The Dead Next Door

Year: 1988
Production Co: Amsco Studios
Director: J R Bookwalter
Producer: J R Bookwalter
Writer: J R Bookwalter
I'm not sure quite what I expected from this schlocky horror comedy, but it turned out to be an earnest love letter to Romero, Carpeter et al of the sort today's filmmakers are churning out with increasing dreariness.

But this was the VCR era of the early 80s (just watch the warning at the end credits threatening anyone making an illegal dub) and it can't have been easy to scrape together the equipment, cast and crew - made obvious by the same surnames coming up over and over in the credits.

It was twice as hard back then when the video nasty movement was still a close cousin to porn and nobody wanted to talk about it out loud, with none of the cult credibility it enjoys today.

Quality? No - this is a modern day Plan 9 From Outer Space, where the determination far outweighs the skill of those involved. The writer/director/editor/composer J R Bookwalter was a zombie extra in Day of the Dead, and you can almost see him driving down to Florida gleefully from Akron Ohio to get in the queue and work for his hero.

He financed and shot The Dead Next Door and ever since, he's been one of the most prolific editors, sound recordists, executive producers and editors of movies with titles like Witchhouse 2: Blood Coven, Killjoy 2: Deliverance From Evil, Hell Asylum and Bloodletting, with three and four credits to his name every year since 1988.

When a mad scientist hiding a secret formula runs and hides in his farmhouse with his daughter, they're pursued. The ones who break in after them are local goons intent on bringing him to justice, but there's must worse to come, bursting in the door behind them and soon zombies are on the loose.

A few years down the track and the whole of America appears a wasteland after the plague of the dead. The last line of defence is the Zombie Squad, an elite unit of bad actors in clapped out sedans with hastily-applied stickers to the doors.

Searching for the cure they believe is out there somewhere, the squad come up against an enigmatic religious cult determined to train and control the zombies and repopulate the Earth with them.

When one member after another of the laughably unlucky and unprofessional team is lost to the undead, the race against time becomes more urgent than ever, and not even the dodgy lighting, bad camerawork and balloons-full-of-tomato-sauce effects can help them.

Done on a shoestring with an oversupply of heart but absolutely no talent to speak of, it's the template for a million kids to pick up DV cams in today's world and write, direct and bungle bad copies of movies they love.

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