara and Arthur think the home’s owner is a pretty young woman—they’ve never met her in person but she “seems nice” online. But in actuality their short-term landlord is deeply creepy voyeur Gerald (Neville Archambault), who’s wired the whole house with hidden cameras, the better to stream live footage of pretty tenants like Molly and Danielle showering, swimming and changing clothes to an dark-web community of people even creepier than he is, which is really saying something. Now there’s a pointed little jab at the widespread tendency to attribute positive qualities to attractive people wrapped in a cautionary lesson in not believing everything you see online. Which is a lesson you wouldn’t think needed still needed learning more than two decades after the Internet made the leap from computer labs to consumer laps.
“God, the Overlook Hotel had more things to do,” complains Kyle, upon discovering just how isolated the house is and how limited the TV options are. But, of course, there will soon be plenty of things to do, none of them fun.
Like its predecessor, 2015’s 13 Cameras, the hook here is the visceral horror of secret violation—of strangers watching you at your most vulnerable and secretly invading your personal space to do things like use your toothbrush and fondle your underwear…stuff that make the skin crawl. But 14 Cameras, written by Victor Zarcoff, who both wrote and directed the first movie, ups the ante: One secret stalker is bad enough—half the perverts on the web is horrifying, as is the fact that Gerald is now living with a young boy he calls “Junior,” which suggests he’s planning on grooming a protégé.
But what makes it play is Archambault, who gives a strikingly unpleasant performance as Gerald. Neither a monstrous cipher like Jason Voorhees nor a sociopathic prankster a la Freddy Krueger, he’s the embodiment of that guy—the peeping Tom, the obscene phone caller…the who-knows-what-else who keeps high-strung types awake at night. Ultimately, his Gerald isn’t as deeply disturbing as Michael Rooker’s character in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer—he’s a little too overtly freakish—but still, that’s a high bar. And like the first film, this one ends with the promise—or perhaps a threat—that he’ll be back.