Film Reviews:

The Upstairs Neighbour

(James Meredino, US, 1993)

Originally planned for filming in the UK, this low budget, American indie flick from producer Matt Devlen and director James Meredino isn't half bad. Young writer Eric Espinosa (Sebastian Gutierrez) is worried that his creative imagination is getting the better of him when a new guy moves in upstairs. He's always coming and going at strange hours of the day and night, and seems to have some very peculiar friends. What's more, Eric is convinced they are trying to convert his girlfriend. Is Eric going mad? Or is his new upstairs neighbour and his pals butt naked, fire dancing Satan worshippers looking either for converts or sacrificial lambs?

Producer Devlen has gotten a lot for his $100,000 budget version of Pacific Heights (which this predates by two years). Whilst there are the regular tell-tale signs of a low budget production (a crew member's hand can been seen at the foot of the frame at one point), the overall effect creates a reasonably polished production. The acting is mostly pretty good. The unusually named actor Rustam Branaman (!) as the suspicious neighbour either shares an uncanny resemblance to a young Mickey Rourke, the guy even has a lisp, or he is delivering an impressive tribute performance. Kane Picoy is also good as Eric's wise-cracking pal Josh. His character put to good use as the humorous dialogue helps carry the film through its sluggish periods.

There's also a brief wannabe Salvador Dali-esque dream sequence featuring floating telephones and crucifixion that looks like a homage to Dali's original in Hitchcock's Spellbound. The Upstairs Neighbour never takes itself too seriously and that helps emphasise the fleeting, darker moments. While not especially stunning nor exciting, it nevertheless effectively plays with the paranoia of its main character and its audience to deliver enough for its limited origins. 6/10

Rob Dyer (December 2001)

See also:

Pacific Heights

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