Thursday, July 19, 2007

Neighborhood Watch (2005)

My neighbor is seriously a pain…If we have people over or music on past 11pm, she comes over, bangs on the door and tells us to keep it down…even on the freakin’ weekend!! She’s an older, washed-up bag who doesn’t like to have any fun and doesn’t get out much as far as I can tell. One time she had the audacity to accost me just outside my door and ask, “Do you hate me?” Geez, lady, easy on the insecurities there! We are never that loud and she just needs to learn to deal. I’m tempted to gift her with some sleeping pills and ear plugs…

Like my own drama-queen-next-door, everyone has or has had a bad neighbor at one point in their lives, but I sure as hell hope no one has had a neighbor like Adrien Trumbull in Neighborhood Watch (aka Deadly End)

Bob (Jack Huston) and Wendi (Pell James) Peterson have just moved cross-country so Bob can take his “dream job” at a large corporation. They move into a seemingly quiet neighborhood on Wormwood Drive. Things are pleasant enough until strange things begin occurring. The old, deaf couple across the street crashes their Oldsmobile into the Peterson’s yard and from that point on keep driving up and honking their horn at them. A handyman with dark circles under his eyes acts creepily towards Wendi. Wendi receives a bouquet of poison oak from someone and her whole face swells up from its poison, resulting in an emergency room visit. Then the couple finally meets Adrien (Nick Searcy), who brings them a box of chocolates that gives them both a severe case of the Hershey squirts. Next, he brings them a jar of homemade grape jelly, but Bob and Wendi have wised up at this point and won’t accept it. Adrien breaks into their house and tries to poison their food, but Bob calls the cops. Unfortunately, the Petersons learn that Adrien is the deceased mayor’s son and the law is on his side. Bob is determined to stick it out and beat Adrien, even organizing a Neighborhood Watch meeting and changing all the locks on the doors, but Adrien continues to poison them, this time through their water supply. From there, things take a turn for the decidedly worse…

Neighborhood Watch is a hard to watch, subversively humorous and shocking independent film that is definitely something new and shouldn’t be missed. First and foremost, the characters are all great and quirky! Though Adrien is a sick freak, I just couldn’t wait until he made his next appearance. Nick Searcy does a fantastic job in the role and really takes on the twisted persona of Adrien. My skin crawls just thinking about his character! Both the characters of Bob and Wendi are very well-drawn as well, and both Jack Huston and Pell James do great things with their roles. I really enjoyed watching them both!

The story, written by Graeme Whifler (who also directed), is twisted and impossibly engaging! Besides all the horror, there is also a vein of black humor running throughout the film. Whifler has crafted a very scary, very realistic story that feels like it could actually happen. It makes you think twice about your neighbors and makes you wonder exactly what goes on behind closed doors.

The special effects, by Lenny MacDonald along with Steve Johnson’s Edge FX, were one of the highlights of watching the film. The effects look incredibly real – sutured wounds, incisions into abdominal areas, ripping out of guts and other organs, crusty sores – though not a gorefest, there were still several instances where I had to look away! One of those moments happened just minutes after the film started!

Though I viewed the screener copy, the production values looked pretty high for an independent film. The lighting was good, even in dark scenes, and the shots were all framed appropriately. The direction by Whifler was straight-forward, clean and sharp.

One of the downsides of the film is that it does drag a little towards the middle and it feels like nothing much is happening. Also, it was kind of hard to believe that the Petersons didn’t leave after finding out that Adrien was backed by the cops. I was also surprised the film didn’t delve into the “ghost town” aspect of story, which is lightly touched on by one of Bob’s co-workers, or Bob’s corporate job.

Still, Neighborhood Watch is an impressive indie outing with great acting, solid directing, a fresh storyline and cringe-worthy special effects that deserves to be seen. Plus, it’ll make you appreciate your crazy neighbors a little more…

Available on Amazon!

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