The Neighbor, written and directed by Marcus Dunstan (The Collector, The Collection, Saw IV), follows John (Josh Stewart, The Collector, The Collection, Transcendence), a middleman pushing coke in the bum-fuck, middle of nowhere which is Cutter, Mississippi. Him and his girlfriend, Rosie (Alex Essoe, Starry Eyes, Passion Play) have big plans to escape their life of crime and retire to the beachside of unspecified, Mexico, but the plans are put on hold when Rosie goes missing after an eerie encounter with their unnerving neighbor, Troy (Bill Engvall, Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Sharknado 3). So I know what you’re thinking: Bill Engval? The man who prides his comedy on being an ignorant redneck? Yes, honey, that Bill Engvall…and in his defense, he’s a pretty decent actor that gives off a creepy, insidiously mysterious vibe during his performance as weird neighbor, Troy. He shoots guns at rabbits and people, has two sons who come in and out and a giant oversized basement with holding cells and creepy masks.
Naturally, when Rosie isn’t home for their daring escape, John knows something is up. Is it his drug kingpin Sopranos-ass uncle/boss, is it the strange neighbor who makes mildly inappropriate comments about his gf, or did she just decide to leave him on the spot? The thing is, their big bag of money is still at the house and we all know Rosie ain’t going nowhere with no money, so where is she? John wonders the same thing as he breaks into Troy’s house and begins sneaking around looking for clues. A door within a door then leads him to “the basement”. I quote that because the system of hallways and escape tunnels leading to the surface mixed with the numerous holding cells seems to be even larger than than the house that conceals it from above. Nevertheless it’s unsettling and cold. As he discovers all the atrocities “the basement” has to offer, Troy and his sons return home and the battle of wits begins as John tries to save Rosie while maintaining the element of surprise.
If you’re a fan of Dunstan’s other films, you won’t be disappointed by his latest effort. You won’t be blown away, but you’ll definitely be entertained. The Neighbor looks and feels like it’s a distant cousin of The Collector series (but the slower, not as cool cousin) and not only because Josh Stewart, again, stars as the principle character. The way Dunstan mixes the anticipatory anxiety of horror and thriller but keeps the action alive with guns and crime drama is a unique blending of the genres that gives it his signature tone and feel. He always enjoys having his antagonist and protagonist playing cat and mouse, each with their moments of advantage over the other and isn’t afraid to show vulnerability in the usually infallible “killer” role. And while that’s all good and dandy, I ultimately feel like this movie was missing something. I can’t quite place it but it didn’t pack as much of a punch as Dunstan’s previous films. It was a little creepy and ominous and tense but I feel like the motives behind it all were just a little lackluster. Realistic, but lackluster nonetheless.
Regardless of my petty critiques on things and reasons I can’t even explain, I wouldn’t knock this movie until you’ve tried it yourself. It’s truly a good watch and as a big fan of The Collector and The Collection, I thoroughly enjoy Dunstan’s writing style and direction throughout the film. I just wish it had a little more brute to it. Or gusto. Or whatever word I’m trying to decide. Help me out here!
IMDB: 6.1/10 (340 votes)
Rotten Tomatoes: 🍅No Critic Reviews 🍿67%
DEAD🐶PUPPY: 3 creepy escape hatches/5