The Dead Next Door (1989)

Directed by J.R. Bookwalter [Other horror films: Robot Ninja (1989), Zombie Cop (1991), Kingdom of the Vampire (1991), Shock Cinema Vol. 3 (1991), Shock Cinema Vol. 4 (1991), Ozone (1993), The Sandman (1995), Polymorph (1996), Witchouse II: Blood Coven (2000), Witchouse 3: Demon Fire (2001), Deadly Stingers (2003)]

This is one of those movies that I’ve wanted to see for quite a long while, but didn’t honestly know that much about. Virtually all I knew about this before going in was that it was a lower-budget zombie movie. I didn’t know, though, how inept it was.

Which is interesting, actually, as I’ve generally heard okay things about The Dead Next Door. I never really heard that many people praise it, but the few times it’s been brought up, people seemed to enjoy it. I can admit that the special effects are somewhat impressive, and the gore is pretty good for a movie of this budget, but everything else is rather lackluster.

It’s a bit of a shame, because the story had potential. It wasn’t amazingly creative or anything, but there were inklings of interest strewn across the plot. Due to a combination of unremarkable characters and some terrible acting, though, even the short run-time of 80 minutes is more a struggle than anything to get through.

Obviously, the lower budget on it’s own didn’t bother me too much. We’re talking Redneck Zombies-level budget here, and it really showed at times (such as some truly awful shots, and they even threw some blood on the camera, which is something I thought only newer bad movies did), but that wasn’t the main concern at all. A low budget, I can deal with. But the stilted and sometimes laughably atrocious acting? It’s a bit harder to swallow.

It’s possible that Bogdan Pecic was the worst, but it’s hard to pinpoint for certain when Robert Kokai (who wore sunglasses during night scenes, which tells you all you need to know about his character) and Roger Graham were also terrible. To be fair, I thought that Jolie Jackunas was almost okay, but overall, we’re talking some really ridiculous acting here. The one-liners were bad enough, but when half the characters are named after famous horror directors/writers (such as Romero, King, Carpenter, and Raimi), it was a hard sell.

Jennifer Mullen and Maria Markovic were both okay, but Markovic’s subplot was entirely wasted. I mean, toward the end, things were falling apart anyway, but even so, they didn’t have a better way to conclude her character’s story? And speaking of which, the one guy who becomes a zombie, with the quote “I’m a zombie now, man” – yeah, I could have done without that exchange. Or really, that whole unnecessary ending, which was just ridiculous.

None of this is to say the movie can’t be amusing in the right setting, because when a movie is this inept, it most certainly can. I mean, these people have been living in a world with zombies for years, now, and they still leave themselves easily open to getting bit? For being a squad of zombie hunters, we’re talking truly inept soldiers, which I guess is a common theme here.

To be sure, the special effects are still mostly solid. I can’t say too much really stands out, but there was a guy getting ripped apart which was pretty satisfying to watch, given the character in question was a major asshole. Still, if you’re watching for just the special effects, may God be with you.

Kudos to the delivery of this line (it’s just as ridiculous as it sounds): “No, it’s not true! It is my religion that is right!” Brought to us by Jon Killough, with the most tepid outburst imaginable.

The Dead Next Door wasn’t really what I was expecting, and while I don’t regret watching it, I can easily say that it wasn’t a movie I could imagine wanting to see again without copious amounts of weed and alcohol accessible nearby. It’s amusing, in it’s own way, but boy, it’s not necessarily an easy movie to get through.

4/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. If you want to hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss The Dead Next Door, here you go, brahs.

Author: Jiggy's Horror Corner

Fan of the horror genre, writer of mini-reviews, and lover of slashers.

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