Directed: Victor Zarcoff
Written: Victor Zarcoff
Starring: Neville Archambault, Sarah Baldwin, PJ McCabe, Brianne Moncrief
Reviewer: Stu Greenfield
Security is paramount in todays society. Stories have been present in the press around surveillance and the technology used to invade peoples privacy. Within film there have also been ventures into the world of cameras, webcams and the dangers that can be present when offering people you do not know a glimpse into your world (Unfriended 2014).
Slumlord is the latest film to take on this topic. And boy does it ever. Slumlord focuses on a young couple, Claire (Brianne Moncrief) and Ryan (PJ McCabe) who move to a knew house rented from uncomfortable landlord Gerald (Neville Archambault). As they settle in we realise that Gerald is watching via subversive security camera hidden around the home. Whilst we and Gerald watch the pregnant Claire and the distant Ryan the cracks in their relationship begin to show. When Gerald takes his invasion of privacy one step further things go from bad to worse and the film moves up a gear.
This is a strong and admirable debut for Zarcoff. Slumlord offers audiences a considered and developed plot that works alongside subplot. The subplot surrounding the couples relationship could feasibly be a film in its own right, and this is in no way eclipsed by the main horror plot. Both story lines are portrayed with sympathy for the other and they intertwine without becoming complicated.
Neville Archambault plays the unhinged Gerald with a disturbing inactivity and social unawareness that is reminiscent of Laurence R. Harvey’s performance as Martin Lomax in The Human Centipede 2. Archambault however is genuinely uncomfortable and unnerving in his role rather than merely creepy and nauseating. Certain scenes a authentically uncomfortable and his whole persona is unsettling.
The rest of the casting is solid with a strong performance from Moncrief as the slightly cold but nonetheless relatable Claire and a scream queen worthy performance by Baldwin as Hannah, Ryan’s assistant. PJ as Ryan is satisfactory however there is a slight lacking in his passion and on occasion the character is difficult to relate to or bond with.
Within the film Zarcoff has used both classic Hollywood style shots as well as utilising shots from the cameras hidden around the home. This offers the audience both the view of Gerald on the outside looking in but also a perspective from inside the house. The security camera shots provide the horror plot angle identifying the invasion of privacy and the crossing of accepted boundaries whilst the classic style offering the drama angle identifying the problems occurring within the home and within the relationship.
The cinematography of the film is also manipulative. It forces the audience to use their imaginations to try and visualise what may happen. Their is no inherent or obvious gore in the film, or at least very little. From behind closed doors there are screams, or bangs and it is left up to each individuals imagination to conceptualise with what is happening. All the Slumlord provides is the aftermath.
Slumlord is an interesting project as it mixes two plots and tells them both effectively with an atmosphere of tension. The character of Gerald is particularly well portrayed and will stay with audiences once the film has finished. This contribution to the festival has potential to be one of the standout films from the event.