Destroy All Neighbors Review

Destroy All Neighbors
Destroy All Neighbors
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If there is one quality Josh Forbes, the director of Destroy All Neighbors, has in abundance it is chaos. Be ready for a whirlwind of claymation effects energy and erratic storytelling, flying off on tangents and wild electric guitar playing. Whatever you prefer to see in your horror movie fantasies – be it warning or invitation anytime both will work out.

Shudder’s first original of the new year is a splatterhouse oddball that anchors its legacy on practical effects by respected artist Gabe Bartalos (who has worked on Basket Case 2, Basket Case 3: The Progeny, and Brain Damage). It doesn’t mind shooting less significant storylines than squirting red juiciness. Destroy All Neighbors feels like something better suited for Shudder’s revamp of Creepshow series where trimming this thing into a leaner sprint might’ve helped its SFX-forward romp. As far as language can reveal, it’s painfully obvious that there is hardly any cinematic vocabulary at play beyond slipshod gore gags with the occasional sense tonality and performance touching upon rubber monster designs.

In this regard Jonah Ray Rodrigues plays William Brown who serves as Los Angeles’ struggling prog-rocker enduring a squalid apartment building while seeking his career dreams. There he fully embodies all of Rodrigues’ nervous energy playing an awkward cliché who must confront every tenant’s worst fear – having noisy neighbors.Played by Alex Winter (of Bill & Ted fame), Vlad is the wrinkled ink-stained partygoer that operates loud EDM tracks from morning till night causing Williams’ walls to vibrate.Winter’s accent sways between Russian dialects and hints of Irish brogue barely audible through heavy prosthetic make-up that makes him look like a track suit wearing mobster crossed with Warwick Davis’ Leprechaun.Nevertheless Vlad works great as an intimidating psychopath because he represents William’s worst fear in Destroy All Neighbors, this sets up the main conflict of the movie: will William (“Willie” as Vlad calls him) be able to brave up towards his neighbor and dare asking him to shut up?

Yes, and that’s when the fun at least attempts to begin. Rodrigues’ wimpy loser clashes against Winter’s cartoonishly brash machismo as William confronts Vlad in his apartment. This ridiculous scene includes a greasy chicken bone and concrete barbells meant to show the extent of each man’s personality, and it come off as “Troma Lite,” because of its reliance on situational nonsense. Initially, Rodrigues does a pretty good job of portraying a hesitant skinny band geek turned murderer which gets the film going well enough before Destroy All Neighbors starts literally destroying neighbors. There are some fun nods to Dexter through both how gruesome William gets rid of evidence and how his dead victims keep talking to him even after they are gone from this world.

The bloodthirsty idea has entertaining merits; for example, whoever William kills in the name of progressive rock ‘n’ roll perfection isn’t truly dead. They’re shown as spirits in their slain forms, which helps to quickly push William’s sanity to madness. Some of Bartalos’ craftsmanship at re-animating these corpses include fine details such as roadkill tire marks, undead pin cushions and a fully puppeteered woman who’s been zapped to a charred skeleton. It doesn’t look remarkably realistic — more like something Rodrigues would comment over from the theater seats in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 reboot – but that’s the hopeful charm of Destroy All Neighbors. Allusions to the talkative half-zombie in Return of the Living Dead or no-budget Astron-6 productions like Manborg are a blessing to the audience, proficient in the art of morbidly zany bloodshed.

The problem with Destroy All Neighbors ultimately is that William’s descent into madness is messy in all the wrong ways. At best, story development is fickle while relationship drama between self-absorbed William and his ever-patient partner Emily (Kiran Deol) falls flat without emotion. Vlad’s undead form as a pile of flesh chunks is explained as a vision within William’s mind but little attention is paid to how their interactions play out on other people’s eyes or when more ghouls join fray. Rodrigues’ performance as an annoyingly obsessive artist who gets high off his own fumes often becomes too much lost amid an ensemble cast of half-baked caricatures. Destroy All Neighbors wants to be one of those after-dark treats championed for its zaniness, but it’s trying too hard to achieve that status. Instead, it’s a slew of “WTF” choices haplessly taped together waiting for them to collapse under their own weight at a slight breeze blow.

Destroy All Neighbors doesn’t exactly fall apart but it’s never as sidesplittingly fun or godawful thrilling as it feels on the brink of being. Cameos by Thomas Lennon (as an ineffective label owner), Kumail Nanjiani (a bit part as a security guard) and Jon Daly (a trippy prog-rock mentor for William) are not fleshed out enough to steal their scenes. As William starts befriending his mangled entourage, some of the comedy is good for a chuckle, but Forbes isn’t skilled at juggling horror with comedy when that should be an easy equation. Then there’s the whimpering third act, like a boardwalk dive bar’s version of what should be an epic, music-forward finale that shreds more than radical licks.

Final Evaluation

Destroy All Neighbors is very much schlocky and also empty-headed, horrible yet unbalanced – a horror-comedy that struggles in conveying its jokes. It has lots of conceptual promise around its “awkward guy pushed too far” premise that gets lost in some confusing trip through reanimation and prog-rock soundtracks, save Gabe Bartalos’ morbid creations which offer little opportunity for excitement. Josh Forbes’ direction lacks fluidity while often failing to be funny and most times his actors don’t get to go beyond screaming their personalities at you. It thumps bass hard and moves fast with malice aforethought; however not in ways that benefit anyone involved. Destroy all neighbors is messy in too many wrong ways- like listening to a 20 minute jam session without finding its hook about the answer to life itself yet unknowingly revealed so thoroughly in The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky in 1999.

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