Film Review: Neighborhood Watch
As I sat and viewed Graeme Whifler’s Neighborhood Watch, I was hard pressed to think of a movie that could compare, on a nauseation scale. I, a seasoned veteran of horror films and the tests they offer, found myself squirming in my seat, and at times, realized my face had become contorted, my nose scrunched and my eyes winced almost shut, struggling to remain still through it all. I wouldn’t even put it in the top ten goriest films of all time. Its just a film that knows how to get into your stomach and TWIST. Lets play with some images that come to mind as I think back on this movie. Hmmm… nibbling on infected crumbs of suture scabs… self-fornicating with your finger (down to the knuckle), a puss-filled wound cut into your lower abdomen… stabbing ones self deep in the nads with a hypodermic needle, over and over and over… diarrhea, vomit, slicing open your own belly with a scalpel, performing exploratory surgery on that new hole, and tearing out organs that “just don’t look like they belong” at whim… Do you feel a rumble in your gut? That’s Neighborhood Watch, and you have to see it to believe it.
While attending the New York City Horror Film Festival in October, I had a chance to attend one of the coolest parties I went to in 2005 at Don Hill’s. It was there that I ran into Graeme and the producer of NW, Jeff Kirshbaum (�Milwaukee, Minnesota,� �Playing Mona Lisa,� �Milo�). We all were pretty lit by the time we spoke, and had some great casual conversations about what we liked and disliked about horror movies today. Graeme showed a great disdain for the commercial-soft crop of films being pumped out lately, and spoke of his appreciation for films that were offensive and so horrifying they could make people want to get up and walk out of the room. I took it as, this was what he was trying to accomplish with Neighborhood Watch, and became immediately interested in seeing his feature during the festival. Before the night was through, Jeff clued me into the website so I could get a few clues as to what it was about. Just a few clicks give a great taste as to what you’re in store for, as you file through Adrien’s cabinets of tasty treats.
There is an example of the special effects involved on the website. Its a short slice of film explicitly sampling the sick and twisted actions of one Adrien Trumbell – a finger being forced in and out of a puss drenched wound. A bit of self torture and simple but accurate special effects shows you where this film is going in order to pull some juice up from your digestive system. Damned if it doesn’t look real.
The plot isn’t anything extraordinary. A young couple, Bob and Wendi Petersen, move into a run-down neighborhood – much reminiscent of the type of town Assault in Precinct 13 took place in. A boarded up, unkept ghetto community on the west coast. Bob (Jack Huston) and Wendi (Pell James) keep to themselves and are more concerned with their young and sparked love affair and all the things they can do together, alone, in the house. Unfortunately, one of their neighbors is Adrien Trumbell (Nick Searcy) , and he has a dislike for sinners, and often takes it upon himself to destroy others lives because of their disgusting immoral practices. The young couple can see signs of this around the court they reside in – as the police and paramedics are often called to their street to put out fires or take complaints of peeping tomism and even attempted poisonings. The local police however, are sympathetic to Adrien and his reclusive life, as he is the son of a former mayor – so when Adrien gets confronted, he acts all innocent and sappy, and the police ask that he be forgiven and overlooked.
The problem is, for Bob and Wendi, that Adrien is bent on infecting their life with pain and suffering via poisons he either feeds to them through gifts or pumps into their water through a backyard spicket. The plot is simple, but original. What starts as a couple in love with some strange neighbors, soon becomes a living nightmare of torture and vileness that has to be witnessed to be understood. Bob is made nauseous from some “homemade” chocolates that Adrien sends over as a gift, as does Wendi. Pumped full of horse laxatives and god-knows-what from those cabinets full of jarred gonads and blackened, wet-rotted fetal pigs – Bob soon finds himself crapping his pants at work. You can just follow the brown trail home to his house, where Wendi is in the same boat. Poison oak, black “homemade” jelly deliveries… soon he’s pumping something ill into their water system, and after a couple of days, they’re crawling across the floor in their own vomit, unable to defend themselves, a few heartbeats from a toxic death. All the while, Mr. Trumbell is back home preparing his sick self, listening to tapes of the Petersens having sex, puncturing a suture on his abdomen with his finger, violently and deep, in some self-mutilating sexual perversion.
Special makeup effects were handled by Lenny MacDonald along with Steve Johnson�s Edge FX (�The Village�, �Blade 2″,�Cat in the Hat�). This film won the Best Special Effects award at the New York City Horror Film Festival this year, and what you see at the end of this movie will not soon be forgotten. Adrien slices Wendi open with a scalpel and begins to remove some of (what he thinks is) her glands that cause her to “think dirty thoughts”. Pulling at innards, Wendi wakes up during the surgery – entrails are everywhere – as Adrien nervously and repeatedly tries to re-sedate her with injections to her carotid artery. And people, I don’t need to give away the ending here. There’s a LOT more scalpels, and some incisions that had every man and woman in the room with me watching, squirming in their seats.
For Graeme, this film is an outstanding feature film debut. Not sure where this movie is headed, but it is THE most nauseating piece of fiction I’ve ever watched. I can’t, in words, sum up the vileness of Neighborhood Watch well enough to relate the absolute disgust you will feel watching this film. At Tribeca Cinemas in Manhattan, during the festival, a man passed out while watching, and several people got up and left. This was at a top-notch horror festival, mind you.
Final analysis: Neighborhood Watch will stir the stomach of even the most desensitized horror fan – an absolute must see. For more on this film, visit www.neighborhoodwatchthefilm.com