Review: Good Neighbors

Good Neighbors basically runs on the assumption that Montreal is the last place you would ever want to live.

Good Neighbors
Photo: Magnolia Pictures

Writer-director Jacob Tierney’s Good Neighbors basically runs on the assumption that Montreal is the last place you would ever want to live: dark, freezing, unhappy, ethnically fractious, and murderous. When the movie opens, there’s already a serial killer on the loose in the small neighborhood of Notre Dame de Grace, or “the NDG” as it’s known to its residents, a mix of bitter American transplants and gossipy French-speaking natives. Louise’s (Emily Hampshire) co-worker at the dumpy Chinese restaurant where she works disappears, and she becomes fixated with tracking the culprit’s every move in the newspaper. Which might lead you to believe that this will be a genre film along the lines of Dario Argento’s classic horror-whodunits.

But unlike Argento, who’s obsessed with space and city and sight, Tierney mostly retracts his camera into the corridors of Louise’s apartment complex, a location even more depressing than the dystopian madhouse of Delicatessen, where no one is entirely innocent. Each is also distinctly unlikable in his or her own way: Louise, a cat-obsessed, sexless ice queen on level with Neve Campbell in When Will I Be Loved; her paralyzed downstairs neighbor Spencer (Scott Speedman), who has the smug grin of a varsity football quarterback despite being wheelchair-bound; and Victor (Jay Baruchel), the chatty, neurotic newcomer, who tries way too hard to please everyone to be even remotely good-intentioned. After some of Louise’s cats and an alcoholic neighbor show up dead, everyone becomes a suspect and a potential victim, though it’s unclear why none of them ever just moves out.

The tone of Good Neighbors is off-key from the beginning, a fact that’s not helped by the presence of Speedman, onetime Felicity heartthrob. That’s not exactly unintentional: Tierney’s is the kind of post-post horror-thriller that puts all of its killings in clear air quotes, making you cringe at the same time you admire its assumed cleverness. You can probably guess early on who’s the killer, but it’s not much fun, because guessing isn’t really the point; the filmmakers just want you to get the joke. The more ludicrous things get, the more “amusing”: an anonymous victim fucked against a nightclub wall, a man’s semen saved in a freezer as potential evidence. By the end, you’re exhausted following who’s gaming whom, and the only joy is in watching them bleed.

Score: 
 Cast: Jay Baruchel, Scott Speedman, Xavier Dolan, Emily Hampshire, Kaniehtiio Horn, Gary Farmer, Jacob Tierney, Anne-Marie Cadieux  Director: Jacob Tierney  Screenwriter: Jacob Tierney  Distributor: Magnolia Pictures  Running Time: 98 min  Rating: R  Year: 2011  Buy: Video

Paul Schrodt

Paul Schrodt is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles and covering entertainment. He’s contributed to Esquire, GQ, Men’s Health, The Wall Street Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles magazine, and others.

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