Fans of psychotic minds and sexual violence rejoice. Norway has a powerhouse of a film for you by the name of Next Door, or Naboer in its’ native tongue. This Hitchcock style thriller has some disturbing twists and turns that take it from a simple yet complex suspense thriller, into the realm of horror. Although gore is at a minimum, the sexual tension and violent tendencies will be enough to keep most horror purists satisfied.
Next Door tells the tale of John, a young Norwegian man whose life is slowly starting to unravel. The opening frames of the film show John and his long term girlfriend Ingrid. Nothing out of the ordinary from your typical lover’s spat, but things start to take a turn towards the unknown when Ingrid leaves John. John goes about his daily activities until one day a beautiful, mysterious, and new neighbor named Anne calls upon him for a favor.
Upon entering her apartment, he is startled to see large stockpiles of food and clothes scattered from wall to wall of the disheveled apartment. He is also introduced to the other mysterious, yet very attractive, roommate named Kim. This is where things begin to get a little strange. It seems as if both women are teasing John, due to his seemingly passive nature. These women speak quite candidly about their sexual exploits, and enjoy seeing John squirm. I do not want to spoil any surprises and this film deserves to be seen with a fresh perspective, unhindered by any additional plot points. Be aware that there is one particular scene in which sex becomes extremely violent. Not in a murderous way but still disturbing. I was reminded of the abhorrent sexuality of Lucky McKee’s film May at several points, as well as David Cronenberg’s psycho-sex tour de force Crash.
This film is another study of the fragility and unpredictability of the human mind. Are we living in a dark fantasy, or a shattered reality? Every scene in the film alludes to something far more sinister beneath the surface. Not since Brad Anderson’s film The Machinist, have I seen such an exploration into the blurred line of fantasy and reality. Not only is the line blurred, we are never sure where the line ends and where it begins. Fans of The Machinist will definitely want to add this one to the list of films to see. Next Door creates a similar atmosphere; with overly saturated film tones that make the audience feel uneasy.
A number of film techniques were used to create the feeling of the tense, confusion John is experiencing. The apartment’s hallway’s are long, dark, and occasionally a sickening greenish hue. We almost always see John through these long shots, as if the director was keeping the audience at a distance. This technique had me thinking of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, in that the long slow panning shots signifying that this is a man on edge. The green tints occasionally cause a dream like lapse, where we are just as unsure as John as to what is happening. A repetitive score continually appears to add a nice almost dizzying effect to the film. It really adds to the atmosphere of the fragile psyche.
If you are looking for a mindless romp in the fields of gore, you will be grossly disappointed. This film is smart, edgy and original, even though we have seen these conventions dozens of times. As with most foreign films, some subject matter may be lost on the typical movie-going American public but as most of us know, the pay-off is always worth the wait. Next Door was surprisingly short, clocking in at 76 minutes, but this is more than ample time to get the point across. Due to its short duration, it almost seemed like I had just watched a magnificent episode of Masters of Horror, as opposed to a feature film. The production values were top-notch and really created a terrific realm of slipping sanity. Gore-hounds and slasher addicts may want to skip this one but if you are in the mood for a psychological mind-bender, visit the folks Next Door.