by Samantha Reeve, from the Great White North
Good Neighbors (2010) is not often labelled as a horror film. You’ll usually find it listed under drama and thriller, but it has pretty much everything you’d want in a good horror flick: murder, suspense, and creepy characters. What it lacks, and I salute its creators for this, is a lot of the blood and gore that currently dominates the horror genre.
Set in 1995 Montreal, our tale focuses on three people that inhabit an apartment building. Victor, the new arrival, is a teacher who has returned from a stay in China. He befriends Louise, a waitress, and Spencer, a man left crippled and wheelchair-bound after an accident. A serial killer has been preying on the young women of the area, but the trio soon discovers that none of them are who they seem and one of them may be tied to the deaths.
Now without giving too much away, I’m going to say that the strongest, most unsettling thing in Good Neighbours is the characters. From the get-go they seem like mostly agreeable people, but their flaws and potentials as suspects are slowly revealed: Victor is the seemingly friendly guy who creates a fantasy relationship between himself and Louise, and goes so far as to tell others they’re engaged. Louise, with her affection for her cats, first comes off as a kind animal-lover – but one who only cares for animals. Last we have Spencer, the handsome man who was dealt a cruel hand, but who harbours some very dark secrets. With no one to root for, it’s a strange but satisfying story to watch.
One of my only gripes with this film is the choice to set it in 1995. While there was some added tension with the backdrop being the 1995 referendum (in which Quebecers voted to not separate from Canada), the costumers and production designers did little (if nothing) to make this look like the 90’s. Nit-picking, I know, but it felt kind of lazy that there were three lines of dialogue that were meant to completely transport us back in time.
Griping aside, I recommend this film to anyone with a penchant for smarter, less action and murder-packed horror. Be warned, though, that watching the trailers will actually kill much of the mystery – so if you’ve yet to see it, steer clear and take my word for it. You’ll be in for a better ride.