The Neighbors (2010) – By Matt Barry

Part domestic drama and part Hitchcockian thriller, The Neighbors, from Evenly Distributed Productions, is an exciting short filled with interesting stylistic touches, strong performances and an intriguing plot leading to an unexpected, twist ending.

The film tells of a couple, Matthew (Robert Grant) and Amber (Taryn Matusik) who come to a dinner party given by Patrick (Bernhard Forcher) and Heather (Sandy Kim), who live in an opulent home replete with fine artwork and a wine cellar. As the evening progresses, a hint of something darker underlying the pretty surfaces begins to emerge, the relationship between the couples begins to blur, and the evening starts to take an unsettling turn.

Director Christopher Werner crafts an extremely polished and exquisitely lit visual style that is enhanced by an evocative production design. He makes good use of the widescreen image to provide detail that reveals much about how the main characters live and behave, and using that information to make the twist ending even more of a surprise. Werner investigates the darkness lying under the polished surfaces of the home and its inhabitants. The dialogue works quite well, convincing us that these characters are engaging and balanced people, but with just enough hints of something deeper that keeps the audience on edge. The film makes effective use of long takes, but also establishes its characters well in an opening montage showing them going about their business, getting ready for the dinner. Notable moments of visual stylization include an overhead shot of the Matthew and Heather in the living room, a vantage point that is repeated in a later moment when Heather interrupts the conversation between Patrick and Amber, seated on a couch, as the camera, positioned on the staircase landing overlooking them, moves in before stopping just at the point where the bars of the railing creating a visual barrier between Heather, looking down from the landing, and Patrick and Amber seated below. It’s a deeply unsettling moment created through the suspense of this slow, point-of-view tracking shot. There is also a very Hitchcockian moment which I will not describe in detail here as it would spoil a plot point, but it is a very well-executed moment that suggests far more than is actually shown on-screen.

The Neighbors is a very tightly-written and well-made short, managing to pull audiences in quickly to its thrilling plot and building to a most unexpected conclusion.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out the film’s website at http://www.neighborsthemovie.com.