[Content warning: this film review discusses voyeurism and stalking.]
The new horror film 13 Cameras is a thrilling, frightening ride through the world of secret surveillance. The concept of voyeurism is central to the plot, and it effectively develops fear in the viewer that someone is secretly watching. The film’s focus on women as the victims of voyeurism introduces a conversation about privacy violations in which women are often targeted, and it illustrates how a man secretly viewing a woman is a normalized expectation.
Ryan and Claire are newlyweds with a baby on the way, and following a cross-country move to California, they rent a beautiful home from a peculiar man named Gerald. Unbeknownst to Ryan and Claire, their new home is rigged with a complex system of secret surveillance cameras that Gerald uses to watch their every move. The movie stars P.J. McCabe as Ryan, Brianne Moncrief as Claire, and Neville Archambault as the fearsome landlord, Gerald.
An Effective Plot
Ryan is cheating on his wife with his assistant, Hannah, and their sexual exploits in the home provide Gerald with both entertainment and drama. The viewer will feel empathy for Claire, who is being victimized by both her husband and her landlord. The characters are very effective in building up the film’s tensions, and the discomfort the viewer experiences from sharing Gerald’s voyeuristic perspective is both unsettling and suspenseful.
Voyeurs and Women
Although Ryan is also a victim of exploitation in 13 Cameras, he almost seems like an accessory to Gerald’s creepy hobby rather than a man who is being victimized in his own home. The movie normalizes voyeurism of women in a way that’s especially frightening and upsetting, especially for women.
Objects of Desire
Women are far more likely to be the target of a secret voyeur than men, and the reasons for this are perplexing. Hollywood movies and pornographic movies both portray women as objects of desire, and society has generally accepted this as a normal standard. However, when the disparity between how men and women are portrayed in film is clearly defined, it is a disturbing reality that deserves our attention and thoughtful discussion. In 13 Cameras, both Claire and Hannah are prime examples of this societal issue.
13 Cameras is successful in the horror genre, as it plays into fears that many of us – especially women – may have. If you rent a home or are staying in a hotel, how can you be assured of your privacy? For example, television personality Erin Andrews was a high-profile victim when a video camera recorded her privately through the peephole of a hotel door. Although video surveillance can make people feel safe in their homes and can help to solve crimes or prevent theft, there are also many opportunities for abuse of this high-tech equipment.
Protect Your Privacy
To prevent secret cameras and hacked technology systems from spying on you, be aware of your surroundings. If you see something odd or out of place, question it. Close your curtains, cover the peephole in the door and cover any cameras on your laptop, camera or phone. Research your home security system so that you can make sure it is encrypted to prevent hackers from accessing the video feed. In addition, unlike Ryan and Claire, if you think your landlord is up to no good, listen to your gut feelings.
Privacy violations and voyeurism are frightening topics for a horror film because they’re a possible reality, especially for women. 13 Cameras succeeds as a horror film, and it also opens up possibilities for dialogue about the objectification of women in both Hollywood movies and pornographic films.