Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Film Review: The Good Neighbor (2016)

The Good Neighbor (Review)
United States/2016
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...the most surprising film of the year."

A pair of high school students create the illusion of a haunting in a neighbor's house while recording his reactions for a video...

The Good Neighbor is an interesting thriller. The film follows high school students Ethan (Logan Miller) and Sean (Keir Gilchrist). For a school project (I think?), the pair decide to plant hidden cameras in a neighbor's home to record his reactions to a fake poltergeist, which they have also created. The elderly neighbor, Grainey (James Caan), is targeted because he's supposedly rude and violent to everyone – he's toxic. So, they go on with their plan, remotely slamming doors and messing with the lights. All is according to plan until Grainey starts spending a suspicious amount of time in the basement... I won't spoilt anything else, but it is all very interesting. The ending was a little underwhelming, but I think it did try to deliver a message.

I liked The Good Neighbor. It's not the perfect film, but it was surprisingly entertaining—probably the most surprising film of the year. Just to get this out of the way, there are a few things I didn't like about the film. For starters, the characters are pretty generic. They are some interesting motivations here, but they are ultimately generic high school douchebags. So, you can expect them to do some conveniently stupid stuff here and there. You can also expect yourself to have trouble sympathizing with them. Speaking of reasons, this plot doesn't bother to build a strong one. Maybe I wasn't paying attention, but I have no idea if this was for a class, YouTube fame, or just a prank; it never sticks to one solid reason for this entire project. This sticks out, especially towards the end. Speaking of the end, there were two very obvious paths this film could have taken—and it takes one of them.

However, despite my complains, I was thoroughly entertained. Like I said, the characters grow on you over time. Yes, they are annoying, but they are likable at times. The plot, although missing some key elements, is also compelling. It is a psychological thriller, in a sense, and it is effective. It asks a few important questions, so it can keep you thinking when it's over—if you're willing. Setting the themes aside, The Good Neighbor is also an entertaining popcorn flick. By that, I mean: it's a suspenseful thriller you really don't have to think about if you don't want to. The tension is excellent, keeping you at the edge-of-your-seat during some key moments. It hardly wastes any time, either, staying focused from beginning to end.

The acting was also good. Logan Miller performs well as the douchebag Ethan. Keir Gilchrist is also good, although he's basically replaying his role from It Follows. James Caan delivered a strong, multi-layered performance. The film is sort of a found-footage/traditionally-shot hybrid. Fortunately, it doesn't suffer from the same found-footage flaws – there is no shaky cam and the camera malfunctions are kept at a minimum. (The latter is really only used as a plot contrivance.) The film was written by Mark Bianculli and Jeff Richard, and directed by Kasra Farahani. The plot could have used some fine-tuning, but I thought its themes were compelling; it's a sort of unique concept, at least in terms of movies. Farahani crafts some very suspenseful scenes here. He has a talent for thrill-making.

Overall, The Good Neighbor is a very good movie. I didn't read any reviews or watch any videos prior to viewing this film, so I was pleasently surprised. If you're looking for a thriller a la Disturbia, I think you'll enjoy this one. It's not perfect, but it is a great time-killer.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

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