The somewhat loopy nature of the three characters who dominate the screen time during GOOD NEIGHBORS makes it a more interesting film than your average potboiler. You see, I have a hard time controlling my rage when Hollywood keeps delivering thriller after thriller in which the characters are not only unrealistically good-looking, but also unrealistically inept. I welcome the fact that the three title characters in GOOD NEIGHBORS are awkward people with particular quirks and who don't always know the right things to say. It's not just the fact that the film feels more honest; it's also that I can relate to them more easily. The result of that, in the case of a mystery/thriller, is that it makes it easier to feel more interested in knowing what the fates of the characters will be, and it makes for a higher impact whenever you discover secrets about them, which is something that happens frequently in this film.
Louise (Emily Hampshire) is a waitress who lives in a lower-middle class apartment in Montreal with her two cats, with whom she has a friendlier-than-usual relationship: as soon as she gets home, she starts talking to them as if they were real people about how her day went and about the things she needs to get done. Her only other friend seems to be Spencer (Scott Speedman), who also lives in the building. He's a paraplegic, but before you start feeling too sorry for him, you should know that, in the first scene we see him, he's feeding one of his pet fish to a piranha-like fish that he seems to have bought expressly for the macabre purpose of watching it eat his smaller fish. Finally, there's Victor (Jay Baruchel), a school teacher who recently moved into the building. He seems to develop an immediate romantic interest in Louise, though it's hard to tell if his fidgetiness is due to being nervous around her, or to other reasons. Spencer reacts with much sarcasm and "Just kidding!" jokes to Victor's obvious approaches to Louise, and we can't quite tell whether it's because Spencer is simply jealous, or if there's something else brewing here. You see, amidst this little triangle, there's something else going on: there's a serial killer in town. Louise becomes obsessed with reading news related to the killings, even more so after one of the waitresses who works with her becomes one of the victims.
The trailer for GOOD NEIGHBORS suggests that one of our three protagonists is the serial killer and that the film's mystery is to discover which one of them it is. The good thing is that the film's mystery isn't as straightforward as the trailer makes it out to be. It's not really a whodunnit - it's something else, but obviously, revealing it here would constitute a major spoiler. All I'll reveal is that the one scene in which we actually see someone commit a murder is delightfully unconventional and, to be frank, it's even funny (and not in a bad way). One gets the feeling that this scene depicts the awkwardness and the clumsiness of what would REALLY happen if you actually went about killing someone.
As I mentioned, the desire to find out what will happen at the end of GOOD NEIGHBORS is heightened thanks to the fact that Louise, Spencer and Victor aren't pristine stock figures. The natural way in which they interact with each other, particularly at the mini-party that Spencer agrees to throw in his apartment so that all three of them get a chance to hang out, makes them living, breathing characters that one can actually take an interest in. As the film goes from there, things get weirder and weirder, and we start discovering unexpected facts about all three of them. Why is Louise so obsessed with the news articles about the serial killer? Why does Spencer not want to use the ramp for the handicapped? Why does Victor suddenly start lying to other people in the building, telling them that he and Louise are engaged?
Correctly doing what all low-budget thrillers should do, the film takes advantage of small details to elevate the level of creepiness. There's one particularly nice touch (at two separate moments in the film) that features Victor continuously marking off exams with a red pen. But the most interesting aspect of GOOD NEIGHBORS is the plot dilemma that emerges during the film's final minutes. One of our three characters has to decide which plan to go with: the plan proposed by one of the other two characters, or the one proposed by the other one. Each plan would have a completely opposite effect than the other. There are no initial indications as to which direction will be taken by the character who has to make the decision, which makes it all the more intriguing. It's certainly not as great as something out of a Hitchcock film, but it's a nice attempt at emulation.
Emily Hampshire gives a delightfully offbeat performance as Louise. It's difficult to know what page she's on, and while that may be off-putting to some people, I love it, because it makes her character all the more interesting to watch. Scott Speedman goes from amiable to snarky to creepy (and back and forth, at times) without missing a beat. The lone weak link in the performance department is Jay Baruchel, who I do feel overplays the nervousness sometimes. It gives me the impression that he's better suited continuing to play dweeby, apprehensive characters in comedies rather than participating in a more serious genre like this one.
I know it sounds strange to say this, but GOOD NEIGHBORS benefits a lot from its weirdness. I prefer this infinitely more than the average thriller in which mentally-challenged characters take ages to realize that something out of the ordinary is going on, and in which the cops wait until the VERY second after the action is finally over to make their appearance. In addition, the film benefits from the fact that, contrary to what the trailer tells you, it's not really a straightforward whodunnit. Oh, and if you have a background in visual arts or editing, you may have a different opinion than me on this, but as someone with amateur-level knowledge in that field, I thought the final credits sequence was terribly cool.