The Evil Next Door forgoes character development and clever plotting in an effort to manufacture cheap scares.
Is there anything more boring than a competent, middle-of-the-road horror movie? Tord Danielsson and Oskar Mellander’s The Evil Next Door follows the haunted house playbook to a tee, so you know where the movie is going by minute 10 and have to spend the remainder of its (blessedly brief) runtime waiting for it to catch up to itself. The directing duo at least has some formal chops; they know where to put the camera to prep an audience for the inevitable jump scares, and how to utilize negative space and hide ominous figures in shadows. But this is awfully familiar stuff: nothing offends, necessarily, but it’s very much like watching something unfold on autopilot.
After a brief prelude featuring a woman frantically chasing after her child, who’s been whisked away into a dark room by an unseen force, we are introduced to Shirin (Dilan Gwyn), who’s traveling with her boyfriend Fredrik (Linus Wahlgren) and Fredrik’s young son Lukas (Eddie Eriksson Dominguez). Fredrik’s a widower, and Shirin is having some difficulties living in a dead woman’s shadow. Still, they seem happy, so much so that Shirin and Fredrik are buying a house together. It’s a cute little duplex, but the problem is one half of it contains, um, some evil, as the extremely literal title indicates. And so we watch as Lukas befriends a ghostly specter that only he can see, while Shirin slowly but surely realizes that something is wrong. Once Fredrik leaves town for a new job, the haunting episodes increase in frequency and intensity. Shirin meets some not so helpful neighbors who inform her that something happened to the home’s previous owners, while declining to say exactly what. We’re then treated to a few minutes of Shirin playing detective, uncovering information that we’re all already well aware of, and visiting the woman from the prologue, who tells us about what we’ve already seen. Soon, the ghost begins pursuing Lukas even more aggressively, leaving marks where it’s grabbed him. Fredrik assumes that Shirin is to blame and kicks her out, but she summons her courage and returns just in time to follow the ghost into a hole in the floor, where it has dragged poor Lukas.
The film finally picks up in these final few minutes, as we get a decent look at the shape-shifting ghost while Shirin navigates a tiny crawl space under the floorboards to find Lukas. It’s appropriately claustrophobic, and the directors find some creative solutions for shooting in such a confined area. But it’s far too little too late; by this point, tedium has long since set in. Gwyn makes an appealing heroine, and young Dominguez does terrified moppet well enough, but the film skips over little things like character development and clever plotting in an effort to manufacture cheap scares as quickly and efficiently as possible. This might as well be an episode of some generic Netflix acquisition. Call it The Evil Next Door to the Haunting of Hill House.
Published as part of Before We Vanish | June 2021.