Next Door (aka Naboer) DVD Review

Written by Eric “The Hitman” Strauss

DVD released by TLA Releasing

Written and Directed by Pål Sletaune
2005, Region 1 (NTSC), 76 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on October 3rd, 2006

Starring:
Kristoffer Joner as John
Cecilie Mosli as Anne
Julia Schacht as Kim
Anna Bache-Wiig as Ingrid
Michael Nyqvist as Åke

Review:

Things are a little different in Norway. Trust me on this, I went to high school with Nick and Sarah Peters.

TLA Releasing has added another short, surreal, apartment-based film to its “Danger After Dark” line with Next Door, a la its Japanese 2LDK.

In the vein of “who’s who and what’s what” films such as Memento, Identity and The Machinist, Next Door takes a regular guy and thrusts him into a situation that threatens to send his sanity reeling out of control.

John is an everyday Norwegian office drone, a bit repressed and struggling to get over a bad breakup.

One day, the comely neighbor woman, Anne, asks him for a hand moving some furniture, and 70 minutes of screen time later, he doesn’t know if he’s a murderer, a lunatic or the victim of some wild conspiracy.

He does, however, get to have some bang-up sex with his neighbor’s apartment-mate, Kim, whose idea of foreplay is straight out of Fight Club.

And all of this takes place in a maze of a flat ripped from the pages of Bad Housekeeping magazine. A flat with walls so thin, the girls claim to have heard every lurid detail of John’s breakup, but with walls so thick, he’s never heard a peep from their place.

That’s just the first clue for poor John that not all is well in his sad little world.

The second is probably Kim’s nose-breaker of a right cross.

And how exactly is his ex-girlfriend’s latest beau involved in this whole mess?

It’s all a confusing mystery to the protagonist, played with terrific range by Kristoffer Joner, who goes from boring to raging to completely confused with ease and never loses his audience’s empathy. He’s joined by an equally strong supporting cast, though none is asked to show the variety of emotion he is. Julia Schacht makes for a sexy, feral Kim, while Cecilie Mosli is a mysterious Anne. In lesser roles, Anna Bache-Wiig is appropriately bitchy as John’s ex, while Michael Nyqvist (London Voodoo) is appropriately odd as her new man.

Next Door manages to become terrifically strange in a very short amount of time — it clocks in at about an hour and 15 minutes — and really is much more a psychological and creepy film than a traditionally “scary” horror flick. The DVD box doesn’t lie, there’s “icy sexuality and raw violence” to spare.

In fact, Next Door’s violence makes a wonderful case that true killers get up close and personal. The visceral nature of man and woman alike brawling with fists and chokeholds is far more rattling than any weapon could be. That’s a credit to writer/director Pål Sletaune, who has crafted a film that not only shocks, but should keep audience members guessing from the edges of their seats, if not to the very end, pretty darn close.

Of course, like Memento, Identity and The Machinist, if you can figure out what really is real, it’s pretty easy to see how things will shake down the rest of the way.

But, just like in John’s world, it’s the figuring out what’s real that’s the hard part.

Video and Audio:

Next Door deliberately has something of a soft and grainy look, and the anamorphic widescreen image handles it capably. Blacks are solid, and detail is relatively sharp, though the film’s odd, muted color palette doesn’t really allow the DVD video to shine. Blood is the right shade of red — neither bright and cartoony nor dark and lost — and that matters very much because of how it’s used in this psycho-thriller.

The 5.1 soundtrack, the original Norwegian with English subtitles, is very front-oriented, as Next Door is a relatively quiet film. As with most eerie movies, the surrounds lend atmosphere, as well as punching up the few louder scenes.

The English subtitles are generally of excellent quality.

Special Features:

The main extras are three featurettes, led by a “Behind the Scenes” piece. Although it’s only 15 minutes long, it reveals a lot about Sletaune’s use of music on the set, the difficulties of filming in tight places and the challenges of some very physical scenes.

“Meet the People Next Door” is a short interview with Mosli and Schacht about their roles, and “Next Door: Rooms of the Mind” is a quick look at how the girls’ complicated apartment was created.

Whatever you do, don’t watch the featurettes before the film, as spoilers abound, and the slightest clue will probably take all the fun out of watching… at least until you know the truth, and watch again to see all the clues you missed.

There are also trailers for Next Door (which is, strangely, subtitled, but missing its soundtrack) Evilenko, the Danger After Dark set and Feed.

Grades:

Movie: 4 Stars – A short and sweet treat for fans of mind-bending horror thrillers.
Video: 3 starsNext Door isn’t a film to stretch the system, but TLA’s disc makes sure everything looks and sounds exactly as it should.
Audio: 3 stars
Features: 3 stars – Like the film, the supplements aren’t too long, but they sure are interesting.
Overall: 3.5 Stars – The “Danger After Dark” series has uncovering another interesting foreign film.

Conclusion:

Next Door is a Norwegian entry into a subgenre that’s been very popular in Hollywood in recent years, and the European sensibilities — read: subtle differences — will probably only heighten the surrealism for American audiences, and that’s a good thing. Fans of the thoughtful and the creepy should definitely take a look.

Want to comment on this review? Head over to the Horrortalk Review Forum.

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