Cameron’s Closet (1988)


This is another of our 80s video shop “classics”. Chances are, if you remember this movie at all, it’s probably on the horror shelves of your local video shop – and, if you’re like me, you looked at it, went “this sounds rubbish. Who cares about a closet?” and put it back in favour of something with zombies and gore in it. But, we’ve decided the best way to drive traffic to the site is to review stuff like this, almost impossible to get hold of and guaranteed remembered fondly by no-one; so here we all are. “Cameron’s Closet” was a “Monday Night Movie Club” selection, where a group of my friends gather at my place every week and we take it in turns to pick a movie to watch. I picked “Night Life” last week, so we’ve got a pretty poor recent batting average; this is fellow ISCFC reviewer @kilran’s, so if you want someone to blame, he’s your man.


Cameron is a kid, and he has a closet (to help non-American readers, they have extremely large closets as a matter of course). He has a monster of some sort living in it, all large, very ugly, glowing eyes; but his Dad seems not to believe in its existence. One day, trying to track down the noises he’s been hearing from Cameron’s room, he tries to go up into the attic while, for some reason, using a machete to open the attic hatch. Just give it a push mate! Anyway, he falls off the ladder and the conveniently placed machete slices his head clean off. The Dad, by the way, will be familiar to John Waters fans – it’s Tab Hunter, from “Polyester” (oh, and he was the biggest movie star in the world for a few years in the late 50s).


Anyway, fast forward an unspecified amount of time, and Cameron’s got a stepdad – Gary Hudson, one of the great “That Guy” actors. He’s hostile in the classic evil stepdad way to Cameron, and – spoiler! – doesn’t last very long. The real battle is Sam the cop (Cotter Smith) and Nora the psychiatrist (Mel Harris, “Thirtysomething”) against the monster in the closet. They, naturally, don’t believe him at first, but luckily the beast isn’t too subtle.


With the best will in the world, it’s just not very interesting. We discover that Tab Hunter was a scientist, and his experiments on Cameron’s mind caused him to summon the creature forth – it feels like it was written first as either a straight horror or a psychological thriller, but was hastily rewritten into a sort of mish-mash of the two when the producers were all “hey, this movie was pretty successful at the box office last week” (I have a relatively low opinion of producers). And if the movies have taught us one thing, it’s that you don’t upset children with psychic powers.


The cast is solid, all soap opera types (I spotted a few people from the “Dallas” / “Dynasty” stable). Smith and Harris, who were married in real life at the time, don’t have an ounce of on-screen chemistry, even though Harris is great. The one interesting name attached to this movie is Carlo Rambaldi, who created E.T. He’d clearly burned out on that, because by the time it came to create the closet-monster, he just decided on a mass of painted rubber with sharp teeth and glowing eyes.


Because we sort of know the mystery from the very beginning, we’re just twiddling our thumbs waiting for the denouement (a psychic lazer-fight between Cameron and the thing from the recesses of his psyche). If you’re still paying 100% attention by that point, you’re a better person than I.


There’s one scene where someone Cameron hates is thrown through a window, flies a good 100 feet through the air and crashes through the hood of a car, dead. Now, how are we supposed to read this scene? You’d really be stretching to call it the monster’s fault, but of course this being a studio movie, the kid is perfect and innocent. It just appears that no-one bothered to consider that some of this stuff might be Cameron’s doing. Ah, I don’t know, I feel like I’m giving this entire thing way too much thought.


An interesting name attached to this movie is Carlo Rambaldi, who created E.T. He’d clearly burned out on that, because by the time it came to create the closet-monster, he just decided on a mass of painted rubber with sharp teeth and glowing eyes. Here’s a photo, because I don’t care about spoiling a near 30 year old horror movie that’s barely available and barely competent. The rest of the makeup is fine, I suppose, but it’s all very meh.


Pretty short review, eh? When I can write nearly 2000 words about the glory of Neil Breen’s “I Am Here….Now” but barely scrape 800 with this, it’s not that the robo-zombie-gorilla-space-Jesus movie is that much better, it’s just much more interesting. That was the insane mumblings of one man, this is a committee-created slice of barely passable entertainment that I’m positive not a single person would shed a tear for if its existence was forever deleted from the universe.


Rating: thumbs down


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