We all know one – the tortured artist type who just can’t seem to finish that novel, album, or screenplay they’ve been slaving away at for years. They have a million excuses, from noisy neighbors to bossy girlfriends, but never seem to make real progress. In the gory horror-comedy Destroy All Neighbors, Jonah Ray Rodrigues plays William, one such struggling musician whose ambition outweighs his output.
Working a soul-sucking day job while trying unsuccessfully to put the final touches on his prog rock magnum opus at home, William lets everyone and everything get in his way – until a fatal confrontation with his loud neighbor Vlad, played with scene-stealing glee by Alex Winter. This sets off a spiral of accidental violence, severed limbs, creative sparks, and maybe even actual productivity.
In bringing this masochistic musician morality tale bloodily to life, director Josh Forbes revels in extremes: extreme gore, extreme weirdness, and the extremely deranged lengths artists will apparently go to in order to realize their vision. While the story satirizes the self-imposed obstacles of the chronically blocked creative type, it also asks whether validation, at any cost, is mandatory for fulfillment. Oh, and there are some killer ’80s-style practical effects along the way. So tune your guitar, lock your door, and get ready to rock, because things are about to get messy. Meet William, the eternal works-in-progress who is about to turn his half-finished album into a complete bloodbath.
The Accidental Auteur
William Brown has music flowing through his veins, but little to show for it so far besides half-finished home recordings and a soul-crushing day job as a sound engineer. He dreams of completing his progressive rock album and achieving validation from the musical community. But that goal always feels just out of William’s reach, despite support from his loving girlfriend Emily. William constantly hits walls, like writer’s block or complaining neighbors blasting EDM at all hours.
After the latest setback involving a pet pig running amok in the studio, William returns home to the familiar echoes of house manager Eleanor asking him to fix something. At least peace and quiet reign next door now that obnoxious bro Scotty has moved out…or so he thinks. Soon a hulking new neighbor named Vlad smashes through Scotty’s old apartment and cranks up raucous dubstep parties nonstop. His sanity fraying, William works up the nerve for a polite confrontation. But when Vlad attacks him during their chat, it accidentally ends with William impaling Vlad on a weight barbell. Whoopsie!
Panicked, William turns to instructional VHS tapes from his prog rock idol for advice on body disposal. As more accidental deaths occur, Vlad and his various severed body parts keep horrifically reappearing to push William on his creative journey while tormenting him. William battles writer’s block and legal trouble alike, steadily piecing together his album. He may finally finish it, but now the steep price is a dump truck’s worth of bodies and a troubling dependence on chaos for inspiration. Can you still call it a passion project if passion alone wasn’t enough? As William’s album nears completion, his world also nears a violent reckoning.
Scene Stealers and Splatters
Destroy All Neighbors rests on the hunched shoulders of lead actor Jonah Ray Rodrigues, who brings the right mix of ambition, desperation, and eventual unhingement to blocked musician William Brown. Rodrigues’ frustrated everyman vibe grounds the chaos in real anxiety about that unfinished passion project we all have. As his character accidentally racks up bodies and severed limbs, the mounting physical comedy might begin to wear thin if not for Rodrigues deftly portraying William’s unraveling sanity.
But the movie’s wild card is a bald, unrecognizable Alex Winter as William’s beastly neighbor Vlad, who makes life loud and messy for our disturbed protagonist. Winter clearly relishes hiding under pounds of makeup and a thick Slavic accent to unleash his inner brute, party animal, and horror heavy all at once. Every scene featuring his severed but still yapping head is comedy gold. When Vlad meets an unfortunate smelting factory fate about halfway through, you almost wish he could return for a climactic showdown.
While Rodrigues and Winter shine brightest, they get ample support from Thomas Lennon’s smarmy boss, Kumail Nanjiani’s wary security guard, and Kiran Deol’s concerned girlfriend Emily. William can’t finish his album without a motley crew of pesky neighbors, so actors like Randee Heller as the needy building manager and Ryan Kattner as an arrogant arena rocker help pad out the body count. Destroy All Neighbors overflows with comedic and horror talent getting their hands grotesquely dirty. The cast easily pulls off the movie’s tricky balance between chuckles and gore.
