We all have our secrets; and in 2016's The Neighbor those secrets are brought to light when country boy John (played by Josh Stewart) uncovers the secret life his neighbor Troy (played by Bill Engvall - yes, the comedian) has been hiding just a stone's throw away from his front door. After coming home and finding an empty house where his wife should be, John ventures over to his neighbors house to see if maybe she's there. And once he gets inside, secrets are unearthed that shouldn't have been unearthed and it becomes a fight for their lives as John and his wife Rosie (played by Alex Essoe) try to escape the grasp of the madman and get away alive.
Going into this movie I read a lot of people talking about how it is basically a retelling of The Collector and The Collection - two excellent, bloodfests that made for some really memorable cinema. And while the plot - if really broken down - really is quite similar to those films, The Neighbor does something that those films didn't do for me, and that was make it feel real. The Neighbor doesn't rely on gore and guts to gross out the audience; rather, it feels like the movie plays on the same "realness" factor that The Strangers series uses. What makes those films so great is how the stories they tell feel like they really could happen to just about anyone, and that there was no special circumstances that set the victims up or made the antagonists more elite than the victims. It truly felt like this story could happen to anyone; sure, maybe the advanced series of rooms that lunatic Troy has constructed in his basement may be a bit more than a typical person might have, the rest of the story is definitely plausible for a real life situation. It is factors like this that make movies like The Neighbor and The Strangers just a step above your every day horror, but The Neighbor takes it one step further: the madmen are right. next. door.
When you really think about it, how well do you know the people you live right next door to? For some of us, our neighbors are so close you can throw a rock from one front stoop to the other - and yet, we live our day to day lives beside these people, hoping that they aren't harboring torture chambers and "boom boom rooms" in their basements. And that's exactly where The Neighbor - written by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton and directed by Dunstan - takes you.
This movie is also a very special treat because it is the first time you can see country comedian Bill Engvall play the bad guy on screen! To be totally honest, I'm not super familiar with much of Engvall's work since it never really appealed to me, but I'm definitely no stranger to Engvall and his personality. And his portrayal of the next door neighbor Troy in this movie was perfectly executed: whenever Engvall was on screen, he managed to have this subtle crazed look on his face that just screamed "don't trust me." It was excellent acting and I loved watching his scenes, and when he really amps up the crazy, it's totally awesome. And while Engvall may be the big name in the film, much respect has to be given to Josh Stewart who played the main role in the movie and his on-screen wife Alex Essoe; while their characters may have been a little rough around the edges (getting involved in pushing drugs), they were doing what they had to do to get the fuck out of Mississippi and get away from their life of crime. And it didn't take long until I found myself rooting for Stewart and Essoe - who really just wanted a better life for themselves - to escape with their lives and find a happy ending. The characters are super likable and will keep you on the edge of your seat as they roam the chambers of Troy's hellhole house.
There really is a lot to like about The Neighbor; and while some may argue it is a rip off of The Collector franchise (of which Josh Stewart had roles, mind you) I think it is definitely worth your time, especially if you're a fan of psychological thrillers. Remember - you're not going to get a lot of bone crunching and blood gushing, but you'll definitely get a fun, fairly short escape movie that will keep your interest to the end. Worth renting, not really worth buying.