A couple buys a house from “The Slumlord Tapes,” infamous for hidden cameras and a psycho landlord. It’s not as safe as they tell themselves.
Director: Danny Madden
There have been a lot of movies that tread the same water as 15 Cameras: true crime, new homes, unannounced cameras, creepy guys, basements – among them, Victor Zarcoff’s 2015 thriller 13 Cameras.
I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for this one, honestly, but director Danny Madden (no relation), working from a fine script by PJ McCabe (co-star of 13 Cameras and writer of the criminally underseen The Beta Test), layers themes and ideas to develop a rich picture of villainy.
There’s a little hitch to the starter home recently purchased by Sky (Angela Wong Carbone) and Cam (The Wolf of Snow Hollow’s Will Madden, also no relation to me, but he is the director’s brother). They got the duplex pretty cheap, but that’s because the former owner is the famous Slumlord from a popular true crime show (full of footage from 13 Cameras), who’d wired all his homes up with many cameras, watched victims to get their habits down, then kidnapped and killed at will.
Sky can’t get enough of the show. She binges it, finishes it, and binges it again. It’s a huge turnoff for her ignored husband, and more than a little creepy to her sister Carolyn (Hilty Bowen), who’s crashing while she tries to get a restraining order against her ex.
And there you have it: one location (duplex), a handful of characters (those mentioned plus two tenants), and a found footage/true crime sensibility. Efficient, logical, but never boring and though inevitable, rarely truly predictable.
The slyest thing about 15 Cameras is the way it shows the distance between nice guy, abusive boyfriend and all out monster in inches. By keeping us with Cam’s perspective, that continuum takes on an even more powerful feel.
Will Madden does a fine job of developing an uncomfortable, believable arc for Cam. Likewise, Carbone allows her character enough space to be occasionally unlikeable, while often quite tender.
Indeed, all the performances have texture and depth, even those that might have been considered throwaways in other horror flicks. (Shout out to a very brief but memorable turn from Jim Cummings.) And the storyteller in Danny Madden knows how this should play out.
There’s nothing groundbreaking about 15 Cameras, but what it does, it does well.