Simon (Christopher Marrone) works at a camera store, his wannabe filmmaker tendencies driving him mad at the prospect of being surrounded by so much great equipment he can’t afford. His boss (Tim Ross) is overly critical, and at home his domineering mother (Neva Howell) browbeats him into submission. Pushed down one too many times, Simon finally snaps, “borrowing” an expensive camera to finally fulfill his filmmaking dreams. When his mother notices the new camera, it sets off a rant that turns into a stroke, and suddenly Simon has a sudden tragedy to make a documentary about. Except that it’s not going to be that easy.
Rob Underhill’s The Cameraman is a somewhat interesting short film, a tale that wouldn’t be surprising to find in an episode of The Twilight Zone or the comparatively shorter-lived Friday the 13th: The Series. Simon has some severe Norman Bates-esque issues with his mother, though that’s not where the eventual horror resides. Instead, the film turns on a paranormal development that is entirely unsuspected.
Which is going to work for some audience members, and completely turn off others. As it is, you feel like you’re watching one type of film, because of the time it takes to develop the characters and relationships between the characters, and then things switch up for the paranormal and it feels a little too out of left field considering the setup.
That said, the film looks great. The audio work and score are strong. The performances are more than solid, though the characters of Simon and co-worker Daisy (Hannah Elsie Chapman) sometimes seem like they were lifted out of the fifties; maybe it’s their choice of eye glasses, the Muzak at work or Simon’s manner of speaking and constant reference to “Mother” (or all of the above).
Overall, The Cameraman works, but the pacing is slow and drawn-out. It feels like the short film was aiming for being, again, Twilight Zone-esque, and thus hits on a television-friendly episodic duration, but it also feels like that decision bloats the narrative too much, throwing off the momentum. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, for a short film to go over twenty minutes, every minute into that nether realm had better be exceptional, and that’s just not the case here. It’s fine, everything is competently and professionally presented, but the pacing is needlessly laborious and doesn’t do the film any favors. If I did come across this while watching TV, I don’t know that I’d stick with it.
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