(It's all good in the 'hood.)
Starring Jay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire and Scott Speedman. Directed by Jacob Tierney. 100 minutes. 14A
Were you one of those people who found Mr. Rogers' theme song, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?", was terrifying on the first listen -- and still dug it? Or did you accept it as at face value -- as a sweet celebration of community by a man who really loved red ladies cardigans-- but couldn't stand the sound of it anymore when someone told you otherwise?
That infamous track may not appear in Jacob Tierney's new film, the more-than-good-but-not-quite-great, Good Neighbours. But your initial reaction to it will likely define how you will view the psycho-thrilling dramedy. You'll either read right into it and love it, or be unpleasantly surprised.
If you were thoroughly charmed by Tierney's first widely-distributed feature, The Trotsky, there's no guarantee you will love his latest. It's not that it isn't as sharp as that tale of Russian revolutionary rebel yelling (More on that here...). Or that it's not set in Tierney and his man-muse's (Jay Baruchel, She's Out of My League and more importantly, PMK) hometown. Or that it's not a little too proud to be Canadian. (How about some cameos from The Globe and Mail, and fellow homegrown film protege, Xavier Dolan, eh?) It's got all those things. But it's also got horror by the body count-ful.
Good Neighbours may set up an apartment-based love triangle centered around a young, cat lady-in-training named Louise (Emily Hampshire) and the men who would like to lend her some serious sugar. We may even get to meet-cute Spencer, a wheelchair-bound charmer (Scott Speedman) and Victor, a bumbly school teacher/new tenant (Baruchel) via an awkward three-sided hallway convo. But this is no Referendum era rom-com. It's a slow-simmering slasher.
It's never a beautiful day -- or night -- in Louise's city co-op. Not only does she have to deal with living in the dead of Montreal winter, she's also got to cope with the crazy woman upstairs who actively hates her fluffy room/soulmates and Victor's very obvious advances. Oh, and there's a wannabe Paul Bernardo on the loose , raping and murdering women at random.
Louise and Spencer share a strange interest in the killer's disgusting developments, reading any paper they can find for updates But when Louise's fellow Chinese restaurant employee, gets killed, it's Victor who comes to the rescue, offering to walk her home every night. As the murders continue, Louise starts to reassess the people and places she has always deemed safe and what role they can play in her future -- or lack thereof.
The rest of the plot is best left buried, as it can be genuinely surprising. Things take an even darker and in my mind, more interesting, turn in the final quarter. The big murder sequence is one of the most revoltingly real on-screen kills to recent date. It has a comical tinge, due to an overly graphic Grand Guignol gag. But it almost adds to the authenticity.
This, and many other macabre moments, owe their effectiveness to the actors, who embrace the story violently. While Baruchel is as charming as he's ever been as Victor, his nervously nasal laughs and adorkable delivery are no match for Hampshire's strangely off-putting (in a good way) performance. Unlike The Trotsky, where she was not only worshiped by Baruchel but also by the camera, in this film, she looks and acts really rough. She's not an idealized survivor girl in the slightest.
Scott Speedman (Felicity, Underworld) plays Spencer like blond, young Christian Bale character at certain moments. But unlike the film itself, which gives away much of the major twist much too quickly, I'm not going to give you any hints as to which characters I'm referring to. Because if I did, I might kill your chances at seeing this slightly effed up Canadian gem. And that would really be gruesome. B+
*Good Neighbours is currently playing exclusively at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto.*
These articles might interest you :
By Rosa Stockman
Is your preschooler responsible for some simple household chores? If not, now is the perfect time to start! Starting chores when children are young and... Read moreBy Slattenk
Walter Berry, D. Fischer-Dieskau, Hakan Hagegard, Sherrill Milnes, Hermann Prey, Bernd Weikl. With the exception of Sherrill Milnes, the names of these great... Read moreBy Galegirl
CULTURE, THEATRE & OPERA
After a year of extremely worrying reports regarding tiger populations we finally have a bit of good news. According to the latest tiger census in India, the... Read moreBy Frontiergap
CHARITY, ENVIRONMENT, TRAVEL, VACATION
I guess it depends on who you ask. sometimes change doesn't feel so good at the time it is happening and then when all is said and done, everything works out fo... Read moreBy Lily Hydrangea
CREATIVITY, SELF EXPRESSION
Although there are a lot of Yankee haters out there, most baseball fans would concede that Derek Jeter has been a great player. His longevity and career stats... Read moreBy Meachrm
As multinationals look to expand into emerging and developing economies throughout the world, corporate volunteerism offers an undeniable opportunity for cuttin... Read moreBy Center For International Private Enterprise
MOST POPULAR FROM ENTERTAINMENT
- From Africa to Arendelle Disney on Ice gives you a Passport to Adventure by Hendrik Pape
- Bandcamp Bonanza – Flooding The Feed by Ripplemusic
- Blu News – 2 for April by Colin
- ‘It Came from Outer Space’ (1953): Strangers in a Strange Land by Josmar16
MOST RECOMMENDED IN ENTERTAINMENT
- 2017 RBC Bluesfest Lineup – the first wave! by Hendrik Pape
- A Ripple Conversation With Claus Larsen by Ripplemusic
- CHRIS YOUMANS DEBUTS NEW LIVE VIDEO OF SINGLE “MAKE THINGS RIGHT” by Ripplemusic
- My Third Novel, Inn Significant, Is Now Available !!! by Stephsscribe