The Dead Next Door: Two-Disc Collector’s Edition
Directed by: J.R. Bookwalter
Run time: 79 minutes
The Lowdown: Watching the new two-disc collector’s edition of J.R. Bookwalter’s cult classic The Dead Next Door, it suddenly dawned on me.
There’s likely an entire generation of horror fans to whom this is their The Evil Dead – meaning this is the film that forever cemented their love of gore, gags and shoestring-budget mini-masterpieces.
Bookwalter’s zombie epic wears its ambition like a suit of armor, deflecting and defending against any criticism about the uneven acting, the inconsistent lighting, the likely-homemade sets and props.
And, honestly, any criticism is unwarranted. The Dead Next Door is a fun, funny, root-for-the-underdog kind of achievement. It’s pure DIY-filmmaking with heart and the best of intentions.
Bookwalter throws everything into his debut – zombie hordes, religious cults, badass zombie-hunting cops – and he nimbly dances around what doesn’t work to focus on the moments that most fans probably recall with the same loving nostalgia that I (and many like me) recall the tree assault scene or the first rumblings of the Kandarian demon in The Evil Dead.
I hate to admit that it’s taken me 28 years to finally watch The Dead Next Door, but I can’t heap enough praise on this wonderful edition, proudly and painstakingly produced by Tempe Entertainment. If you don’t already own this film, this is the version you want.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Considerable.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Zombies, duh.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
The Devil’s Candy (Shout! Factory, 80 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Writer-director Sean Byrne’s The Devil’s Candy is a visceral slice of in-your-face horror fueled by a propulsive hard rock soundtrack.
It’s an immediate step-up from his debut, 2009’s The Loved Ones, and it makes perfect use of an excellent acting trifecta – Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby and the always captivating Pruitt Taylor Vince.
The story is familiar, but goosed with enough sly tweaks to make even the most rote moments feel fresh.
Ray Smilie (Taylor Vince) has a problem. He can’t block out the voices in his head demanding he do awful things. After a fateful, bloody night where he kills his parents, Ray flees his family home, and the house eventually goes to market as a foreclosed, abandoned property.
Enter Jesse and Astrid (Embry and Appleby), two alternative, free-thinking parents (Jesse is an artist trying to support his family), and their daughter, Zooey, a precocious but worldly pre-teen. They visit the house, and decide to make an offer despite the real estate agent’s disclosure that an elderly couple recently died in the home.
Almost immediately, Jesse is overwhelmed with creativity. He converts the huge barn out back into a studio, and begins to lose himself in unusually long periods of near-trance where he creates images of a disturbing and possibly pre-cognitive nature.
As if that wasn’t worrying enough, here comes Ray knocking one night, stating matter-of-factly that he wants to come home.
As Jesse spirals, and Ray begins to menace Zooey with an unnatural connection, Astrid must fight for her family because it appears at least two people in her life have been overcome with some sort of dark possession.
Like I said, The Devil’s Candy doesn’t break any new ground, but what it does bring to the table, it brings with a vengeance and a ferocity. This isn’t a Hollywood happy ending kind of horror story. And it confirms that Byrne is definitely a director to watch from here on out.
Transformers: The Last Knight 3D (Paramount, 155 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray 3D): Riddle me this, why is Michael Bay still making Transformers movies?
The fifth movie in the franchise, which began way back in 2007, is yet another muddled mess that attempts to supplant the previously-established mythology of the giant robots from Cybertron by having Transformers appear throughout history – specifically, here, during the time of King Arthur when his trusted wizard Merlin coaxes a giant robot out of a cave to help win a battle.
Clocking in at a bloated two and a half-plus hours, The Last Knight once again relies on Mark Wahlberg serves as the human face of the giant robot war, but it also introduces Sir Anthony Hopkins as a Transformers scholar along with a pretty female English scholar, who seems to exist solely to fill the void left by Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
Now comes news that the Transformers franchise is spinning off, a la the MCU and DC Entertainment, and will deliver a stand-alone feature built around fan-favorite-bot Bumblebee.
This series needs time to sit and age and allow some brighter creative minds to figure out a way to tell an entertaining story reminiscent of the first film, which, honestly, is the only good movie of the bunch.
