The Good Neighbor: Creepy Caan Performance Shines in Muddled Thriller
James CaanKeir Gilchrist...
In 1 Cinema
Kasra Farahani’s The Good Neighbor has all the right ingredients to make for interesting and gripping viewing, but despite a slightly more innovative take on the found-footage format, the script fails to hold on to its promise of mystery and suspense and asks for quite a lot of suspension of disbelief in order to get fully sucked into its world.
The story follows two bored high-school friends, Ethan (Miller) and Sean (Gilchrist), as they embark on an unusual experiment that involves convincing their grumpy and seemingly lonely elderly neighbour, Harold Grainey (Caan), that his house is haunted. Using surveillance equipment to spy on him, the duo sets out to subject Harold to a series of eerie disturbances – slamming doors, creaking floors and flickering lights – with the recordings of his reaction to be uploaded on Youtube where Ethan hopes to launch his career as a filmmaker by accumulating at least one million hits.
However, the pair are surprised to see Harold unfazed by the whole thing, with the elderly man embodying a seemingly passive demeanour throughout the ordeal and a particularly weird fixation with his basement where, as it happens, there are no cameras placed. Intrigued by his behaviour, the pair’s six-week long prank soon enters the danger zone when the boys decide that it’s time they find out what is hiding behind that basement door.
The introduction of the story and its central characters is handled well and the movie manages to build a decent amount of intrigue and suspense early on; despite the familiarity of the entire concept, it manages to draw you in. However, it also loses focus soon after the pranks begin, with first-time feature director, Farahani, exploring several unimportant side-stories and subplots which never really feel justified as part of the whole set-up.
Using a series of flashbacks build a back-story to Harold’s life with his long-unseen wife and a continuous cycle of flash-forwards to a courtroom trial which in itself suggests a regretful ending of the entire experiment, the movie struggles with its somewhat erratic pacing.
What carries much of the burden of the film is Caan, who is superb as the inhibited old man whose murky past is the main driving force of the plot. Suspenseful at times but awfully unfocused and uninspired in others, there’s a great movie hiding somewhere beneath the surface of The Good Neighbor; with a great central performance, an uncomplicated set-up and enough unique details, it seems like a missed opportunity.