The proverb “Love thy neighbour” receives a good kicking in Marcus Dunstan’s follow-up to his Collector series, which premiered at FrightFest earlier this year. If you’re familiar with the kind of films that horror festival goes for, you’ll know in advance whether The Neighbour is for you. It is a genre exercise without much ambition, a vehicle for the suspense and bloodshed that throwing a bunch of dangerous people in a house together implies; yet it delivers its requisite thrills-and-spills with efficiency and takes a few interesting detours on the way.
Josh Stewart plays John, an army vet who lives in the Mississippi wilderness with his wife, Rosie (Alex Essoe). Wanting to save up some money and leave town, he runs errands for his drug-boss uncle (Kenny Barr), but Rosie can’t stop looking through a telescope and spying on their neighbour Troy (Bill Engvall, the go-to creepy hillbilly). One day she sees too much; John comes home to find her gone and ventures into the basement of Troy’s house in search of her. Needless to say, everything goes off the rails fairly quickly.
Hitchcock may have revolutionised cinema, but he’s also responsible for a plethora of weak riffs on “the gaze”, which filmmakers have often inserted into their films for academic credibility. The Neighbour imitates Rear Window better than most, checking in on its voyeuristic themes throughout. Cameras are used with inventive glee, from the grainy opening credits to a pivotal second act scene. Troy and his sons make effective villains, staying on the right side of plausible; the protagonists, as well, are given a refreshing degree of capability and moral ambiguity. The pungent atmosphere of the deep South helps grease the wheels of suspense and reinforces the notion that help is way, way out of reach.
It should be said, though, that there are moments when the film threatens to collapse. A sudden action-heavy sequence, marked by a switch to 60 fps, is too silly by half, jettisoning the hitherto patient building of suspense. Peripheral characters aren’t developed enough – simply treated as props to be bludgeoned or shot – and it all adds up to precisely nothing. But if you’re in the mood for an off-brand Green Room, you could do a lot worse than The Neighbour.
The Neighbour is released in selected cinemas on 16th September 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Neighbour here: