The Neighbour Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Arrow Films
Written and Directed by Marcus Dunstan
2016, 187 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 31st October 2016
Josh Stewart as John
Alex Essoe as Rosie
Luke Edwards as Cooper
Bill Engvall as Troy
The creepy neighbour (suck it, American spelling) movie is a grand tradition that stretches back all of the way to Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window, itself inspiring no small number of rip-offs, homages and parodies, from the likes of The ‘Burbs to Fright Night and its subsequent remake. The Collector, meanwhile, is a mean and gruesome home invasion movie in which a serial killer comes to stay for the night, while a petty criminal hides in the shadows. The two collide violently in The Neighbour, in which a petty criminal (and his wife) spy on their creepy neighbour before breaking in and going on to hide in his shadows.
If there are a lot of surface similarities to 2009’s The Collector, one shouldn’t be too surprised, this being the latest movie from that film’s director, Marcus Dunstan. Either blind to his own repetition or wilfully inviting the comparisons, Dunstan goes on to once again cast Josh Stewart as the film’s lead – like The Collector/Collection’s Arkin O’ Brien, a crook with a heart of gold. Working for a local mobster, John and his wife Rosie are in the fake license plates game, running from their garage a version of the chop-shops most frequently witnessed in the Grand Theft Auto games. After innocently stumbling on his land, John and Rosie receive a visit from genial but sinister Troy, who claims to be wise to the pair’s game. The next day, Rosie disappears. Breaking onto Troy’s property in search of his wife, John finds a lot more than the simple kidnapping he had anticipated…
More action thriller than horror movie proper, The Neighbour discards most of the torture and violence that characterised The Collector, marrying it to more superior action and story than that film’s disappointing sequel. Like this year’s Green Room, it’s fast, slick and sleek, using its characters’ moral ambiguities to create texture and sympathy. Like Arkin before him, John may be a criminal, but he’s easy to root for – and Josh Stewart’s hangdog, soulful face is a good shortcut to audience heartstrings. Which is lucky, as the marriage between him and Rosie is severely underwritten, the latter barely getting a look-in before being kidnapped and serving as plot propellant.
Thankfully, Dunstan knows how to write and direct the hell out of a tense reverse-home invasion movie like this one, and The Neighbour keeps both John and the audience on their toes throughout. It’s a relatively simple story well told, livening up its more clichéd sequences with snappily-paced and directed action beats, a cool soundtrack and character deaths you might not always see coming. Even Alex Essoe’s Rosie eventually gets her time to shine, breaking free of her damsel in distress constraints to kick a little ass and subvert the roles of who’s saving who (see also, Jaqueline Fleming as the great but underused Officer Burns).
The Neighbour is never scary but always effective, and effortlessly maintains audience interest through to the end. It’s only the similarities to the director’s previous works that hurt the film a little, as well as its release coming so unfortunately close to the more commanding crowd-pleaser Don’t Breathe. Taken on its own very considerable merits, however, this neighbour is one of the good ones.