Movies and Film

Not All As It Seems – The Good Neighbor (2016)

Humans are curious creatures, always wanting to know what their friends or co-workers or even strangers are up to. That curiosity can account for the rise in popularity of reality television, the need to gossip or any sort of situation that would essentially instill that desire to know. The Good Neighbor begins with a couple of teenagers who want to attempt a social experiment by rigging an old man’s house to make it seem as if it is haunted. Long after the experiment has begun, it transforms from a perverse kind of fun into an almost morbid voyeurism and will not let up until it is far too late to turn back.

What is really quite good about this picture is that director Kasra Farahani and writers Mark Bianculli and Jeff Richard disguise it almost as a horror film for a little bit and while there is a wee bit of horror present, they come to it in an unexpected way, the movie unwinding into something completely different from where it began. There is a monster in the film and it is not who the viewer is led to believe it is and with that reveal, it changes everything, painting everything in a different context. James Caan is brilliant with a very subdued performance and given the fact that he has very little dialogue throughout, most of that is expressed through body language. Starring opposite Logan Miller and Keir Gilchrist who are the two students tormenting him through their haunted house experiment, he easily outshines them, though that is somewhat expected given the decades of experience he holds over the two combined.

The subject matter is not exactly new, though it might be framed in a different way. Alfred Hitchcock did it with Rear Window, Mark Romanek with One-Hour Photo from 2002 and even to a lesser extent, Wait Until Dark which starred Aubrey Hepburn. All take that human need to know what everyone else is up to in different directions, but all have that common thread between them. Be it voyeurism or simple curiosity, most people cannot help themselves, always wanting to know what others are doing and it has provided filmdom with material for decades. Meta is a good word to describe it all when one thinks about it, yet in the end, it all turns out to be entertaining if made right, though it begs the question if society at large minded their own business a little more, would it be better off because of it?

As it is, The Good Neighbour is a thriller that worked better than it did as a horror, not really featuring many of those qualities that would distinguish it as one and it delivered more than one might have assumed it would have. With strong performances and a good script, the film is definitely worth a watch.

3.5 out of 5

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