Magnolia Pictures // 2010 // 99 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // October 2nd, 2011
You never know who might be living next door.
Three Canadian thirtysomethings. A cozy Montreal tenement in the middle of the Canadian winter. A serial killer on the loose. Get ready for a bumpy ride!
Spencer (Scott Speedman, Underworld) and Louise (Emily Hampshire, Boy Meets Girl) are neighbors who have developed a creepy bond over discussing a serial killer loose in their Montreal neighborhood, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. When a new tenant named Victor (Jay Baruchel, How to Train Your Dragon) arrives, the three neighbors are thrown into an unnatural relationship that must be seen to be believed.
The neighbor relationship is likely one of the most bizarre imaginable. You might choose your home and even your neighborhood, but your neighbors? They pretty much come with the whole deal whether you like them or not. We've been lucky so far, having (at the very least) a cordial relationship with our neighbors, and (at the very best) forming friendships and trust that will last for years to come. Forced to live smack dab right next to them, we often hear horror stories of property line wars, unreturned gardening items, unwanted pet deposits, and fence projects gone awry. It's not surprising then that the neighbor relationship has long been a part of pop culture, from the humor of The Honeymooners and The Flintstones to the horror of Hitchcock's Rear Window and its middle-of-the-road homage Disturbia.
Canada is cold and many eastern cities like Montreal seem to get the worst of winter's chill. What better setting than a cold Montreal fall/winter, spent largely in a cramped apartment building, to anchor Good Neighbors? We may think we know our neighbors, but how well do we really know them? Behind closed doors, we largely keep to ourselves, going about our lives and hiding our secrets. The real beauty of this film lies in how a familiar relationship (to which we can all relate) is turned into something far darker than many of us will ever experience. Murder? Yup. Deceit? Yup. Blood and gore? Yup. And be warned, the disturbing necrophiliac nature of the film's murders are seen on-screen, perhaps somewhat in shadow, but there's no doubt as to what we're seeing. Oddly enough, there are also quite a few darkly funny moments in the first part of the film, before it takes a more disturbing turn.
While Good Neighbors delivers its fair share of semi-predictable twists and turns, there is enough new territory explored here to keep your attention. One of the central plot revelations arrives with such a twist that my jaw literally dropped open for a second. No, this is not an entirely original concept, but the Canadian father/son, producer/director team of Kevin and Jacob Tierney have created a unique combination of the familiar elements with skill and finesse. Another strong element is award-winning Canadian cinematographer Guy Dufaux's interesting use of close-ups and transitions between many of the scenes, building suspense and tension.
Anchoring Good Neighbors action and dialogue, Speedman, Hampshire, and Baruchel create flawed but believable characters, making it all the more painful as their relationships rapidly unravel. Take Scott Speedman, for example. Talk about disturbing with a capital "D!" For an actor who went largely unnoticed, delivering fairly boring performances in productions like Felicity and the Underworld films, he absolutely knocks it out of the park here. His acerbic and cynical attitude, combined with his creepy dead-eyed smile sends tangible chills down the spine. Here's hoping he has harnessed something new to carry through to future projects. Baruchel brings his quirky "A" game, creating a character who is both pathetic and lovable. And while I hadn't seen Hampshire in anything before this, I will certainly be watching for her other work. The supporting cast more than delivers as well, translating their reduced screen time into memorable performances.
Good Neigbors delivers a 2.35:1/1080p picture that is crisp as a prairie winter, with impressive fine detail, and natural colors which (for a film that features a lot of winter whites) are neither too light nor too dark. In a dialogue-heavy film such as this, a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix may seem like overkill, but atmospheric elements and effects fill the soundstage, helping to create an immersive experience that supports composer Claude Hazanavicius' quirky score. Speaking of Canadian winter, the extra features are just as bleak, delivering a single deleted scene, a short featurette, and the film's trailer.
Its relationships may be creepy and some of its content graphic and disturbing, but Good Neighbors takes us on a tightly woven path down a very dark, bumpy, and slightly familiar road. If you enjoy quirky characters, skilled composition, and a solid thriller, give this one a spin. You won't be disappointed.
Guilty only of being a fairly well-crafted little Canadian indie flick!
Review content copyright © 2011 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scene
* Official Site