I've long been a big fan of J R Bookwalters 'The Dead Next Door', having indulged in its zombie mayhem many times as a lad when it was the ideal get together beer and popcorn entertainment. Fifteen odd years on the film has eventually made its way onto DVD from new UK company Crypt Keeper and it was with interest that I popped the disc in, ready to watch again with older eyes my beloved zombie schlocker.
What first came to my attention was the fact that in all the times I watched the film as a young guy I never did manage to take on board what the full plot was actually about (hey, I was there for the gore setpieces!) but what it seems to about is this...a scientist has came up with some sort of virus that inhabits dead folks and not only brings them back to life (as said zombies of course) but makes them nicely susceptible to being trained to become undead slaves for those stupid enough to indulge such thoughts. Chuck in a religious cult of zombie lovers, a law enforcement 'zombie squad' and more gore than you can shake a stick at and you've got a keg full of sticky horror fun!
'Dead Next Door' is a highly enjoyable low budget zombie romp that should be at home in most horror fans collections. I'd be surprised if most folk haven't already seen this wee gem on tape but if you haven't then waste no time in picking this fine version up. There will be some folk that will be put off by the films low budget origins but they would be denying themselves the opportunity so see a significant entry into horror history. Sure indeed, the film actually plays like one big tip of the hat to zombie lore that has gone before with many scenarios and plotlines lifted lovingly from the likes of the Living Dead series but they are delivered with such bloody gusto you'll easily forgive the plagiarism's. Inevitably some folk will be attracted by the Renaissance link with the film and rightly so, SGM faves Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell had their hands in the films production with Sam backing financially and Campbell trainspotters (like myself) will have great fun picking out Bruce's dubbing for some of the characters onscreen enhancing the B movie value no end.
This debut disc from Crypt Keeper is a great one too. The original full screen image is decent enough for what it's delivering. Whilst the picture isn't great at the best of times this is done to the fact that the movie was shot on video and although Bookwalter and his company Tempe themselves done what they could to clean the master up it still shows signs of it age and budgetary origins. It's fine enough though and is the best we're likely to see it now anyway. It's also great to note that the film is brought to us fully uncut and there's plenty of gory carnage to keep us grinning throughout! The audio has been cleaned up nicely by and is sharp throughout but whilst the film on it's own is worth the entry price Crypt Keeper have outdone themselves with some excellent extra features...
What amazes me is that long established companies like Vipco are continually issuing poorly mastered and packaged discs but still have the audacity to loudly label them as special new remastered editions. Now here arrives a new company on the UK scene who have not only got the films director to clean up as best possible his source print but have gathered together a stunning selection of extras but unlike Vipco haven't bothered to shout about it on their packaging! First up we have very entertaining audio commentary by director Bookwalter, which is both very honest and highly informative whilst being fun also. Then there's some nice new documentary shorts included also - there's '15 Years in 15 Minutes' which is a retrospective overview on the Dead Next Door's making by many of those involved, there's also a great festival short 'Frightvision 2000' which is filmed at a re-union for the films production crew where many of the key players discuss and look back at the films origins. Both of these documentary shorts are great entertainment, which along with Bookwalters commentary make this presentation of the Dead Next Door the ultimate package of the films release. Oh yeah, there's a new music video and a nice still gallery in there also for your perusal.
So, Crypt Keeper unleash their DVD debut onto the market and an impressive package it is indeed. Vipco and co take note and hang your heads in shame. 'Dead Next Door' is a rollicking slice of zombie carnage and this Special Edition release is a cracker. Go buy it!
Review by Alan Simpson
|Released by Crypt Keeper|
|Rated 18 - Region 0 PAL|
|Running time - approx 112 mins (with extras)|
|Ratio - original fullscreen|
|Audio - 2.0|
|Director audio commentary, '15 years in 15 Minutes' documentary, 'Frightvision' documentary, Music video and stills gallery.|