Studio: Gravitas Ventures
Director: Scott Hussion, Seth Fuller
Writer: Victor Zarcoff
Producer: Seth Fuller, Scott Hussion
Stars: Neville Archambault, Amber Midthunder, Brytnee Ratledge, Hank Rogerson, Chelsea Edmundson, John-Paul Howard, Lora Martinez-Cunningham, Brianne Moncrief
Gerald’s secret surveillance of residents in his rental property encounters complications forcing him to take new captives.
If someone has a logical theory explaining why the first 20 minutes of “14 Cameras” play out the way that they do, I’d be open to hearing it. Subjecting myself to the first act a second time helped connect at least one dot, although I’m still uncertain why co-directors Scott Hussion and Seth Fuller sequence their setup in such a perplexing manner.
Opening text tells us “the global wireless spy camera market is valued at $85 million in 2016 and is expected to reach over $1 billion by the end of 2022.” Not sure how this adds any subsequent storytelling value, but good to know, I guess?
Next we meet “Hipster Dude” and “Pixie Chick” who, despite occupying the majority of the movie’s initial eight minutes, are credited obliquely without proper names, hammering home how ultimately irrelevant they are. Creepy McCreeperson Gerald digs into a bag of tricks identical to the one he used in “13 Cameras” (review here) by secretly monitoring the nameless couple vacationing in his Santa Fe rental property. Gerald also sneaks into the residence when they aren’t at home to put Pixie Chick’s toothbrush in his mouth and sniff her clothes, giving us gross-outs similar to those seen in the previous film.
Hipster Dude and Pixie Chick’s usefulness comes to its end when Gerald copies Pixie Chick’s keys. Gerald uses those keys to infiltrate a house belonging to single woman Sarah, who has a picture of Pixie Chick pinned to a bulletin board. Aside from this easily missed visual clue, no dialogue tells us who this woman is, much less why Gerald wants to stalk her too. Pixie Chick could have said, “I need those keys for when I housesit for my sister next week” or something. Regardless, Sarah unexpectedly returns home from running with her dog, forcing Gerald to stop installing cameras and go on the offensive.
In yet another careless screenwriting snafu, or maybe this one comes down to casting, Sarah is clearly depicted as physically fit. Limping gimp Gerald, who has the gait of a less agile George “The Animal” Steele, can’t shuffle five feet without losing his breath. Somehow, he still overpowers the athletic woman with apparent ease, taking her captive and imprisoning her inside an underground bunker alongside Claire.
When we last saw Claire in “13 Cameras,” Gerald had captured her and delivered her baby. Gerald now raises Junior as his own son, although that’s never completely clarified either. Junior appears to be at least 10 years old, meaning Claire has been living under a hatch in the desert for far longer than returning actress Brianne Moncrief’s passionless performance portrays. Moncrief/Claire mostly appears bored, not emotionally broken, and certainly not like someone who has gone without regular meals, sunlight, hygiene, and human contact for the better part of a decade.
Other than Gerald, the people mentioned thus far aren’t even central to the main story. Lori and Arthur, their son Kyle, their daughter Molly, and Molly’s flirtatious friend Danielle are. They’re the new vacationers in Gerald’s rental property, except this time, Gerald streams the hidden camera feeds onto the dark web for other villainous voyeurs to see.
What happened to previous occupants Hipster Dude and Pixie Chick? Presumably only writer Victor Zarcoff knows, and his script chooses not to tell us.
Why does “14 Cameras” bother with inconsequential exposition when a far less convoluted path could put Sarah in the same literal and figurative subplot hole? Presumably only Zarcoff can answer that question too.
“13 Cameras” put genuine substance into its straightforward secret surveillance premise and ended up with a dramatically intriguing, atmospherically unsettling chiller. “13 Cameras” accomplished this by adding soap opera stakes into Claire’s relationship with her cheating husband, made more complicated by her pregnancy and his intrusive mistress. Gerald also exhibited strangely sympathetic behavior driven by a bizarre moral code. Such complexities gave the film more than one note for playing its oddly alluring tune.
Here however, Gerald’s personalized “Big Brother” couldn’t be duller. Danielle’s woes involve an unfaithful boyfriend. Molly doesn’t like her BFF targeting her brother for a rebound. Lori and Arthur’s marriage offers no conflicts at all. And “14 Cameras” offers no reason to emotionally invest in any of these uninteresting people.
Gerald too, no longer comes with a compelling characterization. From the outset, he’s a blatant pervert, kidnapper, and killer, rendering him a cardboard catalyst for violence that doesn’t have much imagination behind it, unless an improbably orchestrated finale counts. Actor Neville Archambault has few opportunities to do anything other than shamble around with his lower jaw unhinged, looking like a guy not allowed near a schoolyard, yet not exhibiting any fascinating psychology to motivate his physicality.
“13 Cameras” was a surprisingly creepy under-the-radar indie. With an improvisational attitude contributing to its nonsensical structure, “14 Cameras” tries squeezing blood from a setup that already turned to stone. It seems a sure bet that there won’t be a “15 Cameras” in anyone’s future. If not for the prospective franchise, then for viewers who won’t want to see another slapdash sequel like this one again.
Review Score: 40