The living dead are everywhere, chomping their way through survivors, while a cop-like ‘zombie squad’ tries to find a cure. They also have to deal with an odd religious cult, and avoid becoming undead themselves. Perhaps by not putting fingers near zombie mouths, or blindly swinging open locked doors, for example.
Three things immediately struck me when watching this film. Firstly, it looks very low budget. The film quality isn’t great, and a lot of it seems to have been filmed in a local school (the ‘church’ has rows of lockers in long corridors with school group photos on the walls, and basketball lines are visible on the main hall floor). The zombies look like university students. There is some (unintentionally) amusing acting. And for some reason, two of the main characters have had their voices dubbed over by a completely different actor.
Secondly, the film is very ‘knowing’. Characters have names familiar to horror movie fans (Savini, Carpenter, Raimi) and graffiti spells out stuff like Romero and King. There are also scenes or visual references to other films (Evil Dead, Night Of The Living Dead, Dawn Of The Dead, Creepshow, etc).
Thirdly, the film has an enthusiasm about it, which I found quite infectious; it may look cheap and cheesy, but I got the feeling people had a lot of fun making it. Some of the humour is intentional and very dark (the hand-in-car-door scene and the decapitated-head-swallowing-a-finger scene both made me laugh out loud). Other amusing bits don’t seem so intended (one character’s mullet hair with added plaits; some of the acting and dialogue; certain zombie ‘puppets’ that are laugh-out-loud funny). The gore is plentiful, creative and actually not bad, with its ripped-out tongue firmly in its cheek. And it’s SO great to see a horror movie that has no CGI at all!
Despite the low budget b-movie feel (it never pretends to be something it’s not), and its (many) faults, I really enjoyed this film. It moved along at an entertaining pace, and was lots of fun – I was laughing at it AND laughing with it. And I can see myself happily watching this all over again!
The Dead Next Door can be purchased from amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, play.com and other retailers.
The Dead Next Door/1989/Amsco Studios/Dir: JR Bookwalter/Prod: JR Bookwalter, SP Plummer