Once you’ve watched Channel 4’s disturbing The People Next Door, you’ll find yourself wondering, even if just for a moment, who is really on the other side of your wall.
Ordinary young couple Gemma (Fish Tank’s Joanna Horton) and Richard (Happy Valley’s Karl Davies) have just bought their first home and are expecting a baby. It’s all very exciting, and the couple settles in nicely to their new pad.
Except for the screaming and shouting they hear at all times of the night through their walls from the house next door. Listening more closely, pregnant Gemma is convinced that she’s also hearing cries and smacking noises, which she is certain are the sounds of a toddler being abused. She and Richard have seen the child just once — but not since.
Feeling morally obliged to act, the couple starts an evidence blog, recording the sounds and the time they hear them, gathering as much information as possible about what’s going on next door.
And after social services say there’s nothing to worry about, Gemma becomes increasingly obsessed with proving that next door’s child is in danger. As she gets ever more desperate, she starts to spy on them in a way that raises questions about who is actually committing the crime — Gemma’s neighbours, or Gemma?
A chilling urban nightmare about obsession and mistrust, Channel 4’s drama is something we can all relate to on some level. Whether we’ve heard about a friend’s sinister-seeming neighbour, had one ourselves or read about the unimaginable horror of the Baby P case, this is stuff we’ve wondered about.
Davies and Horton are both mesmerising in their portrayal of an ordinary couple catapulted into darkness they didn’t dream they’d encounter in their new family home.
And what makes the film particularly unsettling is how it all unfolds through found footage — camcorder recordings, CCTV video, a nanny cam and police tapes — in a Blair Witch Project-style which makes it feel totally realistic. Jolty and grainy rather than glossy, The People Next Door’s immediacy left me reeling — and absolutely invested in Gemma’s desperation to prove she’s right.