I've seen a fair share of excellent psychological thrillers; The Korean hit "Spider Forest", David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive" and the mind-bending Japanese cult hit "Strange Circus". "NEXT DOOR" is a Norwegian film that follows the same vein as the aforementioned films. When I think of a so-called "psychological" thriller, I rather believe it refers to the screenplay being focused on the main character who is placed in a very bizarre and frightening situation that may cause him to question the thin line between fantasy and reality. This film peaked my interest and I found it very worthy of my time.
John (Kristopher Joner) is a nice young man who had recently broken up with his girlfriend; Ingrid (Anna Bache-Wig). It is fairly obvious from the get-go that the relationship didn't end on good terms. John wants to patch things up but Ingrid just wants to get her stuff and leave. She goes as far as suggesting to John that her new boyfriend Ake is waiting downstairs. The next day, John encounters two very attractive neighbors; Anne (Cecilie A. Mosli) and Kim (Julia Schacht). The two young women behave very peculiar. Not long after, John finds himself locked in the maze-like apartment next door with Kim who exhibits some violent, very sexual and disturbing advances on him.
It would be rather unfair to give you any more hints of the film's proceedings because its plot hinges on the screenplay itself. The style is reminiscent of "Pulp Fiction" and “Memento”; writer/director Pal Sletaune does an incredible job in mixing up timeline in the structure of the film. The film's biggest strength is its awesome structure. At first glance, I thought that the main premise is the relationship between John and Kim, and then John and Anne; the film jumps around to different conversations that give subtle clues and details (example: Anne's undergarment). However, the film's premise is actually the reason for John and Ingrid's break up and the factors surrounding both before and after timetables.
However, that's all similarities to "Pulp Fiction" and “Memento” end. "Next Door" is a study of a man's inner psyche. A man's inner subconscious is struggling to wake the consciousness. The film is a lot about obsession and deliverance, and eventual descent into madness and rise back to reality. There are quite a few graphic images of violent sexual behavior that may turn off a lot of viewers. The director does an excellent job in the film's pacing; it starts off a little slow then when you witness the violence, you will realize that the film isn't a sappy psychological mind-bender. The wierdness and the occasional graphic images escalate from that point on.
"NEXT DOOR" does a lot of things right, but it is not perfect. There are two flaws that may hamper the film. 1) It is a bit too short, it is about 78 minutes long including credits and 2) the shock-ending is a little predictable. I figured out the film's ending 15 minutes into the film. Despite these minor flaws, I did realize that the film isn't so much as a mystery, but rather how and when the "hidden" if subtle clues are about. It is more a character study of John and his "sexual" state of mind. There is quite a few details that the average movie-watcher may miss, but the director does a very excellent job in putting the clues and details all together.
Nevertheless, I found "Next Door" a well-made film. It does contain certain darkness to it that I was thoroughly pleased that the director had the guts to follow through with the shocking images. The film is very successful in applying a sinister and atmospheric mood to it. It may have played its hand a tad early but the film is definitely a nice piece of challenging cinema.
RECOMMENDED! To people who fancy mind-benders...[4 Stars]