×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The Good Neighbor’

Two teens use surveillance technology to torment an elderly neighbor in this intriguing but under-realized drama.

With:
James Caan, Logan Miller, Keir Gilchrist, Laura Innes, Edwin Hodge, Bailey Noble, Lili Reinhart, Anne Dudek, Mindy Sterling, Tamlyn Tomita, William C. Mitchell.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2262315/

Two suburban teenagers use surveillance equipment to torment a disliked elderly neighbor in the suspense drama “The Good Neighbor” (originally titled “The Waiting”). This debut feature for director Kasra Farahani and scenarists Mark Bianculli and Jeff Richard holds interest, though it’s ultimately more depressing than tense or shocking. The lack of real horror content (though the protags try to convince James Caan’s victim that he’s being “haunted”) or box office names makes it a likelier prospect for home-format sales than big-screen exposure.

High schoolers Sean (Keir Gilchrist) and Ethan (Logan Miller) have been besties since Sean recently moved to town, not least because both hail from fatherless broken homes (character basics that could have been made clearer a lot sooner). They spend most of their extracurricular time in Ethan’s bedroom, where they’ve embarked on a project whose pricey required equipment was obliviously bankrolled by Sean’s absentee dad. But its gist is all the brainchild of budding little sociopath Ethan.

Their target is Harold Grainey (Caan), whom Ethan describes as this “creepy psycho hermit.” After planting spy-cams and other devices around his house across the street during his weekly grocery run, they plan to subject him to a gradually escalating series of disturbances meant to suggest a supernatural presence — the point, such as it is, being to observe what happens as they drive him mad. The recorded/edited/posted end product will then presumably launch Ethan as a “great filmmaker,” at least in terms of hitting a million or so YouTube views. Though Sean has qualms about the cruelty and legality of this endeavor, it oddly never occurs to either boy that even (or especially) in the case of a successful result, they might be reviled rather than applauded.

Watching the action unfold on the bank of computer monitors at Ethan’s, they begin by triggering loud sleep-disrupting noises and making a screen door repeatedly, inexplicably slam. They’re puzzled, however, by Harold’s lack of fear or surprise in response to such phenomena. Indeed, he seems grimly resigned to everything, beyond the occasional flash of anger. (And he expresses more of that toward a passing neighbor’s peeing dog than he does over these haunts.) More intriguing are the old gent’s periodic disappearances for long hours into a locked basement where they placed no cameras. What’s he got down there? A captive? A dead body? The wife that Ethan says his drunken brutality drove away?

The truth isn’t revealed until the end, via a somewhat clumsy pileup of flashbacks featuring Laura Innes as that wife. But we’ve long since guessed that it’s going to be more sad than alarming, and that Ethan rather than Harold is going to emerge the villain of the piece. (Recurrent flash-forwards to a criminal trial also somewhat spoil the impact of what we learn early will be a tragic outcome.)

The script has some familiar, vaguely disapproving things to say about latchkey kids (both the teen leads are under-supervised by workaholic or absent parents), depersonalizing technology, and the pursuit of fatuous social-media fame. But there’s not much real suspense stirred here by a premise that straddles recent found-footage thrillers and “Rear Window.” What happens in Harold’s house consistently takes a backseat to the push-pull between the manipulative Ethan and the wary Sean, which is interesting enough but more irksome than scary.

Though the film seldom ventures beyond the two homes’ interiors, it doesn’t suffer from staginess or claustrophobia. On the other hand, it wouldn’t have hurt to open things up by offering a little more insight into the protagonists’ family, friends and community. Performances are solid enough, even if veteran Caan is somewhat hemmed in playing an emotionally bottled-up character who gets little dialogue and even less to “do.” (Harold spends most of his time sipping whisky in a living-room recliner.)

Tech and design contributions are pro if a bit uninspired.

