Film Review: The Dead Next Door (1989)

Written and directed by J.R. Bookwalter, and starring Pete Ferry, Bogdan Pecic, Michael Grossi, Jolie Jackunas, Robert Kokai, Floyd Ewing Jr., Roger Graham, and Maria Markovic.

"The government sets up a Zombie squad after an epidemic has made the world run rampant with living corpses. Raimi, Mercer, Kuller, and others head off to Ohio to try and find a cure to the epidemic but soon run into a crazy cult of zombie lovers who are set on preserving the zombies and letting a new world be born because they believe that it's God's will. When Mercer gets infected with the zombie virus, Raimi and the others must work quickly to find a cure and avoid the cult."

So, let's say you're driving along, trying to escape a bunch of people that want to kill you. You decide to go off road, but there are some trees blocking your path. What do you do? Throw a grenade out the window and blow up the trees, of course. But wait...shit, you forgot your friend back at the house. Screw it. You'll come back later for him, right? What about if you saw a lone zombie walking along at the top of a hill? What would you do? That's right. Throw a grenade at him, so that you can draw scores of other zombies right to your location, presumably for more grenade-tossing practice. How about if a zombie is trying to bite your partner? See a pattern? Yes, you put the grenade in the zombie's mouth, pull the pin, and throw him out the window. Add all of that up, and it sounds like an amazing movie that I'd completely dig. Yet, it wasn't, and I didn't. What happened?

"The film was shot on Super-8, which is typically amateur grade film only used for home movies. Everyone involved worked on the film for free." Taking that into account, and the fact that it was filmed over the course of four years on roughly $75,000, I truly do appreciate many parts of the film. But unfortunately, the faults, in my opinion, outweigh what the director got right. Let me step back for a few though, and point out a couple of things. For instance, there's more than one nod to Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead, and with good reason: "Sam Raimi produced the film under the pseudonym 'The Master Cylinder' using a portion of his payment from Evil Dead 2. Bruce Campbell dubbed the voices of two characters that were Raimi and Carpenter. The movie was produced over nearly four years, in Akron, Ohio, for next to nothing." It's quite obvious, especially with the aid of Sam Raimi and the assistance of Bruce Campbell, that Bookwalter is a fan of horror. "Many of the characters are named after people who have made their marks in the horror and zombie movie fields, such as Savini, Carpenter, Romero, Raimi, and King."
This movie does a lot of things right. For starters, the gore is absolutely amazing considering its minuscule budget. In fact, it puts quite a few other zombie films, with two or three times its budget, to shame. There's more than a few scenes that I sat in awe by how violent and well-shot they were. I especially enjoyed scenes from the last third of the movie with Mercer tied up in the cult assembly. It was quite macabre, you could say, compared to the rest of the flick. Without giving anything away, these scenes also lead to an interesting twist. But I also felt that, while a great idea at heart, it never fully comes to fruition, leaving me a little disappointed. Another aspect to the film that really stood out was the music, surprisingly. I rarely ever enjoy the score to B-movies, though there are always exceptions. But in this case, music written by the director himself, the score definitely caught my attention on more than one occasion.
Where the movie falls flat for me though was the almost parody-like method in which it was filmed and acted. Now, as with all B-movies, there is always a certain amount of cheese to accompany the horror. Obviously I noticed the scene at the beginning with the zombies trying to rent other zombie movies, like Dawn of the Dead. So, I'm always willing to enjoy and/or overlook scenes such as these. But it felt different at times, in this movie, because more often than not I found myself wondering if they intended for these people, their actions, or even the plot and script to be this absolutely stupid. I sometimes found myself laughing at parts that I don't think I was meant to. Yet, even all of this could easily be forgiven, if the movie just wasn't so damned boring. Even at an hour and twenty minutes, the movie crept on at a snail's pace. The action even bored me. Of course, some of this could be blamed on the poor video quality as well. So, all in all, a sub-average film that never breaks new ground, never falls below the line that Uwe Boll's House of the Dead did, and stands as quite an accomplishment for the most expensive Super-8 movie ever made. For more information, head on over to the movie's official Myspace.

Best quote: "Welcome to Sunday school."


best scary movies said...

Now this looks creepy!

pharmacy said...

Well actually the movie is really bad, I mean... it sucks.