Writer/Director Yeom Ji-ho’s inventive and stylish thriller comedy Next Door is as fun a debut as The Evil Dead and as twisted a narrative as Blood Simple finding its narrative confidence somewhere in-between. Playing at Fantasia Film Festival 2022.
Imagine the hangover from hell only to wake up next to a dead body. This is the tip of the proverbial iceberg of a bad day in store for Writer/Director Yeom Ji-ho’s hero in his wildly entertaining Next Door.
We’ve all had a friend like Chan-woo (Oh Dong-min). Constantly dreaming but the slacker in him gets the better of the always broke but well-meaning. Chan-woo’s has been trying for five years to get through the Police Entrance Exam failing each time. It’s a night of drinking, good food, and friendship that ends up with Chan-woo in bed right next to a dead body. It’s going to take Chan-woo’s feeble deductive powers and a lot of luck to get out of an increasingly stranger and violent situation. All before the 6:00 pm deadline for his fifth and final Police Entrance Exam.
The best debut films are always the ones that find inventive use of the limited resources that are at their disposal. Writer/Director Yeom Ji-ho has created a masterful Rube Goldberg-style piece of pulpy fiction set in a single location – a studio apartment. Similar to Sam Raimi and The Coen Brothers, Yeom Ji-ho is in love with the possibility of visual storytelling. Like those filmmakers, Yeom Ji-ho has his own particular style that understands visual setups and payoffs as well as any filmmaker working currently.
There is a constantly adroit understanding and control of the storytelling via acting, editing, and camera. This rewards the audience the deeper Next Door dives into the trouble that its main character Chan-woo finds himself in. Something as inconsequential as an alarm on a cell phone becomes an entire set piece (which is supremely satisfying and hilarious).
Though, none of this would have worked without an accomplice that was as talented and adroit a storyteller. Oh Dong-min is definitely Bruce Campbell to Yeom Ji-ho’s Sam Raimi. There isn’t anything that the actor isn’t willing to do during the run time of the film. As Chan-woo, Oh Dong-min is able to create a character that is relatable and empathetic while being one of the most lazy-inept-selfish-cowardly main characters since Campbell originally portrayed Ash Williams in The Evil Dead. And he’s funny. Never has someone’s panic attacks been more relatable and funnier in an actor’s hands.
To discuss more would be to ruin the truly satisfying rollercoaster that Yeon Ji-ho has built. Next Door isn’t just a great time at the cinema. It’s an announcement of a bold new talent, one that by its end will have you wanting the next project from the filmmaker – and his star – to already be done and waiting to be watched.