Neighbor (2009)

Rating: C-

Dir: Robert A. Masciantonio
Star: America Olivo, Christian Campbell, Lauren Rooney, Pete Postiglione

I tend not to use the label “torture porn” much – a very long time ago, I accidentally (through a mis-labelled VHS tape on a market stall) saw two minutes of real torture porn, and let me assure you, Hostel is definitely not it. However, watching this gives me some idea of what the phrase means in cinematic terms. A film where all the effort goes into the sadistic abuse of the movie’s victims, without any effort to story-line, or development of character on either side of the perpetrator/victim divide. About the only novel element here is that the torturer is an unnamed woman (Olivo), who has been travelling around brutalizing entire households, and anyone else unlucky enough to come in the front door.

Her next target is Don Carpenter (Campbell), a musician in a band who is working towards releasing a CD. As a result, he’s spending a lot of time in a soundproof studio – which is exactly what the woman wants for her super happy fun time. Make no mistake, Masciantonio has a nasty, inventive eye for violence, which is depicted with an unflinching eye that packs a fair wallop. But these aspects just make the contrast with the rest of the film all the more notable – in that everything else, pretty much sucks. It doesn’t help that there’s an ill-conceived subplot whee Carpenter is frequently hallucinating.

For it’s almost impossible to make any emotional investment in a film, when you can never be sure if what’s happening, is actually happening. Olivo has her moments, but none of the rest of the cast make any kind of impression – though in Campbell’s case, he does have an excuse in that he spends much of the film bound and gagged. While I appreciate the twist in having a woman as perpetrator rather than victim, it’s not enough to make this succeed. If you want an oestrogen-based home invasion flick, go watch Mother’s Day or A L’Interieur instead.