Movie Review GOOD NEIGHBOR, TheLionsgate Home Entertainment

“Maybe I should teach him a lesson. Keep that son of a bitch on a leash, okay? Because the next time, if it happens again, I’m going to cut him in four pieces and send him home in this can.”

A pair of mischievous high school kids create the illusion of a haunting on an unsuspecting neighbor. While keeping his every reaction under surveillance, they see much more than they bargained for, and discover that the man they’re tormenting is not the easy target they’d expected.

Never have I been pleased with a simple mistake. You see, there’s this horror thriller movie out there that stars comedian Bill Engvall called The Neighbor. Ever since I learned of the existence of a straight horror thriller that features a member of the Blue Collar Comedy team, well, let’s just say my sense of morbid curiosity still hasn’t been sated yet. Because I happened to get the slightly differently titled The Good Neighbor by mistake. I was disappointed by the mix-up, yes, but I ended up watching The Good Neighbor anyway, because this one stars the always great James Caan as a delightfully grumpy neighbor to a couple of teenage boys with far too much time on their hands.

So, here’s the story: We start off with what seems to be yet another found footage-style setup, introducing a couple of suburban teenagers setting up some high-tech video surveillance equipment, with the one who is clearly spearheading this endeavor narrating what they plan on doing with said equipment–rig the house of a cantankerous and reclusive old neighbor that lives across the cul-de-sac where they dwell to seem that he’s being haunted, and film the results with said video cameras. The kid claims it’s for SCIENCE!, but it’s rather clear this is a thin excuse to take out some passive-aggressive anger on the neighbor for reasons that go beyond “he’s not a nice guy”. That, and teenagers are douche-nozzles, generally speaking. Anyway, just before you think you’ve gotten yourself into a feature-length episode of Punk’d, the movie cuts to courtroom scenes, where the teenage boys are on trial for the murder of the neighbor they’re doing the experiment on. So there, you know something went awry, and now you’re invested to continue watching to see what may have transpired. As we continue with the found footage angle, it’s clear that the old man’s reaction to the various “haunting” rigs is not what the boys were hoping for, as instead of being wigged out, he acts…differently. That’s really the only way I can put it without really getting in-depth and spoiling things for you. Basically, things are not what they seem on the surface, when we learn this goes beyond just wanting to prank an old guy because he emulates Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino…and the old guy has a reason as to why he’s grumpy. And why he ultimately reacted the way he did to put the boys on trial.

The Good Neighbor isn’t exactly a horror movie, so much as it’s a very tense psychological drama that has an atmosphere that will get under your skin and leave you on the edge of your seat, with an ending that will send some chills down your spine by the implications. James Caan is fantastic, as he has very little dialogue but nails everything without having to say much. Everybody did a rather good job, and I liked the fact that this didn’t turn out to be yet another found footage movie. Or your standard horror flick.

Overall, if you’ve overlooked The Good Neighbor before, do yourself a favor and check it out some time.