Now, let me be perfectly clear on this point: this isn’t to say that I don’t like comedies. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. My biggest bone of contention with viewing and ‘spewing’ about them is that, generally speaking, most folks don’t find funny what I find funny. Humor is a difficult concept; and because what tickles a funny bone varies so widely from person-to-person, I tend to avoid watching and writing about them with the single exception being if the script crosses firmly into genre territory – Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, etc. – then it’s no holds barred. I love it when jokes can fly as freely as spaceships or monsters or the like; and that’s why I’m glad to give an enthusiastic if not severed ‘thumbs up’ to director Josh Forbes’ Destroy All Neighbors (2024).
Like all crossovers, there’s simply more to love. In what could’ve been a rather routine albeit bloody yarn about a man’s search to craft the perfect prog-rock track, Forbes along with his screenwriting crew (Mike Benner, Jared Logan, and Charles A. Pieper) and talented cast flesh out the idea by incorporating a level of sheer lunacy that rarely gets embraced in the modern era of filmmaking. It’s packed with blood, guts, intestinal entrails, unintentional homicide, unrequited love, crawling hands, reanimated corpses, latent homosexual jokes, pop culture references, severed heads, bruises, and shredded limbs to bring a dozen screen comedies to life; and yet it all still works undoubtedly the way it was intended for an entirely indiscriminating crowd.
Be warned: these jokes won’t please everyone … and that’s precisely the point I made above about trafficking in comedy. But for those who can appreciate a layer of wry social commentary and a measure of pure wit in screen stories? Why, they’ll be clamoring for repeat viewings for several days to come.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s IMDB.com page citation:
“Struggling prog-rock musician William Brown finds himself in a living nightmare when he accidentally kills Vlad, the neighbor from hell.”
Dreams – and the pursuit of them – have a timeless quality to them.
But … have we seen a beheaded corpse rise up to aide its accidental murderer to achieve the limitless potential he never quite saw inside himself?
That’s the playing field upon which Destroy All Neighbors sets its action when the lovable and kind-hearted sound engineer William Brown (played by Jonah Ray) reaches his limit with the endless, incessant noises made by his new neighbor, Vlad (Alex Winter), wreaks havoc on his work, relationships, and sleep. In an attempt to finally speak man-to-man with the sputtering and occasionally incoherent blowhard, William charges into the apartment next door and witnesses a bizarre accident that leaves the cantankerous Russian not only dead as a doornail but decapitated in the process. The resulting mental breakdown has the normally reserved musician listening to the voices in his head – which take the shape of a series of YouTube.com shorts counseled via former bassist ‘Swig’ Anderson (comedian and actor Jon Daly). With Swig’s help, William engages in some increasingly bloody attempts to dispose of Vlad himself, only to learn that the corpse simply won’t go quietly into the night the way the Fates usually intended.
Naturally, one comic bad turn leads to another, and – before long – the lifeless bodies aren’t so much piling up as they are reanimating themselves and joining our hero on his quest to, ultimately, write the perfect album. Come Hell, high water, or even death, William will stop at nothing.
Now, this kind of bloody carnage isn’t exactly the kind of subject matter known to mainstream audiences, nor is the blend of goofy laughs with physical schtick. The humor here is, occasionally, a bit lowbrow and maybe more than a tad darker than it needed to be. And the practical Horror effects brought to animation here would usually be rendered digitally in post-production, a decision that frankly would’ve robbed a great deal of Destroy’s charm. What it lacks in, say, wholesomeness it makes up for in unbridled, gory chaos, the kind of which usually gets lampooned in over-the-top fashion by such films as Psycho Goreman (2020) or to a lesser degree in Ninja Badass (2020). Still, the top notch production details here elevate the caliber of filmmaking to the point of truly being something special. Like those titles, Destroy may never surpass ‘cult’ status, but that alone might inform you as to whether or not this one will be to your liking.
Thankfully, Forbes keeps pushing the material forward, and the film never slows to think seriously about any of the craziness. Ray approaches his role – as the man who couldn’t find his career confidence without accidentally killing a handful of associates – with a great degree of manic intensity when required, balancing the bloodshed out by being the affable milquetoast you said ‘hello’ to whilst waiting in line at Starbucks this morning. Winter is unrecognizable as Vlad – he does have a great cameo late in the picture as a somewhat disastrous public defender assigned to William’s case – but he attacks the role with the required energy. And the fetching Kiran Deol as ‘Emily’ – Will’s girlfriend – gets high marks as the woman who discovers her boyfriend might be a wanted criminal but succumbs to his charms in the last reel so that her former beloved might just reach the musical pinnacle he has sought for so long.
Unlike lesser pictures that might seize upon a Twilight Zone-style idea and run it into the ground, Destroy still feels fit and lean at 85-minutes, perhaps the perfect length. It arrives, introduces itself, and never overstays its welcome; and that’s a technique a great many filmmakers should strive to master.
Destroy All Neighbors (2024) was produced by Counterpart Pictures, Shudder, RLJE Films, and TBD Post. According to the press materials I’ve been provided, the film will premiere on Shudder effective January 12, 2024; and – so far as I’m aware – that’s the only locale wherein one can view it. As for the technical specifications? While I’m no trained video expert, I thought that the sights-and-sounds were exceptional from start-to-finish: the picture employs a good deal of in-camera special effects trickery, and I do have a fondness for practical effects. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features? As I viewed this one via streaming, there were no extra materials under consideration.
There’s lunacy in there, but it’s always good-hearted, homicidal lunacy. Destroy All Neighbors (2024) blends some mildly bloody gore with a hefty sense of humor, giving life and death to some of wildest antics I’ve seen in some time. While this one may never find universal acclaim, it should tickle the funny bone of Horror fans who can appreciate some dark jokes thrown in entirely for good measure. It’s visual interesting at all times, and it boasts some of the funniest supporting performances one might see in a picture of its type. There’s a lot of talent in it, so “come for the severed head but stay for the innards.”
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Shudder provided me with complimentary streaming access to Destroy All Neighbors (2024) by request for the expressed purpose of completing this review. Their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.