Yesterday, I went to my dentist uncle for my routine scaling and a bit of dental treatment, and I had to deal with the possibility of physical stress and pain although everything turned out to be fairly fine on the whole after around 30 minutes. To be frank with you, I would rather go through this uncomfortable process more than once instead of enduring the 93-minute running time of South Korean film “Next Door”, which is one of the worst South Korean movies of last year in my humble opinion. This wretched piece of work is a brainless insult to any moviegoer who simply wants to be entertained, and now I must say this; I disliked, detested, and despised every nerve-grating minute of incompetence and stupidity in the film.
The story premise of the screenplay by director/writer Yeom Ji-ho looks promising at first. Its pathetic loser hero, Chan-woo (Oh Dong-min), has been preparing for his another attempt on the police department examination in an one-room apartment building full of young people like him, but then one of his friends calls him for drinking together in the evening, and he does not say no even though he really has to focus on his examination study right now. After drinking too much during that evening, he wakes up in the next morning to find himself in the one-room apartment right next to his, and then he is shocked to find a body on the bloody floor.
Not so surprisingly, Chan-woo is quickly thrown into panic and confusion, and he comes to commit a number of stupid things which will make your eyes roll more than once. Instead of instantly calling the police, he quickly gets out of that one-room apartment just because of being afraid of becoming the prime suspect, which may jeopardize his current preparation for the upcoming police department examination. Unfortunately, he happened to leave his smartphone in that one-room apartment, so he comes to do a very risky act for getting back into that one-room apartment again and then retrieving his smartphone.
Of course, the situation becomes quite more problematic shortly after he manages to get inside that one-room apartment. Mainly because of the landlady who soon comes to his one-room apartment for its boiler repair, Chan-woo only finds himself trapped inside his neighbor’s resdience much longer than expected, and he becomes more agitated by the growing possibility of getting himself exposed at any chance.
Now, this is certainly a typical setup for the fusion between thriller and black comedy, but the movie does not provide much thrill or humor or interest for getting things to roll within its limited background. While the screenplay is often quite trite and predictable as lackadaisically throwing one plot turn after another along the story, it is also very annoying due to its cheap sense of humor as well as its glaring lack of character development, and we simply observe its rather banal and uninteresting hero’s accumulating plight without much care or interest. After all, he had it coming from the start, so we do not feel so sorry for him as observing him from the distance, but his pathetic struggles along the story are not even amusing or compelling enough to hold our attention.
This is not the fault of Oh Dong-min at all, who certainly tries hard to sell his character from the beginning to the end. Sadly, he is stuck with delivering numerous bad lines besides forced to utter the same Korean slang many, many, many times throughout the running time of the film, and this does not bring any comic or dramatic depth to his character while only adding more annoyance for us. Sure, the movie does not expect us to like his character, but, let’s admit it, folks, he is your average superficial South Korean male jerk, and I must tell you that I do not have much tolerance for such characters like him especially if there is not any interesting thing to observe and write about.
And the movie only gets worse during its second half, where it tries more idiotic things here and there around its hero. First of all, it ruins any remaining taut sense of isolation and desperation via the introduction of a few other characters in the story, and it also annoys us a lot more than before as its hero continues to be stupid as usual. At one point, he clumsily tries to “investigate” the crime scene for understanding what the hell is really going on around him, but his silly attempt only reminds us that he will not be a very good policeman even if he manages to pass the examination. He also gets several opportunities to call the police, but he always chooses to do wrong things instead, and, as you have already guessed, his misguided choices only make things worse for him.
During my viewing, I became all the more frustrated with how contrived the movie really is, and I even found myself loudly shouting “Call the police now, you idiot!” more than once during my viewing. Fortunately, I was watching it at my residence via Netflix instead of watching it at a movie theater along with other audiences, so I did not have to be embarrassed at all, and that was probably the only saving grace in my terrible experience with the movie.
By the way, the main reason I watched “Next Door” yesterday was pretty simple. Several days ago, one of my acquaintances asked me to watch and then rate “Next Door” and several other South Korea independent films including “Drown” (2022) and “Three” (2020) for an upcoming local movie award ceremony, and I am rather depressed to report to you that I was not satisfied enough with any of these three films. I did not have to pay to see them at least, but should have I said no, I wonder?