Squabbles with the ending aside, the first hour of the film makes for tense, armchair gripping thrills. Arcambault delivers a character every bit as shocking and uncomfortable as Laurence Harvey’s “Martin in Human Centipede 2. Yet while Harvey often comes off like cartoonish and exaggerated villain, Gerald feels all too real. As Arcambault plays him, Gerald is a man you’ve seen in your local Home Depot; one who you instinctively pull your child closer to you as you pass him by. It’s an amazing performance that makes Slumlord well worth your time.
As a society we are probably more comfortable with the idea that we are under constant surveillance than we care to admit. Security cameras, whether they be at ATM macinhes, posted on traffic signals or situated above your market’s register have become a way of life. GPS and smart phones have made it so our every movement can be tracked with extreme precision. Yet, we still expect our home to be a safe haven free from intrusion. Yet as the new thriller Slumlord informs the audience last year alone over 8000 people reported being spied on in their homes via hidden security systems.
Young and troubled married couple Claire in the Ryan move into one of Gerald’s rental homes in an attempt to fix their marriage while also awaiting the birth of their first child. Despite players reservations about Gerald who as she describes him smells like spoiled mayonnaise the home is too good and too cheap to pass up. What they don’t know is that Gerald (Neville Archambault) has installed dozens of camouflage security cameras throughout the property which allows him total access into their lives including their most intimate moments.
Those intimate moments reveal both the good and the very bad about player and Ryan’s flight of marriage. Ryan is snippy from the outset and dismissive of any of Claire’s concerns. He suffers from a persecution complex and describes feeling trapped by his marriage while being resentful of player for having tricked him into marrying her at a young age. He shows a disturbing lack of interest bordering on resentment with regards to the impending birth of his first child. Early on he’s revealed to be having an affair with this assistant Hannah yet even there is unpleasant and petulant personality shows itself and every opportunity.
The squick factor involved in watching the couple during these intimate moments stems from the knowledge all their actions and words are being monitored by their creepy landlord. Arcambault gives a powerful performance as the hulking manchild. With his wisps of hair, lined and pocketed face and a mouth that hangs open like it’s waiting for a fisherman to cast hook and reel him in, Gerald comes off as profoundly disturbed from the moment he comes on screen. Yet despite these features, and a shambling gait that suggests some sort of handicap, these traits mask a cunning mind and powerful strength that make Gerald an imminent danger. He’s someone the average person would find easy to dismiss. As he enjoys a vouyeristic and sexual thrill from watching the couple, Gerald begins to see himself as a sort of paternal figure, doing what he can to bring Clare and Ryan closer together without being exposed. Unfortunately, anytime a mentally unstable pervert takes an interest in someone, things tend to go horribly wrong. When Hannah has a crisis of conscience and begins calling the house at 1AM in order to reveal the affair, Gerald steps in.
It’s here that Slumlord loses its way a bit. The slowly ticking madness of the first hour gives way to the sort of hind and chase scenes we’ve seen in hundreds of standard thrillers before. There’s also a meanness to the last act that feels unwarranted. Aside from one person, the characters suffer fates that feel tacked on, unearned and cruel. It would be one thing if their fates resonated with horror, yet Slumlord seems to play these final minutes for laughs.