Film review: THE KING IS DEAD, from Built For Speed

Next to a live-in poltergeist, bad neighbours are our worst suburban nightmare.  Whether they’re blasting obnoxious music to all hours of the night, throwing violent drunken parties or using the neighbourhood as their personal garbage dump, abhorrent neighbours can turn the secure, tranquil oasis of home into a living hell.  The King is Dead explores this scenario in all its horror as a young professional couple find their inner-suburban Adelaide home terrorised by repulsive feral neighbours.

Bojana Novakovic and Dan Wylie star as Therese and Max a young couple who think they’ve just moved into their dream home. When, about five minutes after they move in, a crazed looking neighbour sets up a huge speaker in his front yard and begins blasting obscene hip hop, they suspect this might not be the yuppy paradise they had hoped.  At first the self-assured progressives Max and Therese think they can laugh off the dodgy neighbours as a sociological oddity but as the noise, violence and drug dealing next door escalates and the police offer no recourse, they unwisely decide to take matters into their own hands.

The first half of The King is Dead is a near-perfect depiction of the horrible stress that totally inconsiderate neighbours can inflict on people.  Although a little smug in their attitude to the thugs next door, Therese and Max are clearly innocent victims.  As the intimidating neighbours, Gary Waddell, Animal Kingdom’s Luke Ford and The Slap’s Anthony Hayes, absolutely nail the language and aggressive mocking attitude of violent hoods.

Unfortunately, much like the public transport nightmare Last Train to Freo which also portrayed thuggery with frightening accuracy, The King is Dead takes an unwelcome turn into the ridiculous.  The film transforms into a quirky crime caper with half-assed attempts at Tarantino style stand-offs and ironic dialogue.  The tension, threat and unnerving realism of the first half withers away amid lame gags, completely unbelievable behaviour from all concerned and even some cringe-worthy racial stereotyping.  Given the film’s superb set up, this sudden right turn is one of the most jarring and irritating in recent cinema; the annoying twee score doesn’t help either.

Despite the film’s disappointing third act, The King is Dead is still recommended for its insights into the horror of suburban living.


Nick’s rating:  Three stars

Classification: MA

Director: Rolf de Heer

Released: July 12th 2012

Running time: 102 mins.

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