Much of horror cinema classically has played on our fears of the unknown, of the supernatural and the other…something fantastical that we cannot fully comprehend with anything other than fear. One only needs to look at the lasting legacy of creatures such as the vampire, werewolf and zombie to see the deep roots of this fear. However, the truth is…these are fantasies. What in the world is truly frightening, in the words of Tobe Hooper, is other people. People who intend to invade your life and hurt. The Landlord (which screened at last year’s Frightfest as Slumlord) is a modern tale of voyeurism, personal invasion and the strange desire of others, feeding into fears of the unknown but in a modern and realist manner.

Claire and Ryan are newlyweds moving into a new home, expecting a baby and hoping to make a fresh start to heal already arising marital issues. However, little do they know the tension in their relationship is the least of their worries. For their odd, sleazy landlord Gerald has installed dozens of hidden cameras in their apartment and is observing their most intimate moments to fulfil his voyeuristic fantasies. But as the surveillance deeps and secrets are revealed…Gerald’s fantasies threaten to grow ever darker.

Using the surveillance focus of the narrative, director Victor Zarcoff conjures an overwhelming sense of voyeuristic dread. Aesthetically the film is unspectacular, but it’s in the unadorned reality that Zarcoff is able to contrast the illusion of normality in the faltering relationship of Claire and Ryan, the façade they present to the world, with the grim and perverse darkness of Gerald’s hidden desires. It’s the horror of these two forces existing simultaneously that creates tremendous tension.

Neville Archambault dominates the film as Gerald, the sleazy and increasingly deranged landlord. The very first image of him comes as an intense close up of his distorted face, sweaty and More than just utilising and playing on his unique look to create unease, he brings an intense physicality to the character, all awkward movements and grunts, like a sort of modern Igor…and yet, something darkly poised and purposeful in his own space, the growing power he feels fuelled by voyeurism, a wonderfully expressive performance that lifts the film.

Unfortunately, while the poised build up and depiction of Gerald’s voyeuristic obsession creates great tension and a palpable sense of inevitability of escalation, the film ultimately never truly delivers on this escalation in a satisfying way. The film’s conclusion disappoints, not able to affectively shock to relieve the tension, and in the final moments, Zarcoff plays for an almost comical sense of cyclical horror that works…but just feels somewhat restrained, eschewing anything seriously visceral and overwhelming, never releasing the tension but rather letting it slowly slip away.

The Landlord is an effective if unspectacular modern horror, focused on a very palpable fear housed in our everyday reality. Anchored by Neville Archambault’s deliciously dark central performance, but unfortunately missing a jolt of shock and excess to explode the film into life.

Rental review: The Landlord
2.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (10 Votes)

About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980’s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul61@o2.co.uk