Thursday, October 20, 2016

#2,227. The Neighbor (2016)

Directed By: Marcus Dunstan

Starring: Josh Stewart, Luke Edwards, Alex Essoe

Tag line: "We all have our secrets"

Trivia: In Germany this film had the added title The Horror is Waiting Next Door

John (Josh Stewart), the main protagonist of writer / director Marcus Dunstan’s 2016 movie The Neighbor, is a decent guy who’s trying to save up so that he and his girlfriend Rosie (Alex Essoe) can retire to a beach in Mexico. But in order to do that, John has to work for his sleaze ball of an Uncle (Skipp Sudduth), whose “profession” is drug trafficking. John and Rosie are but two of several characters in this hard-hitting film that blur the line between hero and villain, and before the movie is over, all of them will do some terrible things to ensure their own survival.

The job is simple: cars roll up to John’s secluded house and pull into a makeshift garage, where he and Rosie grab a bag of money from the trunk and replace it with a “package”. After that, they change the vehicle’s license plate and send the drivers on their way. As it stands, the two lovebirds are days away from having enough cash to make a break for it, and while John knows that his uncle won’t be too happy to see him go, he plans to drop off every cent he owes the old bastard before they skip town.

Then John meets Troy (Bill Engvall), his next-door neighbor, who wonders why John was poking around his property earlier that day (while driving back from his Uncle’s, John noticed Troy’s trash can in the middle of the street and, like a good neighbor, returned it). Based on their short exchange, it’s obvious that, like John and Rosie, Troy has something to hide, and while John would just as soon forget it, a curious Rosie can’t help but peer out the window with her trusty telescope, trying to figure out what Troy and his grown sons Cooper (Luke Edwards) and Harley (Ronnie Gene Blevins) are up to. But when she sees something she shouldn’t have, Rosie finds herself in a world of trouble. By the time John returns home (he made one last trip to his Uncle’s), she's disappeared without a trace, and when he goes looking for her, he uncovers more than he ever thought possible.

Their questionable profession aside, our sympathies lie with John and Rosie throughout The Neighbor, and as things spiral out of control we’re pulling for them the entire time. But, interestingly enough, director Dunstan doesn’t completely demonize Troy or his sons, and despite the horrors that John finds when he first sneaks into their basement, we eventually realize Troy et al are more like John and Rosie than we initially thought. In addition, when the final showdown is underway, each and every character in The Neighbor will do whatever is necessary to make it out alive. For some of them, the realization of what they’re capable of will shake them to their very soul. Their life will go on, but it will never be the same for them again.

An intense, sometimes shockingly violent motion picture with solid performances all around (especially Alex Essoe, who was also impressive in 2014’s Starry Eyes), The Neighbor is a jarring horror film in which the real terror comes just as much from within as it does the outside world.

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