Tag Archives: Danny Madden

Good Bones

15 Cameras

by Hope Madden

There have been a lot of movies that tread the same water as 15 Cameras: true crime, new homes, unannounced cameras, creepy guys, basements – among them, Victor Zarcoff’s 2015 thriller 13 Cameras.

I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for this one, honestly, but director Danny Madden (no relation), working from a fine script by PJ McCabe (co-star of 13 Cameras and writer of the criminally underseen The Beta Test), layers themes and ideas to develop a rich picture of villainy.

There’s a little hitch to the starter home recently purchased by Sky (Angela Wong Carbone) and Cam (The Wolf of Snow Hollow’s Will Madden, also no relation to me, but he is the director’s brother). They got the duplex pretty cheap, but that’s because the former owner is the famous Slumlord from a popular true crime show (full of footage from 13 Cameras), who’d wired all his homes up with many cameras, watched victims to get their habits down, then kidnapped and killed at will.

Sky can’t get enough of the show. She binges it, finishes it, and binges it again. It’s a huge turnoff for her ignored husband, and more than a little creepy to her sister Carolyn (Hilty Bowen), who’s crashing while she tries to get a restraining order against her ex.

And there you have it: one location (duplex), a handful of characters (those mentioned plus two tenants), and a found footage/true crime sensibility. Efficient, logical, but never boring and though inevitable, rarely truly predictable.

The slyest thing about 15 Cameras is the way it shows the distance between nice guy, abusive boyfriend and all out monster in inches. By keeping us with Cam’s perspective, that continuum takes on an even more powerful feel.

Will Madden does a fine job of developing an uncomfortable, believable arc for Cam. Likewise, Carbone allows her character enough space to be occasionally unlikeable, while often quite tender.

Indeed, all the performances have texture and depth, even those that might have been considered throwaways in other horror flicks. (Shout out to a very brief but memorable turn from Jim Cummings.) And the storyteller in Danny Madden knows how this should play out.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about 15 Cameras, but what it does, it does well.

These Kids Today

Beast Beast

by Brandon Thomas

Coming-of-age movies are hard. As we move into adulthood, humans tend to forget the confusing swirl of emotions teens experience day-to-day. That loss of awareness can make these kinds of movies feel phony and tone-deaf. With Beast Beast, writer/director Danny Madden crafts an emotionally authentic portrayal of young adults that’s a true standout.

Nito (Jose Angeles) is the new kid in town. The always tough move to a new school is softened for him when he meets Krista (Shirley Chen), a self-proclaimed theater brat. Nito is immediately smitten. As Krista and Nito spend more and more time together, Krista’s neighbor, Adam (Will Madden, Danny’s brother), is clumsily trying to get his firearms-centered YouTube channel off the ground. As the pressure from his parents to succeed mounts, Adam begins to lose the grip on his own emotional stability. 

Produced by Jim Cummings (Thunder Road, The Wolf of Snow Hollow), Beast Beast is a gripping look into the lives of three modern-day young people. While not having the darkly comedic overtones of Cummings’s work, Madden’s film strikes the same level of emotional honesty. Madden seamlessly captures the carefree joy of youth, while also acknowledging the fear, loneliness and confusion that the transition into adulthood can hold. 

The natural looseness of the cast is where the film truly shines. Chen and Angeles are captivating with their easy, immediate connection. Will Madden’s Adam is much more internalized and isolated. He captures Adam’s directionless existence by playing the character with a mixture of simmering panic and naivete. 

Beast Beast’s visual aesthetic stays grounded and unassuming. While never fully succumbing to that indie impulse of going entirely handheld, the camerawork stays fluid. It’s the kind of cinematography that doesn’t draw attention to itself until you get to one of those compositions that literally takes your breath away. 

Similarly, the score starts as a mixture of bells and an organ very much in need of tuning. But as the drama within the film intensifies, the score takes a more sinister turn and comes much more to the forefront. 

The film’s third act will likely split much of the audience. It’s not particularly easy to sit through, but does feel like the natural progression of the story. Nothing about the plot or character actions feel gratuitous or cheaply played. 

Fans of indie dramas will find a lot to celebrate in Beast Beast. By focusing so strongly on character, and throwing in a few nice twists and turns, these filmmakers have delivered one of the best films of 2021 so far.