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14 CAMERAS

Producer: Seth Fuller and Scott Hussion
Director: Scott Hussion and Seth Fuller
Writer: Victor Zarkoff
Stars: Neville Archambault, Chelsea Edmundson, Amber Midthunder, Hank Rogerson, John-Paul Howard, Brytnee Ratledge, Gavin bWhite, Lora Martinez-Cunningham, Brianne Moncrief, Zach Dulin and Kodi Saint Angelo
Studio: Gravitas Ventures

F

Voyeurism of a most extreme sort was the subject of Victor Zarkoff’s “13 Cameras,” a low-budget thriller that grew increasingly implausible as it progressed but was nonetheless tightly constructed and genuinely creepy. The sequel expands things by adding not only another camera but needless subplots, and the tightness evaporates. “14 Cameras” becomes a flat, pointless bore, marked by poor writing and slipshod construction, as well as flat directing and amateurish acting.

In “13 Cameras,” the villain, creepy landlord Gerald (Neville Archambault), simply spied on his tenants until fatally intervening in their troubled lives. It was a slim story, but for the most part was crisply staged and executed. This time around, Gerald is more of an entrepreneur who rents out a baker’s dozen of camera-equipped homes, footage from which he streams out to paying customers on the dark web.

He still, however, has his own perverted interests. He keeps Claire (Brianne Moncrief), the pregnant housewife from the first movie, imprisoned in an underground chamber, and when one of his renters, Sarah (Chelsea Edmundson), almost catches him rambling about in her house, he tosses her in as well, though he never seems to have contact with the women except for occasional trips to bathe them tenderly. In one plot thread, Sarah attempts to escape despite Claire’s warnings not to—good advice, as it turns out.

In any event, after a pointless prologue involving a couple (Zach Dulin and Kodi Saint Angelo) who simply banter for awhile before disappearing in their car, the focus shifts to a new bunch of renters: parents Arthur (Hank Rogerson) and Lori (Lora Martinez-Cunningham), their daughter Molly (Brytnee Ratledge) and her horny younger brother Kyle (John-Paul Howard), who has the hots for Molly’s friend Danielle (Amber Midthunder), their guest. Much of the movie is given over to desultory footage of them, enlivened only when one of Gerald’s customers decides to pay the girls an unwelcome visit and Gerald intervenes to protect them.

By this time, however, Junior (Gavin White), a teen who lives with Gerald (and may be the son Claire never knew), investigates what his “guardian” has been up to and decides to save Claire, and the family will become engaged as well. But though Gerald’s flow of footage will halt, a coda is added to suggest there might be life in the old goat yet and the hiatus in his work output could be temporary.

Though Zarkoff wrote the script for this sequel to his surprise little succès d’estime, he passed directing duties along to producers Seth Fuller and Scott Hussion, who exhibit little flair for structure or pacing and are unable to draw anything but the most elementary performances from the cast, although it must be admitted that Archambault remains a menacing presence. Fuller also served as cinematographer, and shows little aptitude in that capacity either. Editor Zach Lee gives the picture no perceptible rhythm, failing to inject any excitement into what is pretty flaccid footage.

For discerning genre fans “13 Cameras” was a surprisingly effective little thriller about a twisted guy and his hapless victims. This time around, the haplessness is to be found in the filmmakers. “14 Cameras” is a thoroughly unnecessary and disappointing sequel.

SUPER TROOPERS 2

Producer: Richard Perello
Director: Jay Chandrasekhar
Writer: Broken Lizard
Stars: Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, Brian Cox, Rob Lowe, Damon Wayans Jr., Sean William Scott, Marisa Coughlan, Lynda Carter, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Tyler Labine, Will Sasso, Hayes MacArthur, Paul Walter Hauser, Jim Gaffigan, Fred Savage, Jimmy Tatro and Clifton Collins, Jr.
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures

F

“Super Troopers 2” has been in the works since the original’s release in 2002, and one has to say that if this is all Broken Lizard (Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske) has been able to come up with in sixteen years, they should probably close up shop pronto. The members of the troupe were already rather long in the tooth to be doing the sort of raucous, crude, stupid, unfunny stoned frat-boy stuff represented by the first picture more than a decade and a half ago; now they seem utterly desperate, and positively over-the-hill, repeating the routine.

The plot, if one can call it that, is as close to a carbon copy of the first flick as can be. After being dismissed as Vermont troopers after the catastrophic events of the original, the numbskull boys—Thorny (Chandrasekhar), Foster (Soter), Mac (Lemme), Favra (Heffernan) and Rabbit (Stolhanske)–are reduced to working construction. But they’re called back into service by the Vermont governor (Lynda Carter, reprising her embarrassing cameo) when it’s discovered that the state really juts into an area of Quebec previously deemed Canadian. So our dissipated bunch of losers are named to replace the local Mounties (Tyler Labine, Will Sasso and Hayes MacArthur) under the command of their old captain John O’Hagen, played again by a slumming Brian Cox. (One only hopes his paycheck was substantial.)

While being confronted by hostility from the locals, with the exception of the local mayor (Rob Lowe, affecting one of the many horrible French-Canadian accents strewn throughout) and an official trying to expedite the territorial turnover (Emmanuelle Chriqui), the troopers discover another smuggling operation, this one involving fake iPhones and drugs, and try to identify the culprits. Interspersed with this threadbare narrative is a succession of sketches involving Canadian stereotypes (“niceness” among them), a battle with a bear that invades the station, and jokes about differences between the U.S. and its northern neighbor (kilometers versus miles—what hilarity! permissive Canuck laws about prostitution and alcohol strength—how funny!)

Then there are the long-running gags, like Thorny’s addiction to female sex-enhancement pills or Rooster’s romance with Chriqui. Juvenile drug humor is bountiful (a dream sequence at the start, featuring Sean William Scott and Damon Wayans Jr. as a couple of dumb-as-rock cops, combines that with slapstick violence of a remarkably unpleasant sort), as is naughty comedy focusing on balls and penises (one drearily repeated joke stresses putting “caulk” in a hole, and the number of crotch punches and kicks is beyond counting).

All the members of the Lizard team are intensely irritating, but Heffernan surely takes the cake as the endlessly obnoxious, vulgar loudmouth Favra. It’s incredible that a character who’s insufferable at the start should become more and more so as the movie drags on, but Heffernan manages that apparently impossible feat. Lots of people in these slob comedies are grating, but Favra takes top dishonors in the constellation of such disreputable creatures. Of the other cast members, Lowe comes off worst simply because he has the most screen time, but nobody fares well, though Marisa Coughlan, as a pretty U.S. motocycle cop, and Fred Savage, showing up in a closing credits clip after being referred to throughout, come closest.

As one might expect, “Troopers 2” is technically mediocre, with Chandrasekhar’s lackadaisical direction matched by similar work from the rest of the crew. Of course the ratty look of the picture is supposed to be part of its crummy charm, but in reality it’s just ugly.

The original “Super Troopers,” wretched as it was, became a sort of cult favorite among some in its video afterlife. They will probably enjoy this reunion with the goofball quintet, especially if fortified by their sense-affecting substance of choice. For anyone else, this lower-than-lowbrow mess—which takes a place somewhere between Jerry Lewis at his worst and the Three Stooges at their oldest (when you feared that every pratfall might be fatal), laced with a heavy dose of Cheech and Chong—will be a very painful experience.