FrightFest review – Slumlord



This opens with an ominous caption about the vast number of hidden surveillance cameras sold in the US every year and then cuts to Gerald (Neville Archambault) – a shambling, wheezing, sweating, wild-eyed, near-inarticulate middle-aged crazy – buying a set of peeper-cams from a blithely uninquisitive, cheerfully amoral salesman.  He installs them in a property which isn’t remotely slumlike – a suburban bungalow home with a locked basement and a swimming pool – and then rents the place to Ryan (PJ McCabe) and his pregnant wife Claire (Brianne Moncrief), whom he proceeds to spy on from his darkened, kleenex-littered lair.  He even pops back to instal extra cameras in the swimming pool so he can get an underwater view.


Much of the film puts us in its voyeur’s position as we see Ryan having an affair with a co-worker Hannah (Sarah Baldwin) and Claire not catching on, though her pregnancy and his insensitivity lead to other problems – exacerbated by Gerald’s occasional interventions, which always make things worse. Though he looks like a simple pervert – he’s the most unappealing screen villain since Laurence Harvey in Human Centipede 2 – Gerald has a slightly more complicated agenda, and initially holds back from becoming the psycho-killer the genre requires him to be.  When Claire catches him out, he doesn’t kill her but pens her up in the basement, occasionally visiting to feed her and empty her bucket … though, in the climax, he loses any scruples and starts acting more like a regular movie maniac.


Unlike Hangman, which makes a similar use of surveillance, it’s not a found footage film – indeed, its widescreen, coolly objective cinematography reaches parts found footage tends not to be able to, giving us a steadier view of the characters and a more measured pace (in fact, the film is a little too slow).  Besides a good look, this has reasonable performances – the flawed normal people are engaging enough for us to feel sorry for them even when they aren’t terribly nice, and Archambault is outstanding – he moves slowly and awkwardly, as if in painor unused to standing up, but has a barrel-chested strength that makes him a frightening, physical presence.  However, it’s still ground that’s been trodden too often lately and there’s a faint air of pointlessness to yet another run-through – the ‘Pops’ sketch of League of Gentlemen set out a similar (based-on-fact) premise without the need for chained-in-the-basement stuff or murders and was pretty much as creepy as this is.  Written and directed by Victor Zarcoff.




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