Good Neighbors

Director: Jacob Tierney

Notable Cast: Jay Baruchel, Scott Speedman, Emily Hampshire

Rating: R

Review:  Ah yes, here’s some input from our brothers to the North in the psychological thriller genre.  Coming out of Canada, Good Neighbors (based on the novel donning the same name) plays like a cat and mouse game of deception in a small apartment complex where the tenants all appear to be hiding their own secrets.  The tone of the film bounces about from dark comedy to brainy thriller, but this is a simple character piece at heart.  Except, we figure out the characters much faster than they are revealed.  The film felt oddly paced, giving up some information quicker than expected while withholding other tidbits longer than needed. As far as the psychological aspect, it toys with your mind by pleasantly deviating off the expected course of action.  But, even with some solid story work, the film just felt hollow and empty as a final product.  The performances were not up to par with story, having some truly strange interactions between characters.  In a film where the voices felt dubbed despite speaking the correct language, Good Neighbors struggles to make us fully fear a side of people we may not always see.

When schoolteacher Victor (Baruchel) moves into an apartment complex in Montreal, he tries to connect with the tenants around him.  In his new home, he grows close to a wheelchair bound man named Spencer (Speedman) and a waitress named Louise (Hampshire).  The group share time with each other, but it appears that both men are fighting for Louise’s affections.  Too bad the only hearts Louise truly cares about at the time are her two cats, which she has a very intimate relationship with.  While all this is going on, a serial killer/rapist is on the loose in their small Montreal neighborhood, keeping everyone on edge.  Not knowing who anyone can trust, the three tenants begin to grow suspicious of each other, and start to create theories in their head as they notice each other’s quirks.  But the question remains, could any of these seemingly normal people be brutal enough to rape and kill women for fun?  Or are their fears just figments of their imagination…

I guess getting drunk with a serial killer is the easiest way to get him to accidentally spill the beans….note to self?

I’ve been reading articles saying that Baruchel has been dying to get into the horror genre, but this isn’t his best start.  Of course he’s called upon here to play the same awkwardly nerdy character he gets pinned as in all his other roles.  Lump him in with Cera because this guy is going to be playing the same characters over and over again for a very long time.  But I feel as if the script pushed Baruchel’s awkward boundaries a little too far and created this character in Victor that was a tiny bit annoying to watch.  At the same time though, Baruchel did a much better job with his character than both Hampshire and Speedman did with theirs.  There was something about their delivery and conversations that made it seem as if they were spewing lines like robots, having strangely paced interactions.  I would go as far as to say they didn’t have a human feeling to their personalities, as they felt too drawn up and planned out.  There was no flow or rhythm to their conversations, like they would talk without pauses.  Usually you would have to think after someone poses a question or suggests something to you.  It felt too much as if the two already knew exactly what they had to say, without putting an ounce of thought into it.  Baruchel was the only one that brought a little life to his character, even if it was only because of his awkward nature.

Now, I will say I liked the direction that Good Neighbors takes.  Obviously, with a serial killer on the lose you would believe that to be the main focus of the film.  But, the story deviates from that plot at times and creates its own tensions, feeling like a bonus for your enjoyment.  Yes, obviously finding the serial killer is in fact a main part of the film, but how the film uses that to create its own horrors was a surprisingly enjoyable endeavor.  It gave our characters more to do and aided in building the psychological aspect of the film, while also giving us a little action to hold us over at the same time.  Now, I won’t say it was a complete success because the motives for these actions just seem completely preposterous and farfetched, but I enjoy a film that can be deceiving and take you somewhere you wouldn’t have expected to go in the first place.

As far as talented psychological horror/thriller films, I can’t really go as far as saying this was a must see.  It’s an interesting story with some interesting ideas, but I have to say the direction was a little lacking.  While seeming passable I’m sure as the actors were acting, the final products of some of our characters seemed like they were just going through the motions.  They embody these obviously created characters that don’t seem as if they could fit into society if taken out of the movie.  This is a huge flaw because if you want an audience to connect to your film, the characters have to be relatable.  The actors have to bring some kind of emotion to their roles, instead of merely just acting.  Can’t blame Baruchel though, because all he had to do was re-create any other character he’s pretty much ever played.  But, I won’t say Good Neighbors was a complete waste of time because it does play decently to the whole fear of not knowing truly even the closest people to you.  This is a mediocre entry into a genre where physical scares and thrills aren’t the focus, and instead your mind is the focus of manipulation.  I give Good Neighbors the least amount of endorsement I can, but still put it in the positive section.

Final Rating: 6.5 awkward walks home out of 10

“So here I am last night, raping and murdering some girl…err….I mean….”



About Matt Donato

I love all things film. I'll watch any genre, any actor, at any time. This whole film critic thing is a passionate hobby for now which I'm balancing with working in the business world, but hey, someday, who knows?
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