The Dead Next Door (1989)

DVD Cover (Anchor Bay)
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Overall Rating 56%
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The government sets up a zombie squad after an epidemic has made the world run rampant with living corpses. The team head off to Ohio to try and find a cure but soon run into a crazy cult of zombie lovers who are set on preserving the walking dead as they believe it's God's will. --TMDb
Pete Ferry
Pete Ferry
Bogdan Pecic
Bogdan Pecic
Michael Grossi
Michael Grossi
Jolie Jackunas
Jolie Jackunas
Robert Kokai
Robert Kokai
Review by Chad
Added: September 11, 2005
Back in 1987, our good pal Sam Raimi released one of his many masterpieces known as Evil Dead 2. After the checks had cleared and the money was in the bank for his work on this movie, he spent a good chunk of that cash to help out an eighteen-year-old first-time director known as J.R. Bookwalter. Referred to only as "Mr. X" or "The Master Cylinder", Raimi kept his involvement with this movie low-profile; after all, if you had just released two soon-to-be classic films and had a bright future ahead of you, would you want your name attached to a movie that could very easily flop? Yeah, me either... but Raimi had faith in this Bookwalter kid, and the end result of this collaboration is "The Dead Next Door".

So, with the story of the movie-making process out of the way, let's get to the storyline of the movie itself. I could write this paragraph in one of two ways: the short and very basic way, or I could choose to spoil all of the plot twists. Readers of this site should know by now that I very rarely spoil a movie, and this one will not be one of those few. In a nutshell, the movie involves zombies - lots of them. Thanks to a doctor's experiments in Akron, Ohio, zombies have pretty much taken over the world. A zombie squad has been established by the government to attempt to deal with this threat, and the movie centers around squad members Raimi (Pete Ferry, voiced-over by Bruce Campbell), Mercer (Michael Grossi), Kuller (Jolie Jackunas), Kline (Floyd Ewing Jr.), and Richards (Scott Spiegel). A few twists, a few turns, and we find ourselves at the midway point of the movie where this squad must help Dr. Moulsson (Bogdan Pecic) and Dr. Franklin (Roger Graham) retrieve the notes of the doctor who had originally set this virus free upon the world. Along the way, the group must deal with pro-zombie protesters and a cult of religious nuts led by one Reverend Jones (Robert Kokai). Saying any more about the plot would spoil things more than I already have, so I'm going to leave it all at that.

I love a good zombie movie, much more than the average horror fan; after all, zombies are my favorite subset of the horror genre, as one could easily tell by glancing through the sheer amount of reviews for zombie movies on this site. I've seen the good, the bad, and I've seen everything in between from the genre, so when one comes along that both brings something new to the table and is a good movie besides, well, I can't help but smile. The Dead Next Door is just that type of movie. While it does take a bit of time to get started due to a seemingly-directionless first half-hour, once things get going, it is a beautiful piece of film for these zombie-loving eyes.

The one thing that I liked most about this movie was the way that it combined gore and storyline. With most good zombie movies (especially the low-budget kind), you get one or the other; there may be some excellent gore effects accompanied by a pretty meager storyline, or a really interesting storyline with laughable special effects. This one brings the goods in both categories - the storyline is riveting after the aforementioned beginning, and the gore effects are extremely good both for the time and by today's standards. While you'd never mistake this movie for a snuff film (it is, after all, low-budget by '80's standards), there's certainly no shortage of blood, guts, decapitations, and good ol' zombie maulings. Gorehounds will not be disappointed, nor will the fans who want a little bit of, ahem, meat to go with that red stuff. Genre fans will also enjoy the many nods to the horror greats; character names such as Romero, Raimi, Carpenter and Savini, a zombie picking up a VHS copy of Dawn Of The Dead at the local video store, and numerous other references to the horror classics are found in abundance throughout the running time.

Prior to Anchor Bay's recent release of this film, viewers had two choices if they wanted to see this movie: they could purchase a crappy VHS copy, or they could pick up an even worse import version (though to be fair, the Canadian version was alright). While the movie will never look like a Hollywood blockbuster due to the fact that it was shot on Super-8mm, the Bay has done an excellent job cleaning up the movie and making things look better than they've ever been in any release. That alone is worth the price of the DVD, but there's also plenty of other goodies tucked away on the disc. There's a fifteen-minute "History Of" segment, commentary, storyboards, various interviews, the original trailer, and plenty of other nifty things to dig through. This disc is packed, the movie looks as good as it likely ever will, so horror fans have no reason not to pick this DVD up.

I've seen a lot of zombie films, and while this one isn't perfect, it is definitely a worthy addition to any horror fan's collection. Give it a purchase, put it in your Netflix queue, or (shudder) drive to your local video store and rent it. Just make sure you give it some love, as it really does deserve it. 8/10.
Edd #1: Edd - added 09/12/2005, 05:20 PM
I saw this a few years back. Impressive indeed.
Ginose #2: Ginose - added 05/06/2007, 07:16 PM
Greatest Super-8 film I've ever seen... worth every second of my time.
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