By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.
Director Nathan Suher (2014’s “Right There”, 2015’s “Scary Little F*ckers”) and writer Brian Pickard (The Leslie Taylor Show) issues a Hitchcockian mastery of tone and ever-heightening intensity in the twenty minute thriller, “Next/Door”.
From its commencing moments of chilly silence, even before the unnerving psychological portrait Suher and Pickard have in store is introduced, we can sense something is amiss. We note this in the quiet presentation of the title card. It is visible beneath the menacing isolation captured in the camera’s slow pan to the home where “Next/ Door” and its immediately alarming narrative commences.
It also signifies an eerie prelude, hidden in the unearthly quiet, to the labyrinthine twists which Suher and Pickard utilize with rapidity and mounting fascination throughout. We are immediately in instant admiration, and endlessly intrigued, by both the set-up and the talent on display.
Awakened by an argumentative couple’s spat heard through the walls of his home the lead, Otto, in a tremendously realized and multi-layered portrayal by David Ryan Kopcych, senses violence. After his neighbor, Hector, leaves he goes over to the neighboring residence where the conflict sprang to check on the situation. What he uncovers is a scene so startling it cannot be given away but, only seen and witnessed.
This is a pulpit of intrigue that “Next/ Door” uses as a launch pad. It is a springboard meant to engage us. This is also meant to make us challenge our own surroundings throughout. Such attempts it carries out masterfully.
The way Suher and Pickard play with Otto, as well as the sudden situation he is thrust into and what transpires becomes of it, is inventive and ingenious. It is also one of the many ways the tale remains fresh and vigorous at every turn. What Suher and company have crafted here is endlessly watchable. It is also complimented by a swift-moving runtime.
“Next/ Door” hinges on its ability to successfully build an ever-increasing sense of dread and unease. It executes this with skill. This is thanks largely to its fervent, palpable credibility and charisma. We see this pulsating beneath the incredible talent the performances convey.
Lindsey Elizabeth Cork, as the object of Otto’s strange obsessions, Patty, and Gio Castellano, as Hector, bring their respective characters to life. These are all genuinely stalwart acting turns.
There is an immediacy to all of the enactments that makes the proceedings all the more realistic. In turn, it makes the tension all the more relentless and stirring as it resonates on-screen.
We believe these characters. Furthermore, we’re involved with them. We care about them and their well-being. This is a sympathy, a concern many horror works try to evoke but fail at miserably.
“Next/ Door” is captivating, breathlessly suspenseful and gripping material. It is also beautifully written and brilliantly directed. Moreover, it is break-neck paced throughout.
To its further credit, Travis Gray’s gorgeously grim cinematography captures every taunt plot element with nuance. Gray drapes the work in a veneer that is impeccable and well-suited for the attitude of the account itself.
This stunning characteristic, along with an equally atmospheric score from Kevin MacLeod and seamless film editing from Suher himself, all comes together to create a nerve-jangling rollercoaster ride. Excellent make-up work by Lauren Buckman and Nicole McLaughlin and exceptional sound work from Luis Carvalho and Nelson Reis heighten this point. These are among the various reasons that you don’t just watch “Next/Door”: you experience it.
Suher’s latest pulls you immediately in its initial seconds. It encapsulates and grips the audience’s imagination. Furthermore, it challenges our own sensibilities long after it has finished. To say this short is simply “haunting” is quite the understatement.
“Next/ Door” is a searing exhibition of what Suher can do as a director and craftsmen. Among its numerous charming attributes is how much narrative it holds in its small span.
This is a gift to, not only fellow admirers of the horror genre, but those who appreciate filmmaking in general. Because of this I eagerly look forward to seeing what other cinematic wonders Suher will present us with in the future.