Film Review: 'The Good Neighbor'

Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Narrative Spotlight), March 15, 2016. Running time: 97 MIN. (Original title: “The Waiting”)

Production: A Star Thrower Entertainment, Ball & Chain Prods. and Anonymous Content production. Produced by Rosalie Swedlin, Elana Barry, Giri Tharan, Trevor White, Tim White, Allan Mandelbaum. Executive producers, Jeff Currier, Alfred Thomas Gundry IV. Co-producers, Rick Rickertsen, Mary Solomon.

Crew: Directed by Kasra Farahani. Screenplay, Mark Bianculli, Jeff Richard. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Alexander Alexandrov; editor, Kathy Gatto; music, Andrew Hewitt; music supervisor, Emilie Bogrand; production designer, Margaret Box; costume designer, Skye Stewart-Short; sound, Stephen Halbert; supervising sound editor, Branden Spencer; re-recording mixer, Patrick Giraudi; assistant director, Nicholas P. Ybarra; casting, Nancy Nayor, Andy Henry.

With: James Caan, Logan Miller, Keir Gilchrist, Laura Innes, Edwin Hodge, Bailey Noble, Lili Reinhart, Anne Dudek, Mindy Sterling, Tamlyn Tomita, William C. Mitchell.

More Film

  • Come as You Are review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Come as You Are'

    The rare remake that’s actually a slight improvement on its predecessor, Richard Wong’s “Come as You Are” translates Geoffrey Enthoven’s 2011 Belgian “Hasta la Vista” to middle America. Other changes are less substantial, but this seriocomedy has a less formulaic feel than the original while remaining a crowd-pleasing buddy pic-caper with a soft-pedaled minority empowerment [...]

  • Strange Negotiations review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Strange Negotiations'

    In a era when some mainstream entertainers have transitioned to targeting faith-based audiences, David Bazan is moving in the other direction. The gifted songwriter’s ersatz band Pedro the Lion was perhaps the most successful Christian indie rock act of its time, and the first to significantly cross over to secular fans. Then he ditched that persona (and [...]

  • Bluebird review

    SXSW Film Review: ‘Bluebird’

    As affectionate as a love letter but as substantial as an infomercial, Brian Loschiavo’s “Bluebird” may be of most interest to casual and/or newly converted country music fans who have occasionally wondered about the songwriters behind the songs. There’s a better than even-money chance that anyone who’s a loyal and longtime aficionado of the musical [...]

  • ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad

    ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending for the Fourth Week in a Row

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Paramount Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the fourth week in row with “Wonder Park.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.18 million through Sunday for 1,718 national [...]

  • Michael B. Jordan Jordan Vogt-Roberts

    Film News Roundup: Michael B. Jordan, Jordan Vogt-Roberts Team for Monster Movie

    In today’s film news roundup, Michael B. Jordan is producing a creature feature, billiards champ Cisero Murphy is getting a movie, the sixth Terminator movie gets a title, and Graham King receives an honor. PROJECT UNVEILED New Regency and Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society are partnering on an untitled monster movie from “Kong: Skull Island” [...]

  • Nicolas Cage

    Nicolas Cage to Star in Martial Arts Actioner 'Jiu Jitsu'

    Nicolas Cage will star in the martial arts actioner “Jiu Jitsu,” based on the comic book of the same name. The cast will also include Alain Moussi, who stars in the “Kickboxer” franchise. Dimitri Logothetis is producing with Martin Barab and directing from a script he wrote with Jim McGrath. Highland Film Group is handling [...]

  • Chinese success of Thai film "Bad

    Chinese, Thai Shingles Pact for Co-Production Fund at FilMart

    A deal to establish a 100 million yuan ($14.9 million) co-production fund between China and Thailand was struck at FilMart on Tuesday to help launch TV and film projects that will appeal to Chinese and Southeast Asian audience. The deal that was struck by China’s Poly Film Investment Co., TW Capital from Thailand and Thai [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content