Saturday, July 23, 2022

Fantasia ’22: Next Door

Don't worry about Chan-woo’s rear window. It is the dividing wall separating him from his noisy, disruptive neighbor that concerns him. He does not know Ko-hyun, but he certainly hears her and her boyfriend. It therefore comes as quite a shock when he wakes up in her flat, beside a lifeless body in Yeom Ji-ho’s Next Door, which screened at the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival.

After several failed attempts, Chan-woo is studying for what will probably be his last chance to pass the police academy entrance exam. Unfortunately, he is scuffling so badly, he needs to borrow the ten-dollar registration fee. The poor guy is forced to hit up an old drinking buddy for the meager loan. Of course, he first drags Chan-woo out for a quick round of drinks, which turns into a messy, sloppy night.

The next morning, Chan-woo comes to next to what he assumes to be the corpse of Ko-hyun’s boyfriend. He has no idea how he got there or what happened, but as soon as he leaves, he realizes he must get back in, to clean up the evidence of his presence.

Naturally, everything that can go wrong for Chan-woo is absolutely sure to go wrong. Yeom makes clever use of the spartan, claustrophobic sets (aside from the brief drinking scene, the entire film unfolds in the two apartments or the hall and ledge outside). The film also keeps one darned thing coming after another, at a pretty good clip.

However, Oh Dong-min’s shtickiness as Chan-woo gets to be a bit much. However, Choi Hee-jin is chillingly manipulative and magnetically watchable femme fatale as Ko-hyun, the neighbor—they most certainly come face-to-face, under rather delicate conditions.

Next Door
is clever, but it is not nearly as tight and twisty as other Korean thrillers that have broken out internationally (like The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil, among others). It is entertaining, but it is definitely more micro focused than macro. Recommended as a quick, fun diversion, Next Door had its international premiere at this year’s Fantasia.