It only takes a moment to realize that Bobby (David Pridemore) is more than a little off-kilter. He's sitting in a smalltown cafe, a piece of pie and a cup o' joe sitting in front of him and a slightly bloodied hand indicative that all is not well. He's boiling much hotter than anything in that cup o' joe, a fact that makes you immediately anxious for everyone that surrounds him. Joshua Csehak's lens lingers on Bobby - not just his face, though it's menacing. The lens lingers on Bobby's entire being and it radiates the kind of combustibility that makes you nervous when you see him.
Bobby quickly escapes this scenario, snatching keys from the purse of a mother in the booth next to him and leaving her and her children behind as he drives off in their van.
We all know this will not be Bobby's last crime in writer/director Michael A. LoCicero's crime thriller The Killers Next Door.
Bobby's estranged foster brother, Ryan (LoCicero), is in equally dire straits though seemingly less volatile and more desiring of something resembling a normal life. While Bobby never comes off as less than a sociopath, Ryan displays a potential for goodness yet also a tendency to make bad choice after bad choice.
The two reunite. We all know this isn't going to be good.
Filmed largely in Danbury, Rhode Island, The Killers Next Door is an amplified crime thriller both bloody and surprisingly thoughtful. While Bobby and are making their way to the woods of rural Rhode Island, an unsuspecting married couple, Ro (Rosanna Jimenez) and Sean (Sean Carmichael), are headed the same direction in order to escape their hectic city life and to put some focus on their seemingly stressed out marriage. The two encounter Bobby and Ryan. It's a volatile encounter, though it largely benefits them when the two men help Sean keep from getting ripped off by a local general store owner.
Sean is appreciative. Ro is more than a little wary.
The parties go their separate ways though, as we might expect, they encounter each other again on a quiet country road. Bobby looks like he could pounce at any moment.
The stage is set for the cat-and-mouse dynamics of this indie thriller that somehow never downward spirals largely owing to its strong ensemble cast and the inherent isolative serenity of the Rhode Island countryside that is both beautiful to look at and incredibly unnerving.
There's little denying that Pridemore steals the show here with a performance that is soulful yet sizzling and impossible to forget. Pridemore bounces on the edge of caricature yet never crosses that line and reminded me more than once of Anton Chigurh. While Pridemore works regularly in the indie arena, his work here deserves to be recognized far and wide.
LoCicero holds his own alongside Pridemore, embodying Ryan as a tad more decent of a human being with at least a wee bit of a conscious. He doesn't so much desire the life of crime, though he's easily seduced by it and undoubtedly influenced by Bobby. It's a tricky performance and LoCicero pulls it off quite nicely.
As Ro and Sean, Jimenez and Carmichael are decidedly more subdued as a married couple whose stressors suddenly have to take a backseat to simple survival. While they are arguably the center of the film's narrative, there's no doubt that Bobby and Ryan inevitably dominate. Carmichael impresses as a young man who is seemingly a pushover, his initial state of being impressed by Bobby and Ryan's confidence foolish at best and potentially fatal at worst. It's clear that Ro is dancing on the edge of being over her marriage and desires a stronger mate, though it's also clear she sees the difference between strength and aggression in Bobby and Ryan. Both Carmichael and Jimenez shine in roles that feel lesser developed but likely simply pale in comparison to their counterparts.
Particularly impressive supporting players include Scout Lyons as Penny in one remarkable scene alongside Richard Donelly as Dick.
Alex Uriati's original music is frequently unsettling and constantly draws us deeper into a narrative that feels relentlessly volatile and relentlessly unstable. We're never quite sure what's going to happen even when nothing really happens other than that fierce building of tension.
Picked up by Deskpop Entertainment, The Killers Next Door is currently available on digital and VOD.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic