Directed by Jeff Woolnough [Other horror films: Nightworld: Lost Souls (1998), Strange Frequency 2 (2002)]
This made-for-TV movie isn’t the most forgettable film I’ve ever seen (it helps that I’ve just seen it, to be sure), but I don’t think it has the staying power that the creators were probably hoping for, which is a shame, as the story itself isn’t too bad.
I’m not personally one to care about production value – there have been plenty of quality low-budget made-for-DVD and made-for-TV movies, and I don’t judge a film based on what money went into it – but that being said, a lot of this movie still came across to me as bland and occasionally uninspired.
Based off a novel by Anne Rivers Siddons of the same title, published in 1978, the story isn’t that shabby, and has some interesting ideas in it (such as going through different owners of the house and the varied misfortunes they encounter), but the film isn’t able to pull that together into that great a movie-watching experience.
For what it’s worth, I think most of the performances are okay, at least in that Lifetime movie way. Lara Flynn Boyle and Colin Ferguson are decent together, though maybe come out of this a little generic (and that first-person narration that popped up at the beginning and the end didn’t do them wonders). Mark-Paul Gosselaar (of Dead Man on Campus… fame?) was a bit soapy at times, but still serviceable. Of the people who temporarily brought the house, Noam Jenkins (who appeared in Saw II and IV) was the best, becoming an overly orderly and pompous jackass like few others.
There were some okay scenes here, such as a somewhat jarring suicide, and the uncomfortable way Jenkins’ character spoke to his wife during the dinner party, along with any of the scenes of the new home owners giving into the mental pressures of the new house, but all of it feels tame and bland, even when it really shouldn’t.
The House Next Door isn’t a bad story, but the execution wasn’t properly done. The movie was lacking in feeling, and though a few things were decent with it, overall, I can imagine this being one of the many post-2000 made-for-TV movies that people will watch once and forget entirely.