This review is of the TV-14 edited version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version could be more negative
It’s time for one of those films about watching out for the next door neighbor. You never know who you’re going to be living next to when moving for the first time and so you always hope it’s a nice happy family. Sometimes that’s not the case though. Personally it’s rare that I really talk to or know my neighbors much at all but of course it’s a bit different in an apartment vs a house. The movie’s got an okay premise I suppose but ultimately this one’s definitely not much of a winner.
So the movie starts off with Simon and his wife Robyn getting a house and they’re looking forward to life going perfectly. Unfortunately that doesn’t quite happen as a man called Gordo appears and he claims to be Simon’s old classmate from school way back in the day. Simon doesn’t remember him at first but does afterwards and is puzzled because they weren’t friends. In the present Gordo keeps on bringing gifts and doing all kinds of favors for the main two but it quickly gets into weird territory. Simon quickly shuts this down as he’s as rude to Gordo as possible but now things have taken a turn from weird into dangerous when their pet dog goes missing. Is Gordo actually here to murder them?
Now this film is one of those titles where most of the characters are super unlikable. The only decent one here is Robyn and she’s going through a tough time with this since Simon keeps blowing up at her about Gordo now. He seems to be getting jealous quickly of the guy and is also hiding some secrets from his past. Robyn really wants him to be straight with her but when that’s not a possibility she can no longer trust him. Then Gordo can’t be trusted either because the guy is overstepping his bounds like breaking into the house while the main characters are away. No excuse is good enough for that to be warranted.
While Robyn means well I do think that she’s rather oblivious at times though. For example letting Gordo into the house while Simon isn’t there was not a great idea. Particularly since she barely knew him at all. I know you can’t be too paranoid when living out in the country since at that point you couldn’t even open up the door but she really seemed to be defenseless the whole time. At least have a can of pepper spray in your pocket. Even going for those long daily runs in the middle of nowhere every morning seemed a bit iffy. That said, at least she was polite the whole time.
Then you have Simon who immediately starts badmouthing Gordo behind his back and calling the guy names. This is before Gordo even started going too far. It’s like Simon was just being mean from the jump. Now this makes sense the more the film goes on as we see that he’s just not a good guy but it’s a good way not to root for him right away. Simon’s verbal attacks are never justified and even to the end you never feel like he has really changed as a person. He puts himself first above all else and really doesn’t give Robyn any thoughts during the climax. It’s all about him and well the guy is just a bully. There’s not much more that needs to be said than that and the guy is basically an antagonist by the end of the film.
Of course with all this said….Gordo is still a big villain here. No matter how mean to him Simon was, the guy is still terrorizing Robyn as well and kidnapping the dog was uncalled for. Fortunately nothing happened to the dog since that would have really torn the film apart but this guy loses his sympathy points real quick. I also get the feeling that he would have been messing with the main characters even if Simon did treat him well from the start. The guy was just acting very odd in a very intentional way. I believe he would have forced the confrontation at some point or another. At most Simon just sped it up but this guy was certainly looney.
We eventually learn why Gordo has this grudge against Simon and it definitely makes Simon and another character look really awful. You would just expect better and the film certainly wanted to go all out with having the gritty backstory. Fortunately there is a twist on the twist which is still awful but at least not as grim. The whole movie is really a race to the bottom between characters.
Now there is something that happens at the very end of the film which had the potential to drop this film down to a 0. Fortunately I don’t believe the “event” actually happened. To get into it too much would delve into spoilers but there are two main arguments I would say are on my side as to why this didn’t happen. The first is that this is a narrative callback to what happened in Gordo’s past. Just as something didn’t actually happen in his backstory, I would say that it didn’t in the present. It just serves as the ultimate revenge to have Simon think that this happened.
The other data point that supports me here is his last line to Robyn about how good things happen to good people. To me the only way he would use this line is to let her and the viewer know that this didn’t happen. At the end of the day his grudge was with Simon not her. He also got to hear her defending him from when he bugged the room. During the film at most he would just use her as ammo against Simon and this would be a fairly big jump from that. It’s still annoying that they didn’t definitively confirm my theory to be correct since it doesn’t take anything away from the revenge and if anything helps the movie. Keeping it even slightly ambiguous was just annoying.
Even with that the film wasn’t going to be very good though. The characters are just so unlikable between Simon and Gordo that it hurts a whole lot. Their dialogue is always pretty bad and in general the writing wasn’t very good here. At least the ending offers a tiny glimmer of hope for Robyn but even then it’s not the super happy ending you were waiting for. We got a few jump scares here and there but it’s not like this film is particularly scary either. The cops excuse for not going after Gordo felt rather weak though since it seems like it was really easy to find the guy.
Overall, The Gift just isn’t a very pleasant movie at the end of the day. Bad things keep happening to the characters and while Simon deserves it, you just feel bad for Robyn. At least she did take a stand by the end and I appreciate that. I also appreciate that the film didn’t do anything bad to the dog since that would have really been awful. You’re still just not going to have a very good time with this film. It delivers on having a ton of twists but for the evil neighbor angle it’s probably more effective to actually have the main characters be likable rather than doubling down and having both sides be antagonistic.