Friday, March 4, 2016

THE DEAD NEXT DOOR (Ultimate Edition Blu-ray Review) - Tempe Digital

Directed By: J.R. Bookwalter
Written By: J.R. Bookwalter
Starring: Pete Ferry, Bogdan Pecic, Michael Grossi
Color/78 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: December 15, 2015

The Film
Zombies are a problem, a big problem and an everyday problem. A special government appointed force called The Zombie Squad has been formed to clean out the problem while scientists look for a cure. Unfortunately zombies are only the start of the Zombie Squad's problems as a religious cult is protecting them, believing that they're punishment sent from God.

THE DEAD NEXT DOOR is the epitome of backyard filmmaking on a massive scale. J.R. Bookwalter wrote, directed and co-produced this movie that took over four years to complete and eventually had the help of Sam Raimi as an executive producer using some of his earnings from Evil Dead 2 and voice talents from Bruce Campbell. The movie was shot with a Super 8 camera which was long out of date even in 1985. The graininess and overall image quality those cameras give to the movie is one of almost an older documentary and add to that home video feel. It works for the tone of the movie. The acting is about as good as you'd expect for a DIY zombie movie that takes four years to complete but all sound had to be dubbed in post production, again adding to the low budget, backyard feel.

I've had plenty of history with this movie, having seen it at least half a dozen times and having quite the vast array of reactions to it on any given viewing. I've finally come to the conlcusion that I really enjoy THE DEAD NEXT DOOR for everything it is and isn't. The special effects are quite good, easily the most professional thing about the film. It's filled with references to popular horror culture and has a scene set in a video store, which is always a plus.

You have to be able to appreciate low budget cheese and you have to enjoy so bad they're good movies to really "get" THE DEAD NEXT DOOR. It has a great personality, some inventive filmmaking and even risked felony terrorism charges to get some Washington D.C. footage. That's guerilla filmmaking at its purest and shows the passion behind this movie from everyone involved. That passion is immediately evident when you watch it. A project of love that ends up being well worth all the time J.R. Bookwalter has poured into it over the years for each various format it has been released on.

The Audio & Video
THE DEAD NEXT DOOR was filmed on Super 8 film which immediately limits the amount of detail you can squeeze out of the tiny 8mm frames but Tempe Entertainment has gone the distance with a brand new 2K restoration that has brought every last drop of detail out of the film elements used. This Blu-ray won't look like the latest blockbuster release but it has a much higher level of depth and detail than any previous home video release this movie has ever seen. Colors are more vibrant and vivid giving them a strong presentation and not looking washed out. The reds are crimson and black levels have no problem with crush. Surfaces have a nice noticeable texture and the special effects makeup looks excellent in HD.

The audio was all recorded in post production dubs and it sounds quite good here with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that is sparkling clean and very crisp sounding. The mix across the levels is steady and the fullest and most powerful this movie has ever sounded. There's no issues with damage or background noise.

The Extras
Disc 1 (Blu-ray)
-"Restoration Of The Dead" - Interview with director J.R. Bookwalter on the filming and painstaking restoration of the movie from the original Super 8mm film to the 2004 DVD release and this current Blu-ray.
-Capitol Theater Screening - Footage from the 2015 screening and reunion in Cleveland, Ohio.
-The Nightlight Screening - Footage from the 2015 screening in the film's hometown of Akron, Ohio
-Behind The Scenes
-Deleted Scenes and Outtakes
-Still Galleries

Disc 2 (DVD)
-Original 1990 VHS Version of the Film
-2005 DVD Version of the film
-2015 Audio Commentary with Doug Tilley and Moe Porne of the No Budget Nightmare Podcast
-2005 Audio Commentary with Director J.R. Bookwalter, Actor Michael Todd and Cinematographer Michael Tolochko
-Rare Short Films w/ Audio Commentary
-Local TV Appearances
-"The Dead Up North" - Footage from a Canadian screening of the film
-1995 Making-Of Excerpts
-Local TV Commercials
-"20 Years In 15 Minutes"
-Video Storyboards
-Video Preshoots
-Three Miles Out Music Video
-2000 Frightvision Reunion

The Bottom Line
THE DEAD NEXT DOOR isn't for everyone. It's cheesy, it's bad and it's wonderful. It's gory, it's silly and it's not the prettiest thing to look at. If that all sounds good to you then you'll probably appreciate it and there's only one way to see it and that is this definitive edition of the movie with a ridiculously extensive collection of extra features chronicling the history of the film over the last 30 years.


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