Ghost stories based on true stories are a dime a dozen in the Horror genre, with 1979’s The Amityville Horror and 1982’s Poltergeist paving the way for more recent franchises such as The Conjuring and The Haunting in Connecticut. These films’ success, coupled with hit series such as Travel Channels’ long-running Ghost Adventures and the repackaged Paranormal Witness: True Terror, seemingly proves that audiences are still eating it up. Is it, therefore, a safe bet that moviegoers will open their arms to embrace yet another ‘ghost next door’ tale? Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing are poised to roll the dice when they release The Evil Next Door, a Swedish paranormal encounter, to Digital HD and DVD on September 21, 2021.
Inspired by real events, The Evil Next Door begins with that awesomely cliché opening scene that sets a malevolent tone. And for the next 87 minutes, it will detail a story that initially appears to be the same as so many others: family moves into new home, their child begins conversing with the walls, and suddenly doors are opening themselves—it has been done ad nauseum within the genre.
Thankfully, this particular film has some surprises up its sleeve. Not simply another “true life” haunting, now in Swedish (with English subtitles, of course), this is a story of paranormal malevolence that seems to draw from Scandinavian folklore, twisting and reshaping its terrors into something the likes of which we have not seen, thus far. While it’s not a groundbreaking reinvention of the genre, it takes a seemingly blasé tale, tangles its shadows through the banister, slithers them up into the attic, and languidly builds agonizing tension until it serves up a truly creepy reveal.
How it gets there is simultaneously well-done and somewhat predictable. Linus Wahlgren (Crimes of Passion: Death of a Loved One 2013, Bäckström series) and Dilan Gwyn (Dracula Untold 2014, Älska mig series) portray a widower, Fredrik, and his girlfriend Shirin, who have just purchased a duplex in the suburbs. Along with Fredrik’s five-year-old son, Lukas (Eddie Eriksson Dominguez), the couple move into their new home with hope, only to quickly discover fear—or, at least, Lucas and Shirin do. Fredrik, in stereotypical fashion, assumes that his son merely has a wild imagination while his girlfriend, no doubt because she’s a woman, is prone to hysterics.
However, as the paranormal activity within the home grows increasingly disturbing, and Shirin wars with her emotional unrest as well as her own skepticism, the couple’s relationship begins to sour. So when his only ally is dismissed, who will save little Lucas and his new friend from The Bogeyman inside the walls?
Writer-Directors Tord Danielsson (En delad värld series, Syrror series) and Oskar Mellander (Jakten på tidskristallen series, Barna Hedenhös uppfinner julen series) make their individual and collective feature debuts with the film, which was originally (and more effectively) titled Andra sidan (“The Other Side”) in Sweden. With understandably dark and moody cinematography, and a brilliantly tense score, the filmmakers veil their mix of heartwarming feels and contorting terror, allowing viewers to initially grow complacent. Where it parts from the herd is in its creation of a shapeshifting entity (Troy James: Hellboy 2019, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark 2019) whose frightening presence is born of the most malignant intentions. And though this concept is not entirely unique, it works, guiding The Evil Next Door away from overt predictability toward a cunning twist.
Again, doors that open on their own, knocking inside walls, and children who can sense the sinister are all expected in ghost stories. It’s The Evil Next Door’s ability to eventually diverge from these tropes that elevates its overall efficacy. In this, it is hard not to mention recent offerings like 2018’s Supernatural Horror offering Mara in the same breath: neither entirely original, but both offering American viewers heinous ‘new’ monsters in the closet. In this, each of these films banks it all on their third act: hoping that moviegoers will fully commit to ignoring their remote controls, even if the self-propelled ball rolling down the hallway inspires an eye roll or two.
In this instance, however, phenomenal acting, coupled with a story with emotional depth and yet another reason to thank the stars that you’re not a child anymore, manages to bolster what might have been more white noise. So go make some popcorn and find a comfortable spot on the sofa, because Cryptic Rock gives the creeptastic The Evil Next Door 4 out of 5 stars. We dare you to watch alone, in the dark!