First time feature director and writer Torey Haas has done many jobs in his career, and on this treasure production, he like other independent filmmakers stepped up and handled editor, visual effects, and animation. One needs to know that The Neon Dead has no connection to the artsy The Neon Demon rather this movie stands on its own, supplying all tons of new ideas and energy. Early on, the movie presents itself as the throwback to VHS sci-fi bins with the cover, but masking more as a comedy, although the original title gave more insight Invasion of the Undead. The distributors at Wild Eye Releasing have a movie with fun effects, comic enthusiasm, and upbeat cast, which makes the watching of it all more entertaining.
The story opens with Allison Hillstead (Marie Baker), a recent college graduate, who just inherited a new home, her mother still calls her, and desperately in need of a job. Therefore the stress runs high and living alone in an exceptionally large and well decorated house, but one day all hell breaks loose literally, as she finds a strange woman in her bathroom, a few issues, slightly undead and her scalp rotting away. What does one do, of course answer the door greeting a forceful determined girl scout, providing her with a business card of a couple of paranormal investigators named Desmond (Greg Garrison) and Jake (Dylan Schettina). These two bumbling dynamic duo present as local slackers, working at the local store, but consider themselves a powerhouse of paranormal exterminators and go to assist Allison who discovers more of the undead in various costumes in the backyard. Desmond appears more the careful lover, while Jake knows all the jargon of the occult and understands the various occult weapons to use against the enemy. We learn as done Allison that the creatures are not zombies (thought that terminology returns later) and that they, come from another dimension, called Sons of Z’athax, who seek to gain power to give their demon leader, a grinning ghoul power over the living. The monsters have wondrous designs of neon explosion of colors making then look very good and accented by black lights. While the dialogue moves swiftly it leaves one wondering how it all connects, but with tension ratcheting upward along with the action, what could happen to destroy, ah, the ill-fated flashback which tells the viewer what is happening and why. Unsure why the scene occurs when it does, why not show it first and then leads into the movie, but we learn Allison’s relative of controlled the undead and harness the power of the demon. Needless to state a bloody battle of zombies versus remaining humans, starts, and household salt helps in defeating them, yes you read it right, and just one of many crazy oddities occurring in this low-budget movie.
The storyline, a tad muddled, trying to understand what happens and why, becomes a struggle, and if that’s left alone, then one might find more entertainment, the monsters or zombies creative build and assist in the story. Some key moments point to sci-fi films of the 50s and using various terms to help lift the script over the plot holes. The framing, cinematography all works very well, along with great sound and score the charges straight ahead with a harder tone than one normally expects in a sci-fi/ comedy movie.
As a sci-fi film that lacks heavily but shifts greatly to the positive if defining the film as fantasy meets comedy, and independent movies, in that genre need to set their goals proper, rarity for an enthusiastic flick like this one. The production obvious pays the hard work and receives a mix bag of results, cheesy dialogue, comical scenes, and just simply b-movie fun and delights. A unique movie, that provides more entertainment if you think in the realm of sheer fun, throwback style with a modern twist filling the screen with high energy and positive motives. Hence, while not a horror film, don’t let the thought of zombies fill your mind with gory details, it falls more into an adventure movie, with fantasy undertones and the paranormal fits the comedic performance of the small but wonderful cast.
This review was originally posted in March 2017 on the now defunct Rogue Cