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The Dead Next Door – 7

Director – J.R. Bookwalter

Cast – Pete Ferry, Bogdan Pecic, Michael Grossi, Jolie Jackunas, Robert Kokai, Floyd Ewing Jr., Roger Graham, Maria Markovic, Jon Killough, Scott Spiegel

Release Year – 1989

Reviewed by John of the Dead

There is a flick I had seen numerous times at various video stores over the years.  I loved the DVD artwork, so I figured this flick had to be at least decent, right?  Boy was I in for a surprise.  Not only was this film gory as hell and pretty well done, but this flick was filmed on 8mm!  Yes, I was utterly surprised when I first saw the quality of this film and thought to myself  “Damn, there is a big possibility this film is going to SUCK!”.  Thankfully, this flick did a lot of things right for a very low-budget film, and gave us lots and lots of zombie action.

A zombie epidemic has left the world overrun with zombies, and the government sets up a task force titled “Zombie Squad” to rid the world of the undead.  When the Zombie Squad learns of a cure for the undead developed by a scientist in Ohio, the squad heads there to develop and bring back the cure.  However, once they get to Ohio they are met by a religious cult which aims to preserve the zombies from destruction.  The Zombie Squad must now battle the oncoming zombie assault, the crazy cult members, and funny develop the cure in hope of not only saving the world, but one of their fellow officers as well.

Several sources have indicated that this flick is the most expensive 8mm film of all time, and I do believe that.  The production value for this 8mm film is very high, all it takes is the first 5 minutes of the film to tell you that.  The zombie carnage is great, and the gore reigns in this film.  Legendary horror director Sam Raimi produced this film with the money he made from Evil Dead II(one of the best horror films EVER), and this flick has many references to the horror legend.  For one, our main character’s name is “Raimi”, Raimi’s great friend and fellow film collaborator Scott Spiegel(who wrote/directed the epic slasher flick Intruder), has a supporting role in the film as well.  Throughout the film I noticed that two of the main character sounded very much like Bruce Campbell, however the actors were clearly not Bruce Campbell.  Well, I was RIGHT.  Instead of having the very own actors dub their dialogue, Bruce Campbell as used to dub the dialogue for both characters.  How awesome is that?  Haha.

This film was writer/director J.R. Bookwalter’s first film, and it is much better than you would expect.  The writing is very cheezy and suffers at times, but it is obvious the guy tried his best and did a lot with what he had.  In the world of low-budget horror filmmaking, you learn when and where to cut corners, and he did that without making this film utter trash.  Most zombie stories are unoriginal and must rely on good direction to make them happen(which I do respect), however Mr. Bookwalter added a unique element to this film that is seldom used, the religious cult element.  We have seen this used in other apocalyptic films, but not to the extent of the cult trying to preserve the dead in order to obey God’s will to repopulate the earth.  Interesting stuff in my opinion.  The direction is fun as well, and J.R. Bookwalter stays true to form and never relents on the gore.  He also had some very sweet looking zombies as well.  In fact, some of the zombies looked so great I would say that a few of these zombies are some of the best I have ever seen.  His pacing in the film is also quite moderate, and it never really drags thanks to the constant updates in the storyline and the use of great zombie action.  We also get a few other zombie shout-outs as well.  One being that the commander’s last name is “Carpenter”(obvious nod to horror maestro John Carpenter), and another director shout-out with one of the character’s last names being “Romero”(George A. Romero anyone?).  We also get characters last named Savini(Tom Savini nod) and King(Stephen King nod).  The shout-outs don’t stop there, and next come my two favorite shout-outs.  One scene involved a group of zombies going into a video store and renting George A. Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead, along with a few other infamous zombie flicks.  My absolute favorite shout-out would have to be some of the Zombie Squad members watching Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead in an attempt to learn more about killing the undead.  I do not have to comment on the epicness of that scene.

Now this film may be a bit hard to watch for some people.  I you cannot get by watching a very low-budget looking 8mm film then this is not a film you should watch.  Personally I really wish all of the horror community had the ability to watch these flicks, but still to this day we have newcomers that seem to lack the ability to appreciate the elements that first made this genre.  The lack of money, and the over-abundance of creativity.  Everything about this film is just above amateur, so keep that in mind before you decide to view this piece.

Overall, this is a fun zombie film that I recommend to all fans of the genre.  It is cheezy, low-budget, yet very high in gore.  Can we really ask for anything more that?  Well, thankfully we do get more than that.  We get some great shout-outs and plenty of influence from Camp Raimi.

Rating: 7/10

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