Director: Josh Forbes
Notable Cast: Jonah Ray, Kiran Deol, Randee Heller, Pete
Ploszek, DeMorge Brown, Kosher the Pig, Jon Daly, Thomas Lennon, Ryan Kattner,
Christian Calloway, Alex Winter, Kumail Nanjiani
Destroy All Neighbors is making a case for the oddest
movie of the year, and its only January. Prog rocker William (Jonah Ray, Mystery
Science Theatre 3000, Satanic Hispanics) bloodily stumbles through a
Dickensian allegory for the creative process. Any horror fan takes note when
they see a death or shocking sequence that they haven’t seen before, and this
film had several that were true firsts for me and likely cinema as a whole.
Destroy All Neighbors’ strength lies in its writing,
as noble and heady ideas of identity, success, and sacrifice grapple with
surrealistic and slapstick executions. Writers Mike Benner (Bob’s Burgers),
Jared Logan (The Late Late Show with James Corden), and Charles Pieper (Beyond
the Dark) weave an impressively accessible picture of just how much an
artist can struggle to finish their work, poking fun at actors, writers, and
musicians in the process. You can feel the influence of Bob’s Burgers
and the Late Late Show in the writing, and fans of these programs with
stronger stomachs should choose to sample this horror comedy oddity.
Jonah Ray’s commitment to playing this fantastical role with seriousness is admirable, given the grotesque and absurd scene partners he gains throughout the story. Indeed, his experience on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 prepared him for having surprisingly good character development with various forms of animatronic gore.
The cast also gains some surprisingly strong star
appearances, such as Thomas Lennon (Reno 911, 17 Again) and
Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick, Silicon Valley) that augment the
performances of the rest of the cast. From Kiran Deol’s (Sunnyside) love
interest to Randee Heller’s (The Karate Kid) loveable failure as
property management, the cast feels stronger than it should for its B-Movie
level antics. Two standout performances come in challenging settings (withheld
for spoilers) from Alex Winter (Bill & Ted Face the Music) and Jon
Daly (Big Mouth), providing compelling continuity and progression for
characters that are missing pieces, sometimes literally.
What it lacks in continuity and sanity, it makes up for in
creativity and charm, making Director Josh Forbes (Decay, Contracted:
Phase II) someone to watch as he continues to build his resume of
With elements of a Christmas Carol explicitly quoted by a
prophet/guide figure, Destroy All Neighbors feels like the rite of
passage story that all clumsily homicidal coming-of-age prog rockers will
enjoy. That last sentence shows the challenge the film will likely face: It
will appeal to a very narrow subset of people who can digest its competing
components. For some, it’s not going to be scary enough; others will say that
it’s too stupid in its macabre Three Stooges humor, and others will
insist that there weren’t enough characters to develop into a compelling story.
But for some, this will be a refreshing take on horror comedy that has some
substance despite its truly bizarre storytelling.
There has never been another
film about the creative process that has so much blood. With Argento-esque
dream sequences, Tarantino-level blood showers, and Weird Al Yankovich’s
goofball humor, this film is an odd combination of palettes that will likely
rub many the wrong way. Willy (Jonah Ray) says in the film of prog rock: “Not
everyone will get it, but the right ones will.” It’s a fitting motto for one of
the strangest films I’ve ever enjoyed.