Thursday, January 11, 2024

Destroy All Neighbors, on Shudder

William Brown has probably listened to too much Yes and Emerson Lake & Parker. A lot of Millennials might say half a track is already too much, but apparently Brown digs extended suites, orchestrated with synthesizers, and augmented with a lot of reverb. You would think his neighbors must hate him, but instead, he feels tormented by them. The good news is he might finally start to stand up for himself, but unfortunately it takes him to a pretty dark place in Josh Forbes’s Destroy All Neighbors, which premieres tomorrow on Shudder.

Brown will probably never finish his prog rock opus, even though his long-suffering girlfriend Emily tries to be supportive. He knows people like his boss and the weird building manager take advantage of him, but the new loud, abrasively obnoxious neighbor Vlad is the last straw. To make matters worse, Vlad menacingly bullies him, while somehow charming Emily, who must be half-blind and completely unintuitive. When things really get violent, Vlad dies in a freak Rube Goldberg-esque misadventure.

Yet, even then Brown will not be rid of Vlad, because he keeps hounding the poor schmuck, either as a ghost or a hallucination, like Griffin Dunne in
American Werewolf in London. The same happens with the next person Brown accidentally kills. However, as they spend more time together, they start to develop a crazy, mutually-deranged understanding.

The first half hour is pure cringe and the second plays like a warmed-over rip-off of
American Werewolf, but the final third is shockingly inspired. This film desperately needed a re-write and a strong edit, because it had the potential to be great, but the wait for all the good stuff is punishing.

Jonah Ray [Rodrigues] is such a sad sack playing Brown, it is almost physically painful to watch him. Alex Winter endures all kinds of make-up and practical effects like a good sport as the surly and decapitated Vlad, but a little of that schtick goes a long way. However, Jon Daly earns a lot of laughs as Swig, the prog-rocking bass player, whose tutorial videos help Brown navigate each new homicidal crisis.

Ultimately, the film builds to some impressive chaos, while slyly milking prog rock’s pseudo-operatic pretensions for humor. The pacing and consistency are off, but screenwriters Mike Benner, Jared Logan, and Charles A. Pieper stick the dismount with a big, satisfying bang. Getting there is the trick. Recommended for fans of horror-comedies with their fingers on the fast-forward button,
Destroy All Neighbors starts streaming tomorrow (1/12) on Shudder.