Published Jul 18, 2015Director Victor Zarcoff and the McManus brothers' (Funeral Kings) latest feature, Slumlord, will do to the act of renting apartments and houses what Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho did for taking showers.
The independent horror — which had its premiere at Montreal's Fantasia International Film Festival last night (July 17) — concerns itself with a young couple, Claire (Brianne Moncrief) and Ryan (PJ McCabe), who move into a spacious California bungalow while they wait for the birth of their first child. But their house contains a dark and creepy secret: seemingly every nook and cranny contains a miniscule camera recording their every move for their landlord, Gerald (future horror convention staple Neville Archambault), to watch and pleasure himself to.
It's something almost all renters in the modern digital age have probably thought about at one point or another, and Zarcoff and the McManus brothers harness it perfectly, starting the film with a set of statistics about how many people are watched without their knowledge through hidden cameras and those in plain sight on a yearly basis (just look at the top of your computer or phone for an example of one way it's done), and ratcheting up the tension soon after that.
Rather than let things play out found-footage style, the film is a hybrid of secret camera close-ups and more traditional shots. That's good for those sick of the Paranormal Activity franchise and its ilk, but it's hard not to imagine how much scarier it would be if a few more of the film's more climactic scenes were captured on the secret camcorders (although, watching Gerald repeatedly enter the house while the couple is away will make you think twice about ever leaving your apartment).
Nevertheless, Slumlord is a highly disturbing thriller, especially if your landlord gives you the heebie-jeebies.