You know one of the things I love so much about the internet is how something small can spread like wildfire, growing until it becomes a part of a subculture that touches thousands of lives (and if anybody knows how to make Screened do that then please, let me know, I'm throwing every idea I got at the wall). But long before the internet introduced us to memes, these phenomenons existed underground and became a large part of counter culture for decades. One such example came in the late eighties when two young guys move into a new apartment in San Francisco, and after signing the lease their landlady turns to them and says, "Oh, one more thing. The next door neighbors, little bit loud."
We quickly learn that these two neighbors aren't a little bit loud, they are maniacs who do nothing but fight and scream at each other at the top of their lungs, morning, noon, and night, as if neither one of them ever leaves the apartment or even sleeps. So these two kids, Mitch and Eddie, attempt to tell them to shut up, but quickly realize that if they continue to do that then it will result in, well, death. So instead they dig out a tape recorder and start recording the two of them, and by doing so they end up creating something that would go on to become a legend.
I'll start off by saying that this movie is a little amateurishly made, but in a way that's something that I enjoy about it, because documentaries can really be made no matter how much experience you have as long as you have an interesting enough subject, and this movie certainly has one. When we follow these two and see just how maddening it must be to live next to the two drunken angry neighbors, Ray and Peter, you feel a mixture of emotions. You feel afraid for Mitch and Eddie's lives, while at the same time you really can't believe that these people actually exist. There is a moment where Ray and Peter see that they're being recorded, and you as the viewer expect the next scene to be a reenactment of Mitch and Eddie being beaten to within an inch of their life. But instead, one of the drunken neighbors just looks outside and says, "Oh, the neighbors are recording us," followed by the other neighbor, Ray, walking up to the window and saying in a drunken slur, "Hey, next door. Peter Haskett is a fuckin' thievin motherfuckin' piece of shit. That's all he is. He's not a human being, he's not a decent man, and the world would be better off if the cocksucker died." At this moment you truly realize the level of crazy we're dealing with here. These guys learn they're secretly being spied on and they just use the opportunity to hate on each other more. There comes a moment in the film where whoever is watching this will be reminded of whatever bad neighbors they've had in the past, but eventually you'll come to realize that nobody has had a neighbor like Ray and Peter before.
Mitch and Eddie go on to talk about how they became obsessed with following Ray and Peter, like it was a soap opera and they wanted to delve into their lives, and I had never actually heard the tapes in question, I knew nothing about these guys before going into this movie, and yet I immediately jumped on that wagon as well. You can't listen to the clips they play, and hear their stories, and not find yourself wanting to find out what was going on in the minds of Ray and Peter. You want the movie to end with a psychiatrist who has studied them for years coming forward and giving you a breakdown of what they've learned from them. But alas there really is no definite answer to who or what these guys were, but you do still get some kind of peace, some kind of resolve, that makes you still feel like these guys have some humanity.
But of course that is only part of the story, as from here it follows these tapes these two kids make and we see it slowly become a cultural phenomenon. And as I mentioned earlier, today these things would become big simply because somebody would see it online and then reblog it a dozen times and then his friends would reblog it and so forth. But as someone who grew up in that world, this was wild getting to see how this became famous just simply by these two guys passing the tapes on to someone else, who then made copies of it and passed them out to their friends, and then one of them would start handing them out in stores or another would play the tapes on their underground radio station, and slowly this spread out there into the world until comics and films were being made on the subject. I hate admitting this but in a way this actually made me jealous. Today if you hear about some crazy video someone managed to capture, it's because a thousand people forwarded it to you and it was on the front page of every website you visited. But there's something almost adventurous to the idea that in the old days if you wanted to see video footage of a dramatic chipmunk then you had to know a guy who could introduce you to somebody who owned a local record store and then he'd take you into the back room where you'd have to buy a tape of it like it was a bag of weed (or so I've been told). Then after you did this you'd have secret knowledge of this tape that nobody else would have, and I don't know if that makes me a geek or a hipster or just sentimental but it did amaze me seeing that there used to be this whole subculture around the world of people who traded video and audio tapes that nobody had ever heard.
So in the end this isn't a film for everyone, the subject is incredibly unique and not everyone will romanticize the history of geek culture quite like I do, but this movie still does what I think a lot of great documentaries are made to do. And that is shine a light on a part of the world that you may have never heard of, but still gets you to feel involved in it. And even though it runs a bit long and is a tad amateurishly made, I'd still say it is worth a look just because for a specific audience this will hit all the notes you want to see in a movie, and even if you aren't in that specific audience this movie will at least make you feel better about your neighbors.