Let’s all face it, some of us have become a group of cynical, eye-rolling, scoffing, armchair movie watchers. We speculate on narrative twists, we point at tropes, we even predict box-office returns. Granted, we’ve also become an audience that has gained so much in the language of cinema. The one thing we’ve lost, however, with our understanding of cinema is the wonder, the pure spectator-induced euphoria. Movies are a sport now, we try to deconstruct and measure the tangible worth. A few filmmakers and their films, however, do not accept this. They have the voracity to present us with misdirection, with wonder, with a shifting sense of narration that attempts to make the audience just an audience again. One of these films is the latest from Chris Peckover, Safe Neighborhood.
When Safe Neighborhood begins it would be understandable for an audience member to feel like they have the running time sorted. This person will smugly scoff at the upcoming twist and elbow their friend to say they saw it coming. The thing is this, that person would be wrong. The twist that most of us will see coming, the one some people will scoff at, reveals itself in the first act. From this point the film plays like a tilted funhouse, the narrative equivalent of those spinning rooms that has the floor that breaks away. Just when the new narrative rises from the twist that would be placed at the end of most films, it shifts again, and then again, and then perhaps one more time. This film is intent on making you feel disorientated in the best way possible.
And like those funhouses, this movie is just that; pure fun. It’s strange to say that about a movie with its fair share of death and blood, but it stands true. This film will keep most audience on the edge of their seats, gripping just a bit tighter on their popcorn, as an involuntary smile crosses their faces. It not only demands to bring wonder back to the cinema, it also wants to make sure you don’t have time to analyze it. The running time whirs by at a frenetic pace, a pace so frantic that a viewer wont’ have the time to speculate on anymore twists, to point at any tropes, and they sure as hell won’t worry about the box office returns.
This review has been intentionally vague towards the plot or story elements of Safe Neighborhood. It is a film best enjoyed fresh, best when each turn is new and unexpected. The official synopsis of the film is: “On a quiet suburban street, a babysitter must defend a twelve-year-old boy from intruders, only to discover it’s far from a normal home invasion”. This synopsis is like the film itself, seemingly shallow and predictable, but with just a hint of something deeper and more nuanced. So when this film is released go and see it, see it a theater, see it with a crowd; if for no other reason to mock the person who thinks they have the twist figured out.