Two kids set about on an obviously moronic and cruel mission, only to act stunned when things take a terrible turn, in The Good Neighbor, a film that — from its basic set-up to its dearth of tension — plays like the tedious inverse of Don’t Breathe. As some sort of ill-defined social experiment, teens Ethan (Logan Miller) and Sean (Keir Gilchrist) decide to see what will happen if — through the use of electronic devices and surveillance equipment — they make their nasty across-the-street neighbor Harold (James Caan) believe his house is haunted.
No matter their claims about a higher purpose, it’s a mean-spirited prank (driven by fame-courting Ethan’s ulterior motives), and one whose horrible outcome is foreshadowed by cutaways to a subsequent courtroom trial. Those sequences are oblique enough to keep the finale’s specifics in question. However, there’s no doubt that Miller’s and Gilchrist’s characters are a dull pair of nasty idiots, and Caan’s codger — whose reactions to mysterious slamming doors and flickering lights make the kids suspect he’s a Rear Window-style killer — is equally insipid. Director Kasra Farahani’s interest in filtering his tale through Ethan and Sean’s cameras comes and goes at random, and his story’s moralizing late revelations do little to surprise, or to alter our perceptions of the preceding action — mainly because the overriding lesson imparted by his story is, from the outset, clear to anyone with even a few misfunctioning brain cells.
The Good Neighbor
Directed by Kasra Farahani
Opens September 16, Village East Cinema