It Stains the Sands Red (MPI, 92 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Colin Minihan’s epic It Stains the Sands Red is not just the best zombie film in recent years, it belongs up there with the top, revered titles of the genre. Do yourself a favor and immediately seek it out.
Channel Zero: Candle Cove (Universal, 261 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Nick Antosca’s anthology series, Channel Zero, is the best show to debut on the SyFy Network in quite some time. It’s also one of the creepiest horror shows ever to hit the small screen. Candle Cove, the introductory installment, is unnerving and disquieting, a dark dissertation on childhood and the influences that shape who we become. By now, most people have seen the nightmarish central creature comprised entirely of teeth. It’s a haunting image that sticks in your subconscious, the way the best scary dreams do.
Make no mistake, Candle Cove is not a fluke. If anything, it’s a warm-up. The second season, which just launched in late September on SyFy, called No-End House, is more intense, more unnerving and just downright scary as hell.
Lycan (MVD, 87 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Lycan is a worthwhile entry into the werewolf genre, even if it’s not a full-on werewolf flick in the vein of The Howling or 2016’s Uncaged. What Lycan is, however, is a very well-thought-out, original horror film that deftly navigates the normal pitfalls of a low-budget independent film (ie, uneven acting, amateur effects, etc.) until it finds its confidence about midway through. At that point, director/co-writer Bev Land and his cast just go for broke, and Lycan sinks its teeth in and keeps you captivated until the very end.
Don’t Torture a Duckling (Arrow Video, 105 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): BVB highly recommends this 1972 classic giallo from Lucio Fulci, which showcases the best of the giallo genre. It’s lurid, erotic and bloody as hell.
2:22 (Magnolia Home Entertainment, 99 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): It’s funny, I notice now more than ever before that many people pick up on the symbolism of having three numbers appear in a row on a clock.
For a long time, the only shout-out to this occurrence came on The X-Files when creator Chris Carter would flash over to an alarm clock next to a sleeping Mulder or Scully and show the digital readout at 11:11 or a similar time.
But ever since 2001, I have always made a wish whenever I caught the clock on a three-or-four-digit number that was all the same. It’s a chance for me to wish for peace or good luck or say a little prayer.
Director Paul Currie’s fantastic sci-fi, twisting time-jump thriller 2:22 doesn’t let its modest budget diminish Currie’s vision. This is a compelling, captivating exploration of fate, coincidence and resetting the space-time continuum in favor of positive outcomes.
2:22 also has one of the best soundtracks of 2017 – a mesmerizing array of electronic and ethereal songs, including the angelic-voiced Lisa Gerrard.
Don’t let this one escape your radar. You won’t be disappointed.
Joseph W. Sarno Retrospect Series: All the Sins of Sodom/Vibrations (Film Movement, 161 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Released in 1968, these two erotic films represent the late writer/director Joseph Sarno at his peak.
Watching them today, given the proliferation of hardcore pornography available in an instant from a computer keystroke, it’s difficult to fully appreciate what Sarno’s softcore cinematic explorations meant to the general public living in a far different world.
Neither All the Sins of Sodom or Vibrations are explicitly pornographic because that wasn’t Sarno’s intention. His films captured real life situations with an emphasis on the explicit private moments that consenting adults engaged in behind closed doors. In that regard, Sarno’s camera eye and the game participation of his casts presented adult sex as it really is – messy, awkward at times and ultimately orgasmic.
More than sex itself, Sarno – particularly in All the Sins of Sodom – seemed as much if not more interested as an artist in how sex can manipulate individuals to act in ways that are both selfish and necessary to fulfill a constant need.
Sodom does just that by presenting Henning, an average American male photographer, whose aspirations to be regarded as more than just a fashion photographer set him off on a course to explore erotic nude portraits. Sodom exploits Henning’s maleness by showing the impact that his nude subjects have on both his libido and his ability to discern good behavior from destructive behavior. Overcome with desire for one model, in particular, Henning slowly loses his grip and falls victim to his own ambitions.
The second feature included in this set, Vibrations, takes its title from a battery-operated sex toy whose rhythmic humming begins to sexually frustrate a female writer living in an apartment with thin walls next door to a young woman with an insatiable sexual appetite.
Longmire: The Complete Fifth Season
Queen of the Desert
Mune: Guardian of the Moon
The Legend of the Holy Drinker
Ned and Stacey: The Complete Series
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Hype!: Collector’s Edition