The premise of 14 Cameras is, admittedly, an inherently creepy one, but “inherently” only gets you so far in a horror movie.
The film is a sequel to 2015’s 13 Cameras (unseen by me), and it features the same villain as its predecessor: the hulking, mostly mute Gerald (Neville Archambault), a voyeuristic landlord who rigs his rental properties full of hidden spy cameras and gets his sick kicks from watching live feeds of unsuspecting victims in the bedrooms, bathrooms, and so on.
Thankfully not (for the most part) a found-footage movie, this apparently bigger-scale follow-up finds Gerald stepping up his game in the psychotic-creep department; these days, he’s not just spying but also live streaming his spy-cam feeds to an appreciative audience of perverts on the dark web, as well as kidnapping and imprisoning female victims in a subterranean bunker outside his home.
Thus, 14 Cameras has as its raison d’etre the very common phobia of being watched – which, with modern technology, might be more justifiable than ever – and, in turn, the fear of what happens when the watcher inevitably decides to take a more hands-on approach to the objects of his voyeuristic desires. In the hands of, say, Brian De Palma (whose films are to kinky voyeurism what Elmer Fudd cartoons are to hunting accidents), this core idea could be a springboard to some unbearably skin-crawling sequences, bound to leave viewers frantically checking every square inch of their homes for concealed surveillance equipment.
“…a voyeuristic landlord who rigs his rental properties full of hidden spy cameras and gets his sick kicks from watching live feeds of unsuspecting victims…”
Unfortunately, however, the filmmakers responsible for 14 Cameras don’t do enough to exploit their innately exploitative setup. Sure, they haven’t neglected to include the obligatory moments of their heavy-breathing antagonist leering at young women undressing on his bank of high-end video monitors. And, yes, things do get genuinely skeevy when Gerald’s victims temporarily leave their accommodations, giving him free reign to sneak in and have his way with their stuff (he’s got a particular – and particularly gross – thing for toothbrushes). But, unsettling as it can be, the film feels as if it’s checking off boxes instead of generating progressively more tension-building sequences or presenting Gerald as a character with any coherent goals or motivations beyond “do something that’s creepy, then do something else that’s creepy”.