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Movie Review: “The Neighbor”

   The Neighbor is a 2016 crime thriller film directed by Marcus Dunstan and written by Dunstan and frequent collaborator Patrick Melton. Both names likely sound at least a little familiar to any horror maestro worth their weight in salt, ‘specially if they were plugged in during the latest 2000s when the torture / gory survival craze (often derogatorily referred to as torture porn) was in its heyday. The guys left their mark on the Saw franchise and even ushered in the cult-horror favorite film The Collector.

   Like The Collector (which I regard as a flawed, but both memorable and enjoyable film – I have a soft spot for the concept), the film brings Josh Stewart and sees him as the film’s main-protagonist. Bill Engvall is also in the film, which is a peculiar revelation to make – yeah, that Bill Engvall …. from, like, The Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

   As a film, The Neighbor didn’t have a lot of buzz or attention brought to it (editor’s note: as of 2023, it still doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page), but I had seen a couple of articles about it here and there and kept it on my radar. This is a shame because, all in all, The Neighbor is a well-made, if a little by the numbers, crime thriller.

   The film is, roughly speaking, about a man who makes a shocking revelation about his neighbor and the dark secrets he appears to have kept away in his cellar.

   A capable cast helps elevate the characters, which are only a small step above the run-of-the-mill type that have become the norm for many lower-budget horror flicks as of late. I will admit the film holds one or two too many clichés to let slide, but, as a whole, I believe it is a modest success in the acting and character department. Bill Engvall is decent, whereas Josh Stewart mostly plays the mostly silent survivor role he played in The Collector – he’s good at it, reminds me a little bit of Ryan Gosling from Drive in that respect.

   The storyline is solid, allotting the opportunity for a handful of tense moments to unfold, and even has a moment during where it is able to turn the convention on its head. Where the film suffers, however, is its lack of innovation and familiarity. The concept is predictable all the way through and although I waited in-anticipation for new wrinkles to the fold, the film never really does anything new for itself. It’s always a straight-line, safe and formulaic approach, and it really lacks the personality or, at least, brutality that made a film like The Collector stick with you.

   All in all, I can’t recommend you go out of your way to see The Neighbor, per se. It is a well made film, but it doesn’t do a whole lot of new stuff to make it earn its keep in a crowded room of horror titles. In some ways, I believe it is likely the most well-aimed and consistent film Dunstan and Melton have made. As much enjoyment as I may have found in The Collector or their contributions to Saw, they always suffer in major, simple ways. Something muddies the water a bit. This film doesn’t have as many headscratchers to speak of – but it also means it is by far their least interesting film.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.0

Written by Nicholas "Nick" McConnaughay

Nicholas McConnaughay is a writer of books and a connoisseur in the fine art of storytelling. He spent his formative years binging slasher films like Child's Play and A Nightmare on Elm Street, and blames that for some of his quirkier tendencies.

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