VOD film review: The Neighbour
Ivan Radford | On 17, Sep 2016
Director: Marcus Dunstan
Cast: Josh Stewart, Alex Essoe, Bill Engvall
Watch The Neighbour online in the UK: Arrow UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Totoro. Vampires. Hitchcock. Cinema loves a good neighbour, because let’s face it, neighbours never, ever really become good friends. They turn out to be the undead, the people who possibly made their wife go dead, or a forest spirit with a freaky, four-legged bus. So when a new horror film rocks up called The Neighbour, you know exactly what to expect.
The fact that the film is directed by Marcus Dunstan only reinforces those expectations. The director is a veteran of the Saw franchise, well experienced in delivering gory shocks with an emphasis on the gore. But The Neighbour has some gripping surprises hiding behind its front door, just waiting to jump out the letterbox at you.
The film follows John (Stewart) and Rosie (Essoe), a couple who make a living on their rundown Mississippi ranch by working for his drug-dealing uncle. The plan? Raise enough money to escape to somewhere with a beach. The problem? One day, Rosie disappears. At which point, John breaks into the house next to his, to find out if the suspicious Troy (Engvall) has anything to do with it – and things get nasty.
It sounds like your typical torture porn affair, but things are far from that straightforward. Dunstan twists and turns his script like he plays with our POV – his camera rockets around the set as if it’s on rails, capturing all manner of bloody details and deaths, and sometimes even more than that. A gruelling scene involving graves is a reminder of just how good he is at drawing tension from an unabashedly graphic scenario.
But the characters, more than the 18 certificate, are what drive up the tension. The charismatic Stewart, who played a similar role in Dunstan’s The Collector, is likeable, but also morally far from a straight-laced hero. Essoe, meanwhile, gives us a tough sidekick willing to get her hands dirty. Together, they occupy a greyer area than the genre is sometimes used to, a tone that Engvall adds to with his quiet, intimidating presence. Even the classic theme of voyeurism is more than a gimmick; we swiftly discover that telescopes have been pointing both ways across the back fence, giving all the peeping Toms a feel of snooping menace and threatening desperation.
Saw composer Charlie Clouser brings a constant note of dread to the affair, adding to the trashy grindhouse vibe. Racing along in under 90 minutes, the result is an efficient, visceral, enjoyably scuzzy thriller that proves anyone can be a bad neighbour, if they’re willing to cross a boundary.
The Neighbour is now available on Arrow UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription.