13 Cameras

Those familiar with the Netflix doc Voyeur, where noted New York Times journalist and author Gay Talese interviews the perv / cheap motel owner from which the film’s title is derived, will appreciate (if that’s the word) art imitating life in 13 Cameras.

Directed by Victor Zarcoff, this one, featuring a sleazy building super who isn’t so super (zing) spying on tenants with spy cams numbering 13, is a critical darling and a public dud, the gulf between the two sentiments somewhat surprising.

For starters, it’s got disquieting atmosphere to spare, and unlike most found footage (broadly speaking) flicks, it actually plays up the natural discomfort derived from odd camera angles and shower / bedroom vantage points, making the viewer more than complicit in the illicit.

Like Don’t Answer the Phone! 13 Cameras is also driven by a superb performance in the lead, Neville Archambault as Gerald the landlord, one of the most uniquely disturbing modern horror antagonists to come down the pike since David Howard Thornton utterly embodied the sicko Art the Clown in Terrifier. Archambault’s orangutan musculature, determined gait and sauna sweating visage is on-point, though viewers might take umbrage with any tenant willing to live in any of his residential properties. That said, his smell, as well as creepy appearance (and not exactly matinee idol looks) is referenced early on. Besides, that’s something that can be overlooked in a low vacancy rate environment!

But 13 Cameras is more than a one-man show.

Zarcoff wisely sets up a scenario of Gerald’s victims being newlyweds, expecting, and experiencing a disintegrating marriage, the male party with more than a wandering eye, and a co-worker introduced into the marital bedroom.

This means that Gerald’s voyeur-ing (if that’s a word) and front-row seat is actually interesting beyond the merely prurient. It’s hardly Ibsen, but the portrayal of a marriage headed southward, rings true.

13 Cameras is thoroughly underrated, and outside a few hiccups involving the investigating authorities, is a worthy little film.

FYI, there’s also a sequel, in keeping with Ocean’s Eleven sequel naming convention. Yeah, you got it.

***1/2 (out of 5)

The Green Inferno

Is there a case to be made for making an Indigenous cannibal movie today? Probably not, but tell that to Eli Roth, whose The Green Inferno is a modern day tribute to one of the ugliest and least redeemable subgenres in the horror pantheon, the Italian cannibal movie.

Roth infuses Green Inferno with scenes of extreme brutality and there are several bone fide frights to be had, that’s for certain. However without the critical distance + time required to “enjoy” for lack of a better phrase, its Italian forebears, it’s difficult to remain critically dispassionate about this kind of genre revisit. There will always be that nagging “why?”

Regardless of what you think about their nasty depictions of First Peoples, there’s no excuse for those sicko Italian films that often depicted (and frequently encouraged/facilitated) extreme animal cruelty, such as the gutted gator in The Man From the Deep River or the real (and very fresh) turtle repast in Cannibal Holocaust.

Thankfully, Roth dispenses with such icky excesses to focus on a bunch of woke New Yorkers keen on saving a lost Peruvian tribe, whose traditional lands are about to become condos — rather than the usual cadre of (occasionally) trained anthropologists who offer howler pronouncements like “The natives…are cruel, superstitious and unwilling to accept any form of civilization” (see, Dr. Butcher MD). Making community organizers rather than interloping academics the vics here is a dynamite conceit, and if Roth were twice as talented a filmmaker/writer, the idea and efficacy of do-gooder foreign interventions would’ve been more adroitly addressed.

Lorenza Izzo is great as the lead, the daughter of a square-jawed US diplomat. And he is powerless to assist despite his stature and connections (an idea that’s barely developed here to warrant this being called true social satire) and Ariel Levy is fun as the messianic activist, Alejandro.

Once the activists have their boots on the ground (their journey is quite harrowing) they find that provoking the ire of trained militia men by chaining themselves to bulldozers and trees, and the lack of decent bathrooms, are the least of their problems

Soon the erstwhile saviors find out they’re on the menu (talk about an international incident) when they come face to face with the natives.

*** (out of 5)