Marcus Dunstan and Josh Stewart have re-teamed for another imaginatively titled thriller, The Neighbour, which follows both The Collector and it's belated sequel, The Collection, onto our screens. The Collection was a surprise horror hit, and deservedly so. The Collection, however, failed to deliver on its promise of gory, thrilling fun. In the time it took to get here Marcus Dunstan had forgotten what it was that made the first film so memorable. Creative kills were replaced by regurgitated stalk and slash, and genuine suspense was dispensed with altogether. In fact, the sequel felt so rushed, it kind of made you wish you could crawl inside the box yourself.
Now comes The Neighbour, and thankfully, Dunstan's latest recaptures the thrills and spills of their first collaboration. It's a gritty affair, deliberately so. A lean, mean thriller that reels you in from the outset. This time Stewart plays John, an average Joe who makes a living by helping his uncle run his local crime ring. It's good money and of course, John has a plan to get out and start afresh with his wife, Rosie (Alex Essoe, Starry Eyes). Her role in the movie is a little more vague at first, she just seems to sit at home in the window watching their neighbour through her telescope. Yes, you're right, there are echoes of Rear Window at play here and it's no bad thing.
Their neighbour, Troy (Bill Engvall), introduces himself and it's fairly obvious he has his own secrets to hide, but it all gets out of hand one day when Rosie witnesses Troy attacking a young man in his field. When John returns home later that day, Rosie is nowhere to be seen. Suspecting Troy might be to blame, he breaks in to investigate and uncovers something more sinister than he could ever have imagined. Pet lovers will be pleased to learn that no cats were harmed in the making of The Neighbour.
The first act is fairly low-key, and it's not until the second act kicks in that we get a glimpse of the terror down below. Nothing you'll see here is particularly original but the drip feed of tension is orchestrated well. You'll be forgiven for thinking that we're entering slasher territory as John searches his neighbour's house, but Dunstan refuses to conform. It's a home invasion thriller which incorporates horror themes but never truly commits to any of them. There is tension to chew on and the bad guys wear creepy masks, but The Neighbour doesn't resort to cheap scares and deafening sound design to get its kicks.
The final act is a welcome change of pace because Dunstan is more interested in ramping up the action than the terror, as Rosie, somewhat inexplicably, turns into Sarah Connor and all hell breaks loose. There is a suggestion that we are yet to see the bigger picture but whether or not we get a sequel is anyone's guess. Part of me hopes they leave it as it is, because The Neighbour works well as a standalone thriller. Having said that, I have no problem with Stewart and Dunstan collaborating again in the near future.
The Neighbour is a short, sweet thriller with vengeance in mind. The occasional leaps of logic can be forgiven, because Dunstan's return to form is a tense, gritty joyride that builds to a satisfying face off. Recommended.
The Neighbour is available in the UK from October 31.