The Dead Next Door (1988) 1 brain1 brainhalf brain

The Dead Next Door is a nice effort from director/writer J. R. Bookwalter. It's an indie flick with a decent plot, great effects, and adequate acting, and it all comes together nicely. The film opens with a scientist, Dr. Bow (Lester Clark), and his daughter Anna (Maria Marcovic) hiding in a farmhouse from a gang of young men. Apparently the young men are angry because Dr. Bow has accidentally created a virus that turns people into zombies. Zombies come on the scene, and mayhem ensues. We flash from there to scenes of the zombie menace growing: zombies walking down the highway, eating video store clerks (after choosing out Dawn of the Dead, The Evil Dead, and other famous flicks), and dragging people from cars. Flash forward again to quite a while later, and the country has been overrun. The government has formed a branch of the military dedicated solely to wiping out zombies, traveling around from town to town.

The movie centers around one particular squad who are on special assignment to recover Dr. Bow's research in the hopes of finding a cure. Accompanying them is the unlikeable but brilliant Dr. Moulsson (Bogdan Pecic), who wears a baseball hat that says "I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken." When they get to Dr. Bow's home town, they discover a cult that believes that the zombies should be allowed to run rampant, since they must be part of God's plan.

Bookwalter is obviously a huge horror fan, as revealed not only by the aforementioned video store selections, but also by the fact that many of the characters have the names of famous horror filmmakers: Raimi, Savini, King, etc. There's even a scene where some of the characters are watching The Evil Dead. Aside from this rather heavy-handed homage, I quite liked the story. It's well crafted, keeping plot holes to a minimum, and Bookwalter creates a believable image of what this world would be like. Although the acting isn't great, it's good enough that you can overlook the flaws. The effects are the best thing about the movie, so if you're into those, you'll probably enjoy some of these. You can never quite shake the realization that you're watching a low-budget film, but if you've seen enough of those, you know how bad they can get. Although The Dead Next Door is no classic, it's a refreshing change for the better.