Guts and Glory
Horror fans, rejoice! Destroy All Neighbors director Josh Forbes goes all-in on delightfully old-school practical effects over CGI. That commitment to tangible grossness and “how did they do that” puppetry wizardry oozes through every frame of this gore-streaked passion project. Take a deep breath before witnessing the astonishingly crafted carnage crafted by visual effects artist Gabe Bartalos, whose repulsive yet mesmerizing work includes Vlad’s flying severed noggin and full-body puppetry. Makeup effects master Bill Corso also deserves praise for his handcrafted contributions, especially the neighbor who melts under a truck’s tires.
When Vlad isn’t chopping off limbs or playing basketball with his own head, Corso’s facial prosthetics render Alex Winter 100% unrecognizable under mounds of latex. And Bartalos squeezes impressive performance out of that fakey yet lifelike Vlad head. Forbes leans into the retro charm of obvious puppetry tricks that manifest the supernatural storyline about as clearly as ectoplasm at a haunted rave. Supporting turns from animatronic severed feet and sloshing intestines practically join the cast.
Quick editing by Josh Forbes and Heath C. Michaels rightly aims to overwhelm, matching the dementia of the script and performances. Similarly, the beat-driven lensing from cinematographer Will Stone adds organized chaos through off-kilter compositions and hallucinatory lighting. Pull all these elements together and Destroy All Neighbors becomes a loving tribute to practical effects and analog aesthetics of iconic horror comedies like Evil Dead 2. While occasionally too silly for some serious horror heads, Forbes wholeheartedly captures the smoke and mirrors of low budget effects magic. Prepare for Severed Head Soup!
Laughs and Gasps
Blending blood and punchlines is no easy task, but Destroy All Neighbors pulls it off with demented glee thanks to sadistic wit and masterful splatstick timing. Josh Forbes toe the line between creepy and kooky as severed limbs pile up around frazzled straight man William, played with panicky aplomb by Jonah Ray Rodrigues. Their comedic chemistry provides moments both hilarious and unsettling amidst the severed head sight gags and puppetry carnage. And as William’s obnoxious neighbor Vlad, a virtually unrecognizable Alex Winter chews scenery like a starved cannibal, firing off A+ Eastern European insult comic material even after losing his body.
The script by Charles A. Pieper and Jared Logan embraces the outrageous while poking fun at self-important artists too lost chasing perfection to finish anything. Absurd accents and behaviors heighten the bizarre atmosphere as William’s world unravels in a blizzard of creative sparks and plasma. Forbes whisks it all up with the energetic pacing and stylistic flourishes of classic cult horror comedies like Re-Animator and Evil Dead 2. Fans of those landmark splatter fests will find plenty to love about Destroy All Neighbors’ no holds barred embrace of gleeful ultraviolence.
Of course, the sight gags and one-liners won’t click for every funny bone, especially with so much moist viscera spurting across the screen. A few moments milk William’s whininess a smidge too hard when sympathy would better serve. But overall the film maintains a spirited, freaky attitude thanks to hair-trigger directing andcommitted performances. Destroy All Neighbors fires enough satirical buckshot about fragile artistic egos versus pragmatic creation to please both the chuckleheads and gorehounds in your friend group. It may not top the cult movie pantheon, but for a lark about severing limbs instead of ties to your passion project, you could choose worse nightmares.
Murdering Your Darlings
At its gory core, Destroy All Neighbors explores the self-imposed paralysis of creative types like lead character William, so caught up questing for flawless art that they fail to finish anything. He constantly blames forces beyond his control like noisy neighbors for not completing his prog rock passion project. Through William’s unraveling after accidentally murdering several neighbors, the film reveals how those perceived obstacles merely mask his core issue – perfectionism preventing progress.
As the accidental violence mounts along with the pounding synth soundtrack, William taps into unexplored reserves of motivation. Director Josh Forbes questions artistic ethics by pushing William to extremes of severed limbs and alphabetical body stacking. Does creation justify cruelty? Can true art emerge from dark improvisation or must it constantly inch towards impossible standards? Destroy All Neighbors challenges what completing the creative process means while admitting most artists share William’s brand of tortured narcissism.
