Destroy All Neighbors (2024)

by - January 12th, 2024 - Movie Reviews


Rockin’ Neighbors is a Riotously Uneven Horror-Comedy Mix Tape

Much like wannabe prog-rock musician William Brown’s (Jonah Ray Rodrigues) music, not everyone is going to “get” the juvenile horror-comedy Destroy All Neighbors, but those who do are going to adore the ever-loving heck out of it. This is a gloopy extravaganza of over-the-top nonsense, all of it fueled with a chaotic, “anything goes” sketch comedy aesthetic Alfred E. Neuman would likely jump off the cover of Mad Magazine to applaud.

Destroy All Neighbors (2024) | PHOTO: Shudder

While far from perfect, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to enjoying myself while giving this film a look. Director Josh Forbes rebounds from Contracted: Phase II nicely, bringing an agreeably anarchic vitality to the feature that’s reminiscent of his more high-profile music videos for artists like Carly Rae Jepsen and Lenka. He also borrows heavily from the likes of Sam Raimi, Frank Henenlotter, and Stuart Gordon, but not in ways that come across as forced or facile. No, I truly felt that Forbes’ respect for films like From Beyond, Brain Damage, and — it goes without saying — Evil Dead II was entirely genuine, and this effort benefits from that affinity.

It helps that the filmmaker has Alex Winter aboard as producer, star, and all-around comedic guiding light. You can feel the man best known as William “Bill” S. Preston’s hands all over this thing, and it’s not difficult to imagine Destroy All Neighbors exists in the same universe as Winter’s manic 1993 cult monstrosity Freaked! does. From tone, sensibility, ludicrously grotesque makeup effects, and overall inanity, Forbes’ feature is almost a legacy sequel, and it’s only an Ortiz the Dog Boy cameo away from being one.

No one should go into this expecting much in the way of a plot. William lives in a rundown apartment building with his longtime girlfriend Emily (Kiran Deol) and is obsessed with completing what he feels is his prog-rock magnum opus. When a monstrous and uncouth new neighbor, Vlad (Winter), moves in next door and makes too much noise, the musician breaks out of his timid shell to confront him. But when their tête-à-tête becomes physical, William inadvertently impales Vlad on a metal pole and then accidentally cuts off his head, leaving him petrified that the police are going to haul him off as a murderer.

It gets worse from there. Not only is Vlad not dead, but the dismembered zombie has taken it upon himself to jovially heckle his killer until he learns to stand up for himself and stop being so submissively meek when confronted by hardship. Soon one accidental slice-and-dice leads to another, and William racks up a ghoulish body count mostly made up of his apartment building’s other tenants.

All of this is insane. None of it makes any sense. Watching the film, it’s easy to get the sensation that all of the writers (Mike Benner, Jared Logan, and Charles A. Pieper) were huddled together just outside the frame during production furiously chain-smoking, passing one another index cards with ideas, and pounding on a trio of old-school typewriters like madmen while slugging back shots of Scotch. It’s all a case of trying to smoosh as much eye-popping absurdity into the mix as possible and to do it in less than 85 minutes, coherence be damned.

But does any of that make the picture good? On that point, let’s just say that, for an average everyday viewer, their mileage is going to vary. While Rodrigues grows into his role as events progress to their neon-drenched, splatter-rific conclusion, and even though Winter is a freewheeling hoot, I can’t say I was consistently engaged. Too many gags didn’t tickle my funny bone, and the slapdash, purposefully disorganized tenor took some time for me to get comfortable with.

Destroy All Neighbors (2024) | PHOTO: Shudder

Yet, I have to love all of the wondrous practical makeup, gore, and puppet effects. They’re outstanding. The character designs of all the reanimated corpses are out of this world, especially the burned-to-a-crisp skeletal remains of William’s prog-loving landlady. There are also so many terrific individual bits, including an amusing sequence involving a disembodied hand, a van stuck in reverse, and a homeless dumpster diver with a mysterious past.

And so I laughed nearly as often as I shrugged my shoulders. Almost everything Winter does is comedy gold, and if Forbes continues to try and channel his inner Raimi, I have a sneaky suspicion he’ll knock one out of the blood-covered park sometime soon. Destroy All Neighbors is more an eclectic horror mix tape than it is anything else, and sometimes that’s all that needs to be playing on the boombox for the evening to be a rockin’ success.

Film Rating: 2½ (out of 4)

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