de facto film reviews 2 stars

The first significant Shudder original release of 2024 could be the year’s most off-the-wall horror movie. Destroy All Neighbors hits the streamer today from director Josh Forbes, an experienced music video director bringing his knowledge of the industry and a talented crew along for a prog-rock odyssey into the madness of one man’s mind. The movie’s insistence on practical effects, a unique soundtrack, and an utterly unhinged plot make Forbes’s latest project original and appreciable despite its messy extravagance and niche appeal.

Destroy All Neighbors concerns the professional plight of meek sound engineer William Brown (Jonah Ray of Mystery Science Theater 3000). William has been working on an experimental prog-rock album for three years and suffers from a severe creative block, keeping the project in a frustrating state of limbo. Early on, William’s boss fires him due to the proddings of a self-absorbed and drug-addled rock client, and a new neighbor from hell compounds the torment. The terrifying, track-suit-wearing Vlad (a practicably imperceptible Alex Winter) keeps William up all night with his EDM and violent weight-lifting; despite William’s nonconfrontational nature, his girlfriend and others encourage him to stand up for himself, and one night, he finally does.

William’s night goes from bad to worse when a series of mishaps leads to Vlad’s death, and the former’s attempts to dispose of the body (aided by the hallucinogenic instructions of his once-great rock idol on William’s phone) lead to even more trouble. Vlad’s dismembered body appears to come alive, and every subsequent death also haunts William’s fractured psyche as he navigates law enforcement, a failing relationship, and his ultimate goal: the completion of his album. There are many moving pieces in Destroy All Neighbors, but they all rely on one another, and the plot is entertaining, if not all over the place.

On the whole, this movie is ridiculous and over-the-top, featuring Alex Winter making his most obnoxious impression of a strange Eastern European deviant, a man with emotional support pigs, plenty of leaps in logic, and homicidal hallucinations that would undoubtedly trigger Ryan Reynolds in the similarly wacky The Voices. However, that extremity creates a relatively unique identity; although the movie resembles The Voices and plays like Evil Ed or The Editor to some degree, its audio elements and diverse characters set it apart. Each deceased person has an intriguing and different personality, and each one helps William address some character flaw in one way or another. In this way, even if the movie neglects the development of almost every other character, William’s arc is sensible and fruitful from beginning to end—despite being laced with innocent blood.

However, the most prominent points of interest in Destroy All Neighbors lie in the music and audio design and the effects. William’s beloved prog-rock permeates through the work he regularly shows off and the film’s non-diegetic score, reinforcing the movie’s rapid-fire pacing and lively atmosphere. That said, early instances of Vlad’s late-night shenanigans are almost too obnoxious, and the characters can be challenging to hear accurately. The effects are very evocative of the practical gore of the ’80s and ’90s, resurrected in recent films such as Psycho Goreman, and there is some pretty impressive stop motion on display, too.

Destroy All Neighbors is a visual and auditory feast wrapped in an indie horror bow and will appeal to those genre fans who desire punchy pacing and dialogue, practical makeup and set pieces, plenty of haphazardous murder, and a particular form of low-brow humor. Alex Winter is also spectacular in it. Otherwise, viewers may find its element too crude to sit through and the overall composition unironically chaotic and difficult.

Destroy All Neighbors is out now on Shudder.