31 Days of Halloween — Day 21: The Neighbor (2016) — by Dr. Shock

The Neighbor 2016

Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

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 most 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, brought it to the top of his driveway for him). 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, and John (who made one last trip to his Uncle’s) returns home to discover that his girlfriend has disappeared without a trace. When he goes looking for her, he’ll uncover 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, and even though their life will go on, 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 world outside.

— Dr. Shock

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4 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 21: The Neighbor (2016) — by Dr. Shock

  1. Doc, this is a very timely review for me as I was just trying to figure out if I wanted to watch this or They Look Like People (among others) yesterday. Ultimately, I went with TLLP, but it sounds like you enjoyed The Neighbor. I’ll add it back to my queue and check it out in the next few days.

  2. Day 21: The Hallow (2015)

    Rating: 7/10 (rental)

    — — — — — Contains spoilers — — — — —

    What I liked:
    – The atmosphere and setting are dark and delicious.
    – The creature design and how it spreads through this mysterious primordial black sludge is good.

    What I didn’t like:
    – Character development was lacking.
    – Was good but not particularly great.


    Day 21 – Funny Games (2007)

    A few years ago, I watched the original 1997 Austrian film, Funny Games, and loved it. It was so dark, surprising, and far more creative than I would have expected. You look at the film and you see a child having his head covered for a large portion of the film, that same kid who ended up being shot and killed later, there’s breaking of the fourth wall, there’s a scene with remote control to rewind so one of the antagonists can be unkilled, and ultimately all three members of the family dies to seemingly teach their killers absolutely nothing. Austria is not known for their horror movies. Besides 2014’s Goodnight Mommy, 1997’s Funny Games is about it. Yet, it’s still one of the better horror movies of the late 90’s.

    Without a doubt, the single biggest flaw of this 2007 remake is that it’s a shot for shot remake. There is zero effort in making this remake feel different from it’s original. Since you’re literally seeing the same events and things being said, it was impossible for me to be emotionally invested in any of this. The shocking moments of the original no longer seem like a big deal. I wouldn’t even compare this to if you had simply re-watched the original. At least if you re-watch the original, you may know what’s going to happen, but you still have to sit back in awe of the craziness. That craziness isn’t felt by me in the remake though. Without the emotional ties to the film, the extended period of time when Paul and Peter are seemingly gone for good, was insufferably long. I was bored out of my mind since the death of young Georgie no longer stood out as a shocking moment. So instead, we just had to endure very long never cut scenes when it took forever for someone to just stand up or finish crying. I was begging for Paul and Peter to return since that at least meant something would happen again.

    Without that emotional investment, any of the strange actions that didn’t seem to make sense in the original, stands out even more now since you can’t simply fall back on the idea that the viewer is in a state of shock and you can show them anything. This is most clear at the family’s utter failure at trying to save their own lives. The family gave in so quickly and without much of a fight. I understand that the husband’s leg was injured and late in the film, a gun is brought into the picture, but why would you go along with so much? There’s a point fairly early on where Ann is having to talk to a few neighbors with either Paul or Peter by her side. Why not try to get their help whether while they’re there or just as they’re paddling away on the lake? Sure, you’re probably going to get hit, but at least you’re potentially saving your family. I really wanted to see Ann get in there and fight for her and her family’s life. Instead, she’s fairly submissive and her husband isn’t much better. Her son’s attempt at escape was laughable. I realize he’s a child, but his means of quick hiding while upstairs in the neighbor’s house was awful. If nothing else, find someplace to properly hide in that house. Instead, he fails just as badly as his parents, perhaps moreso since he actually managed to escape, had a good head start, and had the advantage of being on an entirely different piece of property. The most frustrating of all though took place after little Georgie’s death. Paul and Peter are seemingly gone for good and George and Ann waste so much time when they should be going for help. I can understand trying the cell phone, but once it failed the first time, it was time to do something else instead of constantly trying to dry the phone. Despite originally stating that it was the plan, the couple didn’t even manage to find a place for George to hide since his leg made moving around difficult. Ann’s actions while on the road were terrible as well. Once you decided not call for help with the first vehicle that passed by, it would have made sense to do that with the rest of the vehicles. Finally, there’s the humiliating scene where Ann is forced to strip. I realize it’s difficult regardless of who you are, but when you’re played by Naomi freakin’ Watts, it doesn’t have the same impact as it would with an actress that has more of a typical “Mom” look.

    Despite being a shot for shot remake, you would think that it would be different enough due to the country change. Yet, that’s not the case. I assume the film is set in the US. It’s an American film and they even included some Nascar on TV to further emphasize the point that this is in America. It’s a failure though. If you have to do a shot for shot remake, it needs to at least look different. The original had actors from Austria and Germany. The remake is made up of American actors except for Tim Roth and Naomi Watts (English). All four countries represented by the actors in these two films look too similar. It’d be one thing if the original Funny Games was an Asian film. At least then the actors would have a distinct different look wise. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a part of the 1%, but I can’t relate to having an expensive lake house in a gated community. I’m watching the film and with the exception of showing some Nascar, it never felt as if it was taking place in America. Paul and Peter have these slight accents, Tim Roth’s character certainly does, and the whole rich lifestyle leaves the family to be living a very non-typical American life. If you’re not going to have it feel like America, why bother seemingly setting it in America?

    I’m a fan of the initial premise of the original film. Had we saw a proper remake where they took the basic story and re-told it in a different manner, it could have been fantastic. Lets dump the rich lifestyle and show a family from the middle class. America is known for it’s stereotype for loving guns. Lets see what happens when Peter and Paul has to cope with the family going after their guns. I’ve never been a person who insists on having a mixed cast filled with both sexes and various races, but I would have been all for having some minorities in the film. Above all else, I wanted to see something different. I would imagine that the majority of the people that watched this remake, had previously seen the original. Anyone who had seen the original knows what happens and when it happens. Flip the script and change or switch things around. Hell, even if all you’re doing is changing the means of death for the characters, it would have been fine.

    Ultimately, I believe the best chances of someone enjoying this film is if they had never saw the original. If that’s the case, the viewer is going to see a movie that is seemingly quite clever, filled with surprises, and a nonstop series of humiliating actions done to a family. However, if you haven’t seen the original, I’d suggest simply watching the first one instead. It feels far more realistic for it being set in Austria, a country that perhaps Americans aren’t that familiar with beyond Austria’s role in World War 2 and it being the home country for Arnold Schwarzenegger. So anything that might be considered unrealistic (The absolute utter failure of this family fighting back or their actions after Peter and Paul leave for awhile), can be explained away by “Eh, maybe that’s normal for Austrians?” I hated this movie though. To me, the 2007 version Funny Games has absolute zero value. Any good qualities it may have, are solely because it borrowed everything from the superior original movie.

    Rating: 2.5/10

  4. Day 21: Psycho 2 (1983)
    Rating: 7.5/10

    Anthony Perkins is great, reprising his role as Norman Bates. There is a mystery (slasher-style) that plays out in this film, and I thought that was done pretty well. Some of the film felt contrived but I don’t want to get into spoilers. The film is long at 113 minutes but I was intrigued the whole time. I liked the gore in this film too.

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