By Brendan Graham
2024 is upon us, and with the coming of a new year, we see the return of resolutions. We all want to be better or improve our lives in some way, it’s just difficult to give ourselves that push to get started. We want to read more, perhaps learn a new language, spend more time with loved ones, or finish a screenplay or an album. Sometimes that involves a big sudden change, and in the case of DESTROY ALL NEIGHBORS, it involves accidentally decapitating the new noisy neighbor.
Shudder’s latest addition not only brings the goofball charms of 80’s style practical effect-driven monster flicks, but it also puts the talents of Jonah Ray and Alex Winter into the spotlight for a hilarious journey of self-improvement that isn’t afraid to get goopy and gory along the way.
Struggling and self-absorbed prog-rock musician William Brown (Jonah Ray) is struggling to finish an album he’s been working on for three years and his life isn’t going anywhere because of it. He’s always late for his job, he never remembers anything his girlfriend tells him, and now to make matters worse, his new neighbor Vlad (Alex Winter) is raising hell and distracting him even further.
After working up the courage to finally tell Vlad off, William accidentally decapitates him and begins a bloody sequence of events that will either be his downfall or lead him to his destiny. To say anything more dives into spoiler territory, so trust me, this premise is delightfully bonkers.
DESTROY ALL NEIGHBORS wastes very little time in introducing us to William’s world and the many difficulties he has in keeping up with his own life. He’s a man who is very devoted to his passion project but also doesn’t know how to accept help or criticism. He also can't recognize that his hopes and dreams are very singular and often push away those who are close to him.
Jonah Ray truly brings him to life with a great balance of humor and neuroticism that truly drives the character forward especially as it begins to become more bloody. Alex Winter’s depiction of the vile Vlad is over-the-top, playing both the disgusting habits and appearance while also keeping him more on the silly side. These two truly carry the entire film and I would love to see them team up on future projects, they make for a dynamic duo. The cast is well filled out with appearances from Thomas Lennon as Scotty, William’s brown-nosing boss, and Kumail Nanjiani as a stubborn security guard.
Gorehounds can also rejoice because the practical effects featured in DESTROY ALL NEIGHBORS are top-notch. The gore is gooey and nasty-looking, and the blood flows (and gets everywhere) in most of the less than 90-minute runtime. There are several sequences in which many viewers will find themselves squirming in their seats because of just how disgusting the effects look (mainly when they are flying into William’s face).
The talking corpse puppets and effects are also spectacular and the old school metal style effects towards the end keep the good times rolling and make the film pop in its color scheme. The overall pacing of the film is quite commendable too, as it never drags its feet and keeps the slapstick good times going. I think the film truly benefited from Josh Forbes’ direction, and you can truly feel his music video experience.
There’s not a lot I’d critique about this experience, but I will note that I felt like the stakes didn’t feel high enough nor did the consequences for William’s actions. The entire length of the film he's chasing his dream of finishing his album, with very little thought about how it has affected others in his accidental path of horror. While he sees some character development towards the end, the conclusion feels a bit underwhelming as far as his journey as a character is concerned. Without spoiling anything, the ending wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped it would be, but I also acknowledge how much the film accomplishes on a smaller budget and shorter runtime, and a lot of this critique is based on personal taste.
DESTROY ALL NEIGHBORS truly delivers a crowd-pleasing horror comedy experience. Jonah Ray and Alex Winter are superb, the gore effects are practical and gross, and the slapstick comedy elements truly elevate this film into a midnight madness showrunner. It’s pure fun and chaos incarnate, and it’s an amazing way to start 2024.
DESTROY ALL NEIGHBORS premieres on Shudder this Friday, January 12th, 2024.