The People Next Door is the newest Channel 4 drama from the creators of Blackout and Cyber Bully. Upon moving into their new house, couple Jemma and Rich begin a home video to document Jemma’s pregnancy. It isn’t until they hear violent shouting from the people next door that they start to question who their neighbours are, transforming their playful filming into a tense and unnerving evidence blog.
I’m always slightly sceptical of self-documented dramas filmed through poor angles with shaky hands. Mainly because I can never quite understand why anyone would think to continue filming something horrifying, rather than throwing the camera out the window and running a mile, but I must admit, the style works and I was hooked and at risk of biting all my nails off within five minutes. The constant, and at times completely unnecessary, horror film music accompanying the video footage didn’t exactly help, as I found myself being scared by just about everything including the cereal they ate for breakfast – but I am a self-declared wimp.
I wasn’t the only one who was getting increasingly paranoid as Jemma quickly switched from chilled out girlfriend to anxious mother figure, becoming obsessed with the apparently abusive activity taking place on the other side of the wall. The sighting of a small blond haired boy, who looks remarkably like child abuse victim, Baby P, is the cause of her unease, as after running parentless into their house he is never to be seen again. The purchase of a nanny cam, which is snuck into the neighbour’s house, steps things up a notch, causing friction between the young couple as Rich starts questioning whether it’s really their right interfere, regardless of what they suspect.
The drama succeeds in combining the hard hitting subject of child abuse with an unusual undertone of unnerving paranormal suggestion. The climax of the programme shows Jemma at the peak of desperation, breaking into the neighbour’s house in order to discover the source of the cries she has been haunted by for weeks. What follows left me hiding behind several cushions, so I was rather relieved when the couple were next shown retelling their tale to the police. What became interesting was the amount of suspicion directed towards Jemma. Essentially portrayed to be a crazy pregnant woman obsessed with filming her neighbours, the recurrent question is – why did you feel it was your place to intervene?
I was left pondering this question after removing myself from my cushion fort and was impressed by the clever way in which Channel 4 had drawn attention to the multiple cases of failed child abuse victims, such as Peter Connelly and, most recently, Alyeeshia Jane Smith, while also, rather ironically, implying that those who do interfere when social services fail are wrong in doing so. The underlying paranormal tone will leave you creeped out for days, wondering if you really know what is going on next door, and more importantly, should you investigate?
Image courtesy of The Evening Standard.