Directed By: Kasra Farahani
Starring: James Caan, Logan Miller, Keir Gilchrist
Tag line: "You never know who's watching"
Trivia: The film was screened at the South by Southwest Film Festival under the title The Waiting
Some of the best horror movies of 2016 featured home invasions, but with a twist; both Don’t Breathe and Intruders showed us what happens when the “victims” of a break-in become the aggressors, while the excellent Hush gave us a lead character with a disability (she was deaf) trying to fend off a would-be killer lurking outside her house.
Directed by Kasra Farahani, The Good Neighbor presents an invasion of another kind: an invasion of privacy, where a pair of teenagers attempts to convince an old man that his house is haunted. Tense, fascinating, and ultimately very surprising, The Good Neighbor is an exceptional motion picture.
Armed with surveillance cameras and mechanized gizmos, wannabe filmmaker Ethan (Logan Miller) and his tech-savvy friend Sean (Keir Gilchrist) sneak into the home of Ethan’s elderly neighbor, Harold Grainey (James Cann) and rig it for what they hope will be a grand experiment (in short, they want to persuade Grainey that he’s living in a haunted house). By way of the three monitors set up in Ethan’s bedroom, the pals watch as Grainey reacts to each new “event” they subject him to; flickering lights, cold spots, and a screen door that opens and closes by itself. Initially, Ethan and Sean hoped only to scare Grainey, but as the days stretched into weeks, the old man’s behavior became frighteningly erratic, suggesting to the teens that this “experiment” may reveal more about their neighbor that even they anticipated.
Thanks to his work in movies like The Godfather and Rollerball, James Caan established himself as one of the most reliable actors of the 1970s, and with The Good Neighbor he shows that, all these years later, he hasn’t lost a step. Early on, Ethan, having just told a group of his friends about the “experiment”, describes Mr. Grainey as a “creepy psycho hermit” who, rumor has it, may have had a hand in his wife’s death. Sure enough, in his first few scenes, Grainey manages to insult a police officer and threatens to kill a neighbor’s dog for pissing on his lawn (though, to be honest, neither of these is as troubling as what he does to the screen door that won’t stay closed). But, as we’ll eventually learn, there’s more to Grainey than meets the eye, and Caan does a masterful job bringing what proves to be a complex character so convincingly to life.
In addition, The Good Neighbor intersperses, within the main narrative, scenes from both the past (flashbacks of Grainey and his wife, played by Laura Innes, that offer glimpses into the old man’s personal life) and the future (a court case, dealing with the events that occurred during the teens’ so-called “experiment”, hints that the entire ordeal ended in tragedy), yet still manages to sustain its central mystery throughout, never revealing until the very end what happened, or why. With intriguing sequences from three different timelines and a strong performance by James Caan, The Good Neighbor is a thriller of the highest order, and one of the finest horror films of the year.