Young marrieds Lori and Tom relocate from Chicago to the country where they end up living next to Carl, a right-wing radical who beats his wife, Helen. When Tom goes away for a few days, Lori, with the help of best friend, Monica, investigates the disappearance of Helen. Of course, this isn't the best idea, since it involves sneaking into gun-nut Carl's house in the middle of the night. Written by
As a writer and a filmmaker myself, I try not to be ultra-critical when you consider all of the elements that go into making a film. When viewing this one, I quickly realized that John Benjamin Martin's script didn't have the same quality of writing of a William Goldman script, and for the most part it certainly lacked the dialogue of a Quentin Tarantino ... or even a Jon Favreau script, for that matter. But, if you're looking for a semi-fun, serviceable B-thriller, this will do fine. In fact, it's the perfect Friday Midnight Movie when you just want to veg-out with a BIG tub of buttered popcorn!
In fact, a little over four years ago, a similar film - WHAT LIES BENEATH - was released starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford. Was it a better movie? Sure, but not that much better when you consider all of the variables involved: HOUSE NEXT DOOR was made with a lot less dough than WHAT LIES BENEATH was. And HND certainly lacked both the A-list stars and the BIG-Studio backing of 20th Century Fox and Dreamworks. In fact, I would go so far as to say that director Joey Travolta did the best he could with what was given him.
And one of the things given him in this film is a fine performance by James Russo, who is at his utmost-creepiest, playing Carl Schmidt, the next door neighbor of Lori Peterson (played by A.J. Cook). Russo's performance - along with Travolta's direction - actually makes this film not only watchable, but enjoyable as a "guilty pleasure." As does the performance of Sean Young, who also does the most she can with the supporting role of Monica, Peterson's long-time friend. It's priceless to hear her utter lines such as, "It's crazy - I mean like get in the car and move to Arizona crazy!" Frederic Forrest, who garnered a Best Supporting Actor nomination in 1980 for his performance in THE ROSE, also lends credibility to the cast.
And again, I felt Travolta's direction, which seems to get better with each new film, helps to offset the movie's notoriously low budget.
As was the case with WHAT LIES BENEATH several years back, THIS film is filled with the obvious cheap thrills you'd expect from a movie of this nature, but again, that's part of the reason that makes THIS the perfect Friday Midnight Movie!
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