For anyone staring down an unfinished manuscript, screenplay or avant garde knitting project while making excuses, Forbes and writers Jared Logan and Charles A. Pieper expose your delicious hypocrisy. Their love letter to gory practical effects doubles as a gentle wake up call to stop murdering your darlings, kill your idols, and finish the damn thing… by any means necessary. Not every creation worthy of consuming needs meticulous plotting or social commentary either. Like the best horror comedies, Destroy All Neighbors values dangerous inspiration and playful experimentation as a counterbalance to endless perfectionism. Get messy! Completion often looks like a dozen half-attached ideas globbed together with blood, guts and gusto.
Who Will Dig Up the Neighbors?
With its groovy practical effects and eccentric performances, Destroy All Neighbors will most splatter happy fans among horror-comedy connoisseurs and practical effects devotees. The film pays loving tribute to the analog aesthetics of Raimi and Gordon while updating the premise for millenial artists chained to unfinished passion projects. Horror heads nostalgic for the golden age of video store oddities will drool over the hand crafted gore gags. And Midwest college students who still pine for that unfinished album will relate hard to William’s travails.
Gorehounds fresh for more blood after slamming X and Terrifier 2 will sop this up like a biscuit in strawberry jam. The premise also works well enough for newer horror fans lured in by the promise of laughs. Just don’t expect anything genuinely hair-raising despite Vlad’s frequent face popping cameos. Frances Ford Coppola this is not, but it serves the midnight movie crowd well.
Speaking of audiences who should eagerly devour Destroy All Neighbors, denizens of art school dorms may dig the most into its twisted take on the tortured creative process. Student filmmakers and hobbyist clothing designers will laugh-cry in recognition at William’s noxious inner perfectionist, even as they cringe hard in solidarity at his gooey failures. If exploring how creatives self-sabotage sounds dull, rest assured the plentiful puckish practical gore gags will keep you engaged.
Does it lag slightly in a few spots when the story stalls? Sure, but never long enough to lose its tricky balance between chuckles and body horror. For viewers with the right strange tastes, Destroy All Neighbors serves up a satisfying blend of inspirational messaging and ooky effects work. Just plug your nose during the especially nasty neighbor melting scene and enjoy!
Sever Those Ties!
Blend creativity crises with ghoulish whimsy, shake vigorously, spray with arterial blood squibs, and you’ve concocted Destroy All Neighbors – a handcrafted passion project about passion projects. Horror fans bored with boilerplate slashers will delight at the practical effects wizardry and commitment to controlled chaos both in front of and behind the camera. While the story follows familiar creative blockage themes, it takes the premise to memorably revolting extremes. Hard rock musicians, unpublished novelists, and Etsy jewelry designers alike should enjoy this therapeutic splatter comedy catharsis.
Does it reinvent horror or screenwriting along the way? Oh god no. Overlong runtime and cliché side characters definitely show the rough edges of a first time director. But when Destroy All Neighbors works, which luckily proves often, the sloppy DIY energy recalls outsider art you can’t stop staring at despite the mess. It feels like Josh Forbes mainlining his deepest fears about unfinished creative output into a gleeful celebration of handmade movie magic. And that ethos of immediacy over perfection, of doing over thinking, serves to inspire as much as entertain.
So if you feel that tortured artist or practical effects geek stirring inside, seize some nearby severed limbs and let Destroy All Neighbors get your creative juices flowing – by any means necessary. Just don’t blame us when it ends with a pile of bodies hidden under your floorboards or crawlspace. The best art can get pretty ugly. But trust the process! Ambition over perfection is the moral here. Now if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly feel strangely compelled to finally start the Splatterpunk Space Operas screenplay gathering virtual dust in my documents folder…
Destroy All Neighbors
Gleefully gory, audaciously odd, and bursting with analog artistry, Destroy All Neighbors plays like group therapy for blocked creatives masked as a horror-comedy covered in viscera. Its chaotic energy and practical effects wizardry utterly delight.
- Memorable gross-out practical effects and puppetry
- Alex Winter's gloriously unhinged performance
- Jonah Ray Rodrigues grounds the chaos with comedic chops
- Creative premise exploring artistic blocks
- Josh Forbes' energetic directing and editing
- Throwback vibes recalling classic horror comedies
- Uneven pacing sags a bit in middle
- Supporting characters less developed
- Plot follows familiar creative blockage theme
- William's initial whininess grates for some viewers
- Comedy and horror balance not for all tastes