Review by Erin M. Brady
I have a confession to make: I typically hate horror comedies. The vast majority of them often fall flat to me, whether because of unfunny humor or awkward tone imbalances. This could be attributed to me not finding many comedies that funny either, but I do have to admit that they sometimes work their charms. Such is the case with Josh Forbes’ Shudder original Destroy All Neighbors. While perhaps not consistently hilarious and thin-plotted, its charmingly ragtag nature is hard to resist.
Will (Jonah Ray Rodrigues) just can’t seem to finish the progressive rock album he has been working on for three years. His perfectionism has not only put a strain on his relationship with his lawyer girlfriend, Emily (Kiran Deol), but it has also affected how he interacts with others in his life. This self-imposed anxiety comes to a head when a mysterious old man named Vlad (Alex Winter, in a truly transformative role) moves in next door. After a life-altering confrontation, Will finds himself haunted — and maybe even inspired — by the undead.
What’s important to note about this film is its universal understanding of what it actually is. From the visual aesthetic of the movie to the delivery of its performances, Forbes strikes a near-perfect balance in tone here. It embraces its corny, Creepshow-meets-This is Spinal Tap premise while also pulling back when it becomes too much. This flow, buoyed by a smart script, makes the film much more palatable and interesting to watch than some other horror comedies.
However, the thing that will truly make this picture stand out is, well, how it’s pictured. The set design and practical effects are some of the best that have come from a Shudder original, helping the viewer settle into its uncanny reality. One particular puppet is perhaps too spoilery and gruesome to elaborate on here. Still, viewers with a keen eye for visual effects will likely want to pause throughout to admire the details. The visual effects arguably make the movie as memorable as it is due to how naturally they fit in the world that Forbes has established.
Of course, you can’t have a fully realized world without fully realized characters. Unfortunately, this aspect of the film is where things aren’t so great. While Rodrigues once again proves himself to be a formidable leading man, something is missing to Will as a character that makes him feel incomplete. It’s difficult to pinpoint, but once the credits start to roll, viewers will likely get the same feeling of wanting to fully understand the character. You can easily say the same thing about the other characters, especially those that meet gruesomely entertaining ends — they just miss some form of proper characterization and development that would be critical to making the film feel complete.
Regardless, it can’t be denied how Destroy All Neighbors is already one of the year’s biggest surprises. If you’re looking for something punchy and fun to pass the time this weekend, it’s the perfect choice for any horror fan. Just don’t watch it too loud unless you want your neighbors pounding on your wall.
Destroy All Neighbors is now streaming on Shudder.