Monday, July 25, 2011

Anti-Friends: Good Neighbors

Maybe Canadians are not so nice after all. While Quebec will soon vote to stay united with English-speaking Canada, the residents of a Montreal apartment building are turning on each other rather viciously. Though the police are a bit slow on the up-take, it seems a serial killer is stalking women in the Notre-Dame-de-Gl√Ęce (NDG) neighborhood and the perp might just be a fellow tenant in Jacob Tierney’s Good Neighbors (spoilery trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Longtime residents Louise and Spencer consider the recent rash of murders great sport to follow in the newspapers, at least until her waitress co-worker becomes the latest victim. Fortunately, English-Canadian Victor just moved into the building and is instantly smitten with Louise. She has next to no interest in him, but it is convenient to have someone on-call to walk her home at night. Spencer will not be volunteering anytime soon. An accident have left him wheelchair bound. He also happens to be a bitter, mean-spirited jerk.

Unfortunately, Victor, the anti-Ross, is also profoundly flawed. In his delusional mind, he and Louise (the anti-Rachel) are already a couple. Of course, this would make him highly susceptible to manipulation, should she be so inclined. Needless to say, there is a killer in the mix there somewhere.

Neighbors definitely courts trouble by so deliberately calling to mind Rear Window and a host of superior Hitchcockian films. Yet to its credit, Tierney’s film offers some decidedly twisted (but relatively gore-free) new spins on the serial killer genre. Viewers will have no urge to give any of these characters a big warm hug, not even poor out-of-his-depth Victor. Yet, Tierney adeptly maintains the one-shocking-thing-after-another tension while capitalizing on the confining dorm-like environment of his setting. You know that one tenant you never want to meet in the hallway? The whole building is like that.

Scott Speedman is all kinds of creepy as Spencer (the anti-Chandler?), largely carrying the Neighbors on his own. In contrast, Jay Baruchel comes across rather mannered and shticky as trying-too-hard Victor, whereas Emily Hampshire’s Louise is certainly convincingly cold and calculating, but it is hard to see her as a blinding object of infatuation.

Despite telegraphing some punches and an altogether annoying protagonist, Neighbors is a good cut above the serial killer industry standard. Though the poster art is a tad ambiguous, it really should be categorized as suspense rather than horror. Never dull, Neighbors should distract those who enjoy dark thrillers when it opens this Friday (7/29) in New York at the Quad Cinema (though they could safely wait for Netflix).