Films like Shriek of the Mutilated and Slave to the Cannibal God prove that independent horror films are some of the best horror films. The Dead Next Door is no exception.
Note: Gory, NSFW images inside
Filmed over the course of four years for a measly $75,000, J.R. Bookwalter collaborated with Sam Raimi to make this film. The storyline itself is standard zombie fare: scientists accidentally create a virus, and now must rush to find a way to rid themselves of the zombie apocalypse (other than the standard methods of firearms or blades.) There are a lot of Raimi touches in this film, from camera angles to zombie design. Referencing legends of the genre such as Savini, Raimi, and Romero, TDND is presented with minimal seriousness. This film knows that it is a B-movie, and makes no strides to hide this fact. The acting is delectably cheesy, the music is low-budget yet catchy, laugh-inducing scenes are frequent, and the gore effects are plentiful.
The zombies come off as a hodgepodge of all the various types of zombies presented before. You have the vicious, horrendously mangled zombie; the zombie that still retains an ounce of humanity and can talk (a great reference to Return of the Living Dead), and of course the zombie that loves to just stumble around. Gore effects are well done, considering the budget; there aren’t any scenes in this movie that will make you flinch, yet gorehounds will still be pleased. The obligatory “rip apart the torso of a guy surrounded by zombies” scene is done well, although it seemed to be cut 5 seconds too short.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that The Dead Next Door was filmed using 8mm cameras, a rare choice for an independent film with a budget as high as $75k. Also, the film’s production values seem to go up as the film goes on; acting, lighting, gore, the script; everything gets better. As to be expected, the acting is overall stiff and not very good, however the folks in this movie know how to belt out some great screams. Characters still make typical dumb zombie movie mistakes, however the frequency these events occur are far less than most other films in the genre. I never found myself yelling at the screen “What are you doing?!?!” or ‘Don’t go in there!”…but I did find myself wondering why people who were so familiar with firearms were such bad shots and why they kept aiming for center mass even after agreeing that they were dealing with zombies.
If you have been trying to get someone you know into zombie movies, The Dead Next Door is a good place to start. It has the gore and feel of a zombie film while maintaining an air of humor and self-awareness. This one is guaranteed not to give anyone nightmares, although it may cause an insatiable appetite for more zombie movies. At 84 minutes, it fits well into any zombie movie night. So long as you go in expecting sub-par acting and a facepalming script, you will have a great time.