Shot under the title Andra Sidan which translates to the very fitting “The Other Side”, The Evil Next Door is a film about a haunted house, a duplex to be precise, from Swedish writer/directors Tord Danielsson and Oskar Mellander.
Shirin (Dilan Gwyn, Dracula Untold, The Convent), her boyfriend Fredrik (Linus Wahlgren) and his young son Lucas (Eddie Errikson Dominguez) have just moved into a duplex. It doesn’t take long before Lucas has made friends with the kid who lives next door. The problem is, the other unit is vacant. Fredrik is away most of the week working leaving Shirin and Lucas alone most of the time. It isn’t long before she starts hearing and seeing things as well. And learning of the building’s dark history. And the deeper she digs, the worse the story becomes.
Right from the film’s prologue, The Evil Next Door treads a well-worn path. It’s based on an allegedly true story, the house selling for a price too good to be true, the troubled child/stepparent relationship, etc. It’s no surprise when Lucas picks up on the presence and starts drawing troubling pictures of his new friend because we’ve seen it all before.
To their credit, Danielsson and Mellander do an excellent job with the material, and The Evil Next Door delivers plenty of scares. But while it isn’t boring in between them, the film never manages to build off of those moments either, it just falls back into a familiar story well told. Maybe it’s because Sweden doesn’t have a history of producing its own fright films this seemed new to the writers. I could only think of Let the Right One In, Blood Tracks and Wither. Then I remembered the guys who made Wither also made Animalistic in their homeland.
It also doesn’t help that the characters in The Evil Next Door are so poorly developed. Lucas is the stock troubled kid who misses his mom and is wary of his stepmother. All we know about Fredrik is that he’s a widower and he works at a job where he needs to wear a reflective safety vest. We’re never told how Lucas’ mother died, although a picture suggests cancer.
We know even less about Shirin. We see her at a laptop several times but we don’t know what she’s doing. Is she a writer? A stay-at-home stepmom gathering recipes? The leads are so poorly developed that it’s almost impossible to connect with them, and ninety percent of the time, they’re the only ones on screen.
The same is true for the film’s child-snatching demon. We never learn what it is, how it came to be in the house or why it wants children as opposed to entire families. With its J horror influenced look and mannerisms but no backstory, it feels like a generic boogeyman. How a Japanese demon ended up in Sweden could have made for a fascinating backstory, but they wasted the opportunity to set The Evil Next Door apart from other haunted house films.
It’s too bad because the final act does build a real sense of claustrophobia as Shirin is forced to descend under the house to face the demon on its own territory. Making good use of the dark, cramped sub-basement crawlspaces and keeping the film moving Danielsson and Mellander bring The Evil Next Door to an excellent climax. The filmmakers have the right idea and visual sense, they just need a script to match.
The Evil Next Door will be available on DVD and Digital HD on September 21st from Magnet Releasing in both subtitled and dubbed versions. You can check the film’s website for more information.