09th Oct2023

’15 Cameras’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Will Madden, Angela Wong Carbone, Hilty Bowen, James Babson, Shirley Chen, Hannah Mckechnie, Skyler Bible, Courtney Dietz, Erik Leupp, Donna Allen, Brianne Moncrief, Jim Cummings, Stephen Ruffin | Written by PJ McCabe | Directed by Danny Madden

The “cameras” franchise – for yes, 15 Cameras is actually the THIRD film in the series – has had a bit of a fractured history. The first film debuted at Frightfest 2015 under the title Slumlord, then was released a year later under the title 13 Cameras. Two years later the rest of the world would get 14 Cameras, whereas here in the UK the film was quietly put out on VOD platforms as I See You… with zero fanfare or much fan reaction for that matter either.

Now comes 15 Cameras. Released some five years after the original sequel this film, sadly, does not feature Neville Archambault’s creed serial-killing, camera-watching Gerald, after the actor passed away last year. This third film also doesn’t feature the creator of the franchise and writer/director of the original film (and writer of the first sequel) Victor Zarcoff.

In fact this film, which comes from director Danny Madden and writer PJ McCabe (The Beta Test), is only loosely connected to the original two films – our protagonists live in a home that was part of Gerald’s camera obsessions. And how do they know this? Because the first two “Cameras” films are now the subject of a documentary TV show they like to watch called “The Slumlord Tapes.” It all comes full circle back to 2015 and the original Slumlord title!

Much like a lot of genre film spin-offs, which tend to reference the events of other movies but take things in their own direction, 15 Cameras is, essentially, a standalone story. One that doesn’t need prior knowledge of the other two films in the series to understand – though it does add a LOT to the world-building (and the references to the show/building) if you have seen the previous movies – as it’s all explained by the appearance of the aforementioned show in this “universe.” Danny Madden’s film also could, COULD, be something of a reboot for the series too – though where it goes from here would, probably, just be a retread of the previous two films.

15 Cameras tells the story of Cam and Sky, who bought their duplex on the cheap. For this young couple it was an ideal investment; giving them their own home, their mortgage could be offset by renting the other unit AND there’s even a guest room for Sky’s sister, Carolyn. But as Sky and Cam slowly uncover hidden cameras and secrets of the duplex’s previous owner, obsession consumes their marriage and they both fall into destructive forms of voyeurism. When new tenants move in downstairs, their fixation with observing others has deadly consequences and they are forced to confront the very things they have been consumed by.

First off. Let’s get the obvious out of the way… This sequel is sorely missing the performance of Neville Archambault. He embodied the creepy Gerald so well that without him there’s a huge gaping hole in the centre of the film. One that writer PJ McCabe and director Danny Madden try to fill that gap with an interesting reflection of society’s current obsession with true crime documentaries and podcasts and the everyday voyeurism we all undertake when watching the likes of TikTok and Instagram lives. And for the most part, it works.

Though the speed of Cam’s transition from innocent new homeowner to creepy voyeur is a tad unbelievable! It feels like mere minutes before he’s spying on Carolyn in the shower, having sex with Sky in clear view of one of the cameras so he can watch it back afterwards, and even persuades Sky to rent the other half of the duplex to two young women so he can perv on them! What’s just as weird is Sky’s bizarre obsession with Gerald and his “exploits,” and the TV show it inspired. It’s actually interesting to watch the couple become overwhelmed by the story of Gerald. He consumes their lives in different ways, both become so obsessed that it takes over their entire waking lives. Cam BECOMES Gerald, whilst Sky becomes deathly AFRAID of Gerald.

Then there’s the white van that keeps driving past their house and Carolyn, who’s living with Cam and Sky because she’s afraid of her ex-boyfriend Gio. It’s a myriad of plot threads that keep you guessing throughout the film, eventually all coming to a head as 15 Cameras hits its final third and, surprisingly, it turns out Sky might have been right to be afraid all along…

**** 4/5

15 Cameras is on limited release and on-demand from October 13th, courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.


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