THE FEATURES ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Disc One: Blu-ray + Special Features
Restoration of the Dead (19m 20s, HD)
Director J.R. Bookwalter takes us on a journey, from the initial release of the film, to the blu-ray release that this feature is on. Bookwalter shot the film on 16mm film stock to keep costs down and then would have the footage transferred to 3/4" tape to edit with. Up until the 2005 Anchor Bay DVD release, The Dead Next Door had always existed on tape with no actual film edit. This changed when Anchor Bay ponied up the money to do a brand new restoration which included going back to the original negative and editing the film, on film, for the first time.
When 2015 came around, Bookwalter wanted to do a brand new 2K transfer for the blu-ray release. This would mean that he would meet the film again in the editing room to make a new edit because some of the footage included in the 2005 version had no film for it. This meant that Bookwalter would have to use a VHS source for these shots. The end product is something that Bookwalter is happy with and we can see that on this blu-ray.
Capitol Theatre Screening (12m 22s, HD)
We join J.R. Bookwalter and some of the cast and crew as they introduce the film at a screening in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Nightlight Screening (16m 29s, SD)
Bookwalter does an introduction before the film and a Q&A after the film at a screening in Akron, Ohio, where the film was shot. A lot of the questions have to do with the city itself and a variety of "Hey I know that guy!" kinda questions.
Behind the Scenes Footage (19m 13s, HD, 1.33:1)
Bookwalter provides commentary over the footage, which I think he should have just let play out. There is some footage of the Akron portion of Hands Around the World.
Deleted Scenes (7m 11s, HD)
Bookwalter provides commentary over these scenes.
-Around the World Gallery (3m 492, HD)
-Storyboard Gallery (26m 27s, HD)
-Behind the Scenes Gallery (8m 30s, HD)
-Production Stills Gallery (6m 24s, HD)
-The Dead Next Door (1m 47s, HD)
-Platoon of the Dead (1m 15s, SD)
-Poison Sweethearts (1m 31s, SD)
2015 Commentary with Writer/Director J.R. Bookwalter, Line Producers and Co-Star Jolie Jackunas-Kobrinski, and Associate Producer Scott P. Palmer
Disc Two: DVD + Special Features
The Dead Up North (9m 29s, SD, 1.33:1)
Bookwalter introduces the Great White North to the wonders of The Dead Next Door at this 2005 screening in Ottawa, Canada. An intro and Q&A are done here. This is one of the only times that Bookwalter talks about Sam Raimi's involvement by name on release.
Local TV Appearances (14m 59s, SD, 1.33:1)
A few news reports about the filming of the film and a visit to a local public access show.
Local TV Commercials (1m 34s, SD, 1.33:1)
These commercials ran on tv in Akron and advertise the film.
1995 Making of Excerpts (9m 15s, SD, 1.33:1)
The effects and the extras are the focus here.
-The Flesh Eater (2m 47s, SD, 1.33:1)
-Zombie (10m 4s, SD, 1.33:1)
-Tomorrow (9m 2s, SD, 1.33:1)
All three of these short films have a running commentary over them featuring J.R. Bookwalter and his son Benji that can not be turned off, much like the Behind the Scenes footage found on the blu-ray disc. It would have been nice to hear what was going on. Bookwalter does say that the first film was shot without sound, but that doesn't mean that we don't want to actually watch the other two shorts the way they were intended to be seen.
20 Years in 15 Minutes (15m 32s, SD, 1.33:1)
This is a look back on the film by the cast and crew.
Video Storyboards (8m 15s, SD, 1.33:1)
J.R. Bookwalter ran through shots and scenes with his camcorder first, in order to work them out, before he committed them to film.
Video Preshoots (5m 32s, SD, 1.33:1)
Originally, the film was going to shot on video. These are some of the shots done on the format before the decision was made to shoot on film.
Auditions (14m 1s, SD, 1.33:1)
Exactly what it sounds like. If you ever wanted to see what an audition tape looks like, then watch this.
2000 Frightvision Reunion (6m 15s, SD, 1.33:1)
Frightvision was a sci-fi/horror film convention that ran out of Cleveland, Ohio. From the looks of it through this feature and the photos online, it was a very small convention and it appears that it isn't held anymore. Here, some of the cast and crew talk about making the film.
Music Video (3m 5s, SD, 1.33:1)
-The Dead Next Door (2m 1s, SD, 1.33:1)
-Kingdom of the Vampire (1m 2s, SD, 1.33:1)
-Ozone (1m 26s, SD, 1.33:1)
-The Sandman (1m 18s, SD, 1.33:1)
-Polymorph (1m 30s, SD, 1.33:1)
-1990 VHS Version with Doug Tilley and Moe Porne
of The No Budget Nightmares Podcast
-2005 Remastered DVD Version with Writer/Director
J.R. Bookwalter, actor Michael Todd, and Director
of Photography Michael Tolochko Jr.
Disc 3: CD Soundtrack
THE PACKAGING ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The reverse front cover art features the original theatrical and video art with the zombie with the metal grate over his mouth being the only image. There is a quote from WYBZ Radio, which is a radio station in Ohio. There are also two taglines and poster credits.
The default back cover gives us a description of what the film is about along with the special features and poster credits. Down at the bottom, in the same white box as the barcode, is the number, out of 1,000, that this particular copy is. Mine is 0973 out of 1,000.
The reverse back cover art contains a few stills from the film as well as the name of the film. Towards the bottom of the cover is a white box where J.R. Bookwalter has signed each copy of this version of the blu-ray.
Inside, we find three discs: a blu-ray, a DVD, and a CD. The blu-ray has a modified version of the default cover art, the DVD features the original theatrical cover art, and the CD contains a shot of a group of zombies looking down on us.
There 8-page booklet with a new essay by Fangoria' Editor-in-Chief Michael Gingold, as well as information about the restoration and transfer.
All the discs in this set are REGION FREE.
THE PICTURE ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
The Dead Next Door was shot on Super 8, which is a form of 8mm film. To show in theaters, the film would have been blown up to 35mm film as this was the standard for the time. With the small frame of 8mm being shown on a screen that is used fro 35mm, everything would have looked odd, which is kind of the case here. Basically magnifying the image, all of the film's imperfections are shown in great detail. Grain is present throughout the film, which is always welcome here and the colors are more vibrant. There is also a much higher depth level than any of the previous dvds had. There are some shots here and there that the filmmakers had no film for, so they had to edit in VHS footage, which drops the resolution down quite a bit, but it fits the tone and feel of the film, so this is not a problem. This film is not going to look like a recent film, but it does look very nice.
THE SOUND ⭐⭐⭐
There are two mixes here: the Original Cast Mix and the Classic Dubbed Mix. Both tracks are presented in 5.1 and both have their benefits. The Cast Mix has the cast saying their lines, no matter if you can hear them or make out what they are saying. This track also has less in the way of foley work and feels flat at times. The Classic Dubbed Mix features Bruce Campbell dubbing a few characters as well as many of the extras in the film. It is also a more robust track with the dialogue coming through pretty well. Both tracks are worth the listen, but I like the Original Cast Mix as it is the first mix of the film.
THE FILM ⭐⭐⭐
It all started in Ohio's Akron, when Dr Bow's highly experimental serum somehow escaped into the open, causing an irrevocable zombie outbreak of apocalyptic proportions, taking the world by surprise. Now, only a few years later, with the virus spreading all over the United States and threatening to take over the globe, all hope rests upon the Zombie Squad 205, the Government's elite anti-Zombie task force assembled to cope with the ever-growing undead infection. In the meantime, Dr Moulsson is working on a cure for the disease trying desperately to find a potent enough antidote, while on the other hand, compassionate protestors fight for the Zombie rights paired with Reverend Jones' cult zealots who fanatically believe that this whole epidemic is a well-deserved, God-sent punishment. Is there any hope left for humanity?
I think that when Bookwalter made this, he didn't know if he would ever be able to make another film, so he threw in everything that he could. Any idea that he had is here and it makes for a film that is more of a "sum of the parts" type film. When looking at the film as a whole, it isn't very good, but there are ideas, scenes, and shots that work and that is what really makes the film.
As my readers know, I am a guy who likes heart. I love when you can watch a film and know that the filmmakers loved what they were doing and weren't doing it for the paycheck, but because they wanted to. You can usually find this in low budget films, but it does creep its way in the bigger films every once in awhile. Robin Williams was a big heart guy. He appeared in many films because his friends have asked him to. Look at The Adventures of Baron Muchausen for proof (and what also happens when his trust is broken). I have reviewed many blu-rays where the film (or films) were made out of love for the craft. The Alien Dead, Creepozoids, and Street Trash are just a few films that are made with heart. The Dead Next Door joins these films. These films are not the most technically sound films ever made, but they show that if you do the best you can, you can actually make a film better.
This notion does not apply to films like Birdemic, The Room, or Battlefield Earth because they were oblivious to the crap that they were making. These filmmakers wanted to make money doing what they were doing without a hint of talent. The director of Battlefield Earth, Roger Christian had the bright idea to film the entire film with "dutch angles" (which is when the camera is turned to a 30-degree angle or so, usually to make the character or audience feel uneasy.), which made the film even harder to sit through. James Nguyen still thinks that he made a good film with Birdemic, that he talks about the film like it is the best thing in the world. Come on guys, you made shit films. They are lifeless shells of ideas that went nowhere. No heart, no soul, no brain.
I like The Dead Next Door, but not a lot. I think that the film is well made from a technical level. The effects are beautiful and unexpected, given the film's budget, but there is something missing that makes it go over the top for me. I think that film feels longer than it is and the action moves too fast for us to be able to relate to any of the characters. That being said, The Dead Next Door is a good film that should be in every horror fan's collection.
OVERALL ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
I was expecting the worst from The Dead Next Door. I had heard stories about the film being bad and there were some reviewers who couldn't look past certain things in order to find the diamond in the rough. I was pleasantly surprised when the film turned out to be as good as it is. The gore effects are really good and the film has enough respect for the craft to keep it going. Like I said before: I would rather watch this film or a Fred Olen Ray film over some of the shit that Hollywood keeps pumping out year after year. Dare I say it, but The Dead Next Door is a better film than many of the Best Picture Winners at the Oscars during the turn of the century.
This set is stacked with extras. Along with the film looking and sounding good, most of the special features from the different DVD releases are on here. The fact that Bookwalter has included four versions of the film (well, three, because the blu-ray contains the same film, only in two different aspect ratios.) and all of this content is staggering to me. I paid a fair price for this set and I am very happy with it. After going through this set (which took a long time), I have decided that I am going to speak the good word about The Dead Next Door. This a good film with a great blu-ray release.