A father who experiments with his sons psychokinetic powers, is unaware that these experiments release a demon from hell, which lives in his sons closet, preparing to take over the young boys soul.
Sometimes there are movies that work well at long lengths. There are others that would probably work better as a short story. Writers deal with this choice all the time – they might have a really fleshed-out story to tell, but they might not be sure if it would work better as a novel or as a short story. The length can really make or break something like that; even if it’s a good story, it doesn’t mean that stretching it to longer lengths will make it any better.
The 1988 film Cameron’s Closet suffers from this affliction; it’s only an hour and a half, but the content doesn’t really justify a full-length film. The movie would be better suited as a Tales from the Darkside episode: it has the same naivete and the same type of monster effects. It’s no surprise, then, that director Armand Mastroianni directed multiple episodes of Tales from the Darkside in the years leading up to Cameron’s Closet.
That show often seemed rather tame in comparison to the violence, sex, and nudity of Tales from the Crypt. But the tone of Tales from the Darkside always felt muddy; it was horror, but it also felt like it was trying to maintain a family-friendly feel. In a way, that’s probably why some of the scarier episodes didn’t work as well as they should have.
Cameron’s Closet works about the same. It seems like it’s meant as a more mature offering (and there is enough gore to warrant its R rating), but every time it slips into that mindset, Mastroianni brings back some sort of heartwarming event to dispel the fear.
The film focuses on Cameron (Scott Curtis), a young boy who has psychic and psychokinetic powers. He’s been trained by a professor and his father to harness these powers, but he accidentally brings a powerful entity into the world. This monster has been hiding in Cameron’s closet (hence the title, and the film makes it quite clear that we will be exploring his closet a lot), and once Cameron’s dad tries to put a stop to it, he gets the axe – well, machete, to be more specific.
Then a detective named Sam (Cotter Smith) hits the scene, along with his therapist Dory Lansing (Kim Lankford). Sam’s been having weird dreams, and he finds that Cameron’s powers seem to have something to do with it. Cameron has a few weird run-ins, and Sam gets drawn into the psychic demonic world.
The actors are actually pretty good in this film; Cotter Smith has a rugged, near-mullet look to him that works, and it’s easy to warm to his treatment of Cameron as though Cameron’s his own son. And the relationship between Dory and Sam is unnecessary and cheesy, but it’s done in a competent way.
There’s just not a lot happening in Cameron’s Closet, though. There are a couple of deaths along the way, and they are violent, but for the most part the film focuses on detective work and lucid dreams. Much of the content of Cameron’s Closet comes from the strange dreams that Sam has; another scene where Cameron is pulled up the ceiling is straight from A Nightmare on Elm Street. The monster in Cameron’s closet seems to manifest himself as dead people akin to House, and though their appearance is somewhat startling, it seems to disconnect the film from its overall theme.
The monster itself looks pretty terrible, a leftover from Tales from the Darkside, and the last few moments of the film are some of the worst. The leadup to the conclusion, despite its blandness, is the most enjoyable because the characters do propel the story forward. Perhaps it was just my love affair with Cotter Smith, but I did find myself engrossed in his part of the story.
But I didn’t feel too connected with Cameron, which is important to this film. His presence is pretty limited, and despite the film being about him, we don’t see a lot of him throughout the movie. Instead, Mastroianni focuses on Sam’s story, and we end up liking him more than the boy – good development, but towards the wrong character.
Cameron’s Closet simply feels too long, even though it’s just a regular movie. If it had been cut down to an episode-length short, it might work better with the content it contains; but as a longer movie, it can’t sustain suspense with its shoddy, limited plot.
Cameron’s Closet (1988)