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 Killing of a Sacred Deer

Replicants in Blade Runner exhibit a broader range of emotions than either Colin Farrell or Nicole Kidman in The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

The duo, who portray married physicians, exchange blunted discourses like they’ve been popping psychotropics.

Director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster) gives us boudoir foreplay that includes mock anesthesia, because…DOCTORS.

It’s of course, all in the name of Art House cinema with a capital A.

The only thing missing is gazing forlornly into the distance to discordant keyboard strikes.

A young teen Martin, whose father died on the operating table under the watch of Dr Murphy (Farrell) is looking for redress, in the form of an eye for an eye: unless Murphy kills a member of his own family, Martin is going to do it for him, poisoning the whole clan. At first, Farrell doesn’t believe the blackmailer until the physical symptoms Martin predicts, come to pass. This includes paralysis, which, if it were to have happened to the Kidman or Farrell characters, would’ve gone unnoticed at least as far as their facial expressions are concerned. They need to be slapped awake they’re so emotionally distant and lacking in urgency.

Lanthimos expects an audience to buy into a revenge poisoning conceit, with protagonists who perhaps are early advocates to defund the police, so unwilling are they to involve the boys in blue with their affairs. Instead, all they do is run test after test after test. How about an MRI, what about a PET scan? How about a second opinion?

It’s a nagging, stupid, moronic plot detail that drapes a pall over the proceedings.

As willfully alienating and offputting as any movie you’ll ever see, The Killing of a Sacred Deer wastes beautiful camerawork, gorgeous music by Bach and Schubert and an interesting gimmick, not to mention a killer (literally) performance by Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk) as the sociopathic kid.

Still, it does bring the goods with some incredibly disturbing set-pieces, including of all things, someone wolfing down spaghetti, and a side-by-side armpit hair comparison. And it’s worth giving it a hand for something else as well, no spoilers here.

*** (out of 5)

[check out The Killing of a Sacred Deer podcast discussion)