The big theatrical release this week is the final chapter of the Harry Potter saga, Harry Potter and the Deathly Harrows: Part 2. I’ll be catching it this weekend and I’m going in with bittersweet expectations, as it’s one of those films that should be seen on the big screen and taken in for one last time before they disappear forever. Big studios would never take a chance on putting their summer slate out on video-on-demand for audiences before the films open in theaters, so it’s nice to give credit to a few independent distributions (IFC, Magnolia, Film Movement, etc.) who take chances on smaller niche films and give audiences a chance to have access to them.
Not really knowing too much about films on demand can make for a great thrill in discovering a new talent, an entertaining story, or compelling characters, but on the flipside, sometimes you can understand why some of these smaller independent studios don’t necessarily put a ton of advertising, marketing, and promotion into their VOD films. Just as some of us get sucked into a bad movie on TNT, TBS, or—God forbid—Fox 29, I sometimes stumble onto on-demand movies, looking for something new or that might not open here. One of those films available through your cable provider (Comcast, DIRECTV, Time Warner), online (Amazon.com), or on iTunes is Jacob Tierney’s oddball Canadian comedic mystery Good Neighbors. Good Neighbors will be opening in a few theaters at the end of July and will still be available on-demand; even if the film doesn’t open in the Twin Cities, however, the film is still worth a look despite some major story flaws.
Being that I’m a sucker for a good mystery, Good Neighbors appealed to me with a promise of a story similar to Danny Boyle’s first film, Shallow Grave; more importantly there was an amazing song, “Don’t Turn on the Light,” being played in the trailer by Lanan Adcock, whose voice is eerily similar to Neko Case’s country/pop twang. That song got me interested in checking out this film starring Scott Speedman (TV’s Felicity), Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up), and Emily Hampshire (David Cronenberg’s upcoming adaptation of Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis).
The film takes place in Montreal in the mid-90s. Louise (Hampshire) loves her cats and let them out through her window, even in the dead of winter. This bothers her neighbor Spencer (Speedman), who ended up in a wheelchair after a car crash that killed his wife. Victor (Baruchel) is a new tenant moving into their apartment complex after teaching abroad in China. The parallel storyline that keeps these characters together is there is a serial killer/rapist on the loose in town, and as Victor starts meeting Louise at her job to walk her home at night, Spencer becomes suspicious of Victor and his motives toward Louise. Saying more might ruin a few surprises, but you can pick up some obvious hints of what happens in the film just by watching the trailer, and you get to hear an amazing song too.
Tierney’s dialogue and story works at the beginning of the film, say for the first 40 minutes, but slowly becomes clunky and loses focus once another corpse shows up. But Tierney manages some nice visual motifs and a couple of impressively shot scenes, very reminiscent of director Brian DePalma’s kinkier films from the late 70s and early 80s—which are a blast. (If you’ve never seen Dressed to Kill, Obsession, and Body Double, then if you love Agatha Christie stories or Alfred Hitchcock films, you should look into these films.) But Good Neighbors works on some levels that I wasn’t expecting it to, including an over-the-top musical score which provides some heightened anxiety to a film that builds to a steady double-crossing that’s very unexpected, even if there is a gaping plot hole toward the end of the second act.
It’s just nice to know that there are plenty of options for cinephiles here in the Twin Cities who don’t always have time to get to the theater or who don’t want to deal with long lines, annoying people answering phones, or talking during movies—or watch those boring commercials before even the trailers start. It’s nice to know that films like Good Neighbors do exist and can find an audience of anyone, anytime, any place—other than a movie theater, that is.
Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures