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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Good Neighbors

September 26th, 2011

Good Neighbors - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Good Neighbors is an independent Canadian film set in Quebec in October of 1995, which was right before the sovereignty referendum that had the potential to change the entire nation, and which was going to be a tight race. It was kind of a big deal up here. But don't worry if you've never heard about it, as the film is not about politics, but people dealing with isolation, and a serial killer. It never found an audience during its short theatrical run, but does it deserve better now that it's coming out on the home market?

The Movie

Good Neighbors mostly takes place in one apartment building in the Montreal neighborhood of Notre-Dame-de-GrĂ¢ce, or NDG as it is called. We follow the lives of three people: Louise, who live alone with her cats; Spencer, who has been confined to a wheelchair since a car accident that killed his wife; and Victor, who we see moving into the building in the beginning of the movie. Louise and Spencer have bonded of late over news of a serial killer that has been striking nearby. Victor doesn't even know there was a serial killer when he moves in.

At first, Louise and Spencer seem disinterested in having someone new in either of their lives. But when Louise's co-worker at the restaurant becomes the latest victim of the serial killer, she asks Victor to walk her home after work. The three of them have dinner together that night, but the dynamic of their relationship is a little strained. Spencer is interested in Louise and sees Victor as a potential competitor, although Louise is more interested in Victor's cat than Victor himself. As the killings increase, they turn to each other more as a form of support, but...

That's about as much of the setup as I can give, because unfortunately, there's a pretty big surprise twist really early in the movie. It does give the film a different feel from most others in its genre, and this is a good asset. The thriller generates suspense not by keeping the killer's identity in the dark, but by making us guess how it is all going to play out. It also deals a lot with the isolation the characters feel, as much as the serial killer aspect of the movie. The three are English-speaking residents of a mostly French-speaking town and this makes them outsiders. The film takes place from October through February, also known as the dead of winter in Quebec, and the weather makes them almost prisoners in their homes. This isolation makes them act odd in different ways. Victor is way too eager to please, going so far as to install a wheelchair ramp so the previously apartment-bound Spencer can get out and about. Louise has cut herself off from human contact and is having more in-depth conversations with her two cats. When her co-worker is killed, she realizes she knew very little about her. The only human contact she seems to have is with Spencer, and she only ever talks about the NDG killer. Spencer has become moody and bitter after the car accident that claimed his wife and his ability to walk, but covers that up with a smugness that he likes to aim at Victor.

Good Neighbors does suffer from a little too much Indie Quirkiness for my taste, but thankfully the acting is strong enough that this doesn't detract too much. Also, some have complained about the combining of the character study and the serial killer plots. If you liked one but not the other, you might think there wasn't enough time given to developing that part of the story, or that the part you didn't like was a distraction. This is not without merit, but I didn't think it was an issue. It's a matter of taste.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD start with a deleted scene featuring Jessica Pare as Spencer's wife. Thank goodness they cut it, as it would have revealed too much too soon. And there's a five-minute inside look at the movie. There's also a trailer, which has a major spoiler in it, so don't watch it.

I don't have the Blu-ray to compare, but there appears to be no exclusive extras. The list price is just 10% more, which is a great deal. However, on, the Blu-ray is actually substantially cheaper than the DVD, so there's no reason not to grab it.

The Verdict

Good Neighbors is a dark film that combines a character study with a serial killer movie and does so to good effect. There are a couple minor problems, but it is still a very effective thriller and worth checking out. There are not a lot of extras on either the DVD or the Blu-ray, but given the price of the latter, it is worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, Good Neighbors