Thursday, January 12, 2017

#2,286. The Good Neighbor (2016)

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 centered on home invasions, but with a twist. Both Don’t Breathe and Intruders show what happens when the “victim” of a break-in becomes the aggressor, while the excellent Hush gives us a lead character with a disability (she's deaf) trying to fend off a would-be killer lurking outside her house.

Directed by Kasra Farahani, The Good Neighbor features an invasion of another kind: an invasion of privacy, during which a pair of teenagers try to convince an old man that his house is haunted. Tense, fascinating, and ultimately very surprising, The Good Neighbor kinda blew me away.

With surveillance cameras and mechanized gizmos in tow, 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 is living in a haunted house. Using 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. Thier initial intention was to simply scare Grainey, but as the days stretch into weeks, the old man’s behavior becomes frighteningly erratic, suggesting this “experiment” may reveal more about their neighbor that even they anticipated.

In movies like The Godfather and Rollerball, James Caan established himself as one of the most reliable actors of the 1970s. 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. At first glance, Ethan's description of Grainey seems to fit. Right at the outset, the old man insults a police officer and threatens to kill a neighbor’s dog for pissing on his lawn. Yet neither of these are as troubling as what he eventually does to the screen door that won’t stay closed. Yet, as we’ll eventually learn, there’s more to Grainey than meets the eye, and Caan does a masterful job bringing the character's complexities to the surface.

Throughout its runtime, The Good Neighbor blends the present with 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’ “experiment”, suggesting it ended badly). Yet, even with glimpses into the future, the film manages to sustain its central mystery, keeping us guessing right up to the very end.

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.

1 comment:

Jeff Hammer said...

I did enjoy the movie but I think it should have backloaded the trial aspect... Or lost it entirely. I think it took away from the horror potential presented.