The first step to watching Surrealist cinema is understanding that some things are not meant to be understood. As a movement rooted in the dream-realm, Surrealist cinema relies on shock, irrationality, and psychological horror. Nick Gatsby’s silent experimental film My Neighbor Wants Me Dead incorporates all of those things to create a psychedelic work of art that embodies the unique and thrilling atmosphere of the Avant-Garde.
As seen in many experimental and surrealist classics such as Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon and Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s Un Chien Andalou, My Neighbor Wants Me Dead is centered around the idea of being trapped in a domestic space. Like the title implies, the film’s protagonist is confined in his home while his neighbor poses a menacing threat. While that alone is a chilling plot, the real horror comes from the supernatural and psychedelic occurrences that cause the protagonist to relive several gruesome events and slowly descend into madness.
With violently neon colors and haunting operatics, My Neighbor Wants Me Dead is a truly immersive experience that goes beyond the traditions of cinema. The film’s unique soundscape (Scott Mitchell) uses unexpecting sounds, such as stomach gurgles and elevator music, to convey an unsettling and disturbed environment.
With repetition of symbolic props and editing style (Nick Gatsby), My Neighbor Wants Me Dead is reminiscent of the eerie and perplexing work of Maya Deren who pioneered the Avant-Garde movement of the 40s and 50s. The film draws from several aesthetics seen throughout film history and seamlessly intertwines it with the world of video gaming.
By sprinkling in a few nods to early cinema, like an image from Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon, My Neighbor Wants Me Dead is a homage of sorts to the foundations of film and is undoubtedly a work of art that film history buffs will appreciate.