Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Good Neighbor Movie Review

Runtime: 98 minutes
Release Date: March 13, 2016
Rating: NR
Director: Kasra Farahani

Sean and Ethan are two typical high school students who decide to play a “prank” on their elderly neighbor, Harold. According to Ethan, Harold is a horrible man that formerly beat his wife and eventually killed the poor woman. As the more tech-savvy of the two, Sean agrees to help Ethan set up cameras around Harold's house and to do random things that make it look like the old man's house is haunted.

Though some of their friends are less than thrilled about their plans, Ethan in particular points out that Harold deserves it, if only for what he did to his poor wife. They do things like make the lights in his house turn on and off and the television suddenly come to life. When Harold seems defensive about his basement, the boys even call the cops and report that they heard a woman screaming. The cops investigate and find nothing.

As they ramp up their hauntings, Harold seems to slowly lose his mind. Not only is he defensive of his basement, but he particularly freaks out when he hears a bell ringing. Harold ignores an older woman who shows at his doorstep to see him, and he stops leaving the house like he did in the past.

While all this happens, The Good Neighbor inter-cuts a few scenes of a courtroom battle. We see Ethan's mother, the cop who came to the house, and others. They talk about the body found in the house and whether someone is to blame. It isn't until the last few minutes that we learn who they found in the house as well as the fates of both our main characters.

The Good Neighbor is an interesting film, but it's hard for me to say if I actually liked it that much. James Caan is perfectly cast as Harold the neighbor. It's sometimes hard to believe that the man is as old as he is, so seeing him here was definitely eye-opening. If you ever watched ER, you'll notice one of the main characters from that show popping up as his former wife in flashbacks.

Without ruining anything for those who haven't seen it, this film does a good job of setting up Harold's backstory. Instead of just showing the whole story at once, the director smartly reveals just a little at a time such as his wife crying frequently, why the sound of the bell sets him off, and even how and why he got the cat that the guys see on their cameras.

The most realistic thing about this flick is the teenagers themselves. Far too many films have teenagers talking and acting the way the adult writers expect, but Sean and Ethan, as well as all their friends, actually seem like teenagers. You can believe that the two, especially Sean, would do something this mean and stupid just to have a little fun.

While the courtroom scenes are distracting at times, those scenes add to the overall plot of the film and will keep you invested and wanting to know what happens in the end. Once you learn the connection between Harold and one of the teens, the last scene in the film and some of the other plot details will suddenly make a lot more sense.

The Good Neighbor is currently streaming on Netflix.

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