|Plot Outline: Zombies have taken over the country. The plague seems to have started in a lab (of course) where the virus escaped. Rather than sit on their hands while the world collapses in on it’s self, the rest of society is being forced to press on. The government has set up a new brand of law enforcement called The Zombie Squad, who as you may can guess are in charge of eliminating zombies and keeping them at bay. Our lead character Raimi is part of this elite force, but he and his team run into trouble when a religious cult tries to stop them from developing a cure and one of their teammates becomes infected. The weight of the world literally lies on the shoulders of Raimi and his cohorts.|
The Review: I don’t know what it is, but there’s something invigorating about sitting through an eighty minute horror film that doesn’t pull any punches and doesn’t slack up in pace. It’s probably crazy, but a nice short film with a decent plot that doesn’t slow down in order to build up characters we won’t even care about anyway really does something for me. There are few films like it, but The Dead Next Door does all of the above mentioned things to an art. The only thing that might get in the way of some people’s enjoyment is the fact that it’s close to being incompetent. The acting sinks lower than even the most inept Italian horror film I’ve ever seen, the directing is hit & miss and the film looks incredibly cheap. Still, for some reason the film is able to win people over, and I’m one such person.
There are three distinct reasons I ever even wanted to see this flick. 1: Sam Raimi, 2: Bruce Campbell and 3: The House of Horror web site. The first place I ever heard of the film was back in the day when houseofhorrors.com actually seemed to get updated, and back when I was first really getting into horror films seriously. On there I read Sam Raimi was the producer of the film and that coupled with the fact that Bruce Campbell actually dubbed in one of the lead characters voices had me dying to see the film. It took a while for me to actually get a hold of it, but I think it was worth the wait. During the first fifteen minutes of the film I knew I was going to like it. The acting was obnoxious, but the camera work that deliberately apes Sam Raimi and the not-so-subtle references to Evil Dead and Dawn of the Dead had me in glee. Add to that a great helping of amateur gore that comes off looking fairly grotesque, and a brisk pace that just makes the film easy to watch gives you a classic in the zombie genre. It’s cheesy, sure, but at least it doesn’t take it’s self seriously. A lot of films can claim to do the exact same thing, but Dead Next Door seems to have been made by someone who really loves the genre. Not just some guy trying to make some green at the drive in.
Normally I think if this film were made under different circumstances I probably would have hated it. First of all, if Sam Raimi wasn’t the producer of the film, I would accuse Bookwater of plagiarism of the highest order. The first few minutes of the film are essentially someone working step by step from the Sam Raimi playbook. Whip pans and all, the only thing that keeps people from knowing it’s not Sam himself is the rather dreary looking shots where the camera isn’t buzzing around. Still, since the film obviously had Raimi’s blessing (although I’ve heard rumors that he may have disowned the film) I can hold no anger at the director. For a film made on such a budget, it’s actually quite the accomplishment. Besides, it’s nice to see some actual decent writing in a horror film for a change. It’s not Hamlet, and the dialogue is beyond stilted, but at least the plot is better than the average Italian zombie flick. Things like having an enforcement agency called ‘the zombie squad’ would have one think the film is going to be goofy like Return of the Living Dead, and after the first ten minutes where a zombie tries to rent The Evil Dead and Dawn of the Dead, who could blame them? Somewhere along the way, a little seriousness is fused into the film and it sticks. This is actually a fairly serious zombie film with slightly comical undertones and not the other way around. Somehow it all works though. The film is just deadpan enough that it can be taken serious as a horror film, but has enough silly and just plain dumb things in it to ensure that the audience doesn’t grow bored.
Very little else to say. You’re either going to like it, or you won’t. I don’t wholeheartedly recommend the film because not everyone is going to love it. I’m positive the bad acting is just going to kill it for some, but if you think you can handle it go ahead and dive in. Oh, did I mention Bruce Campbell does the voice over for the lead character? I did? Oh. Well, he plays the lead character who actually looks a LOT like him. The guy at least has the chin. There’s also a doctor who wears a hat that says ‘Once I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken’. And there’s even quite a bit of gore in this one. So, ugh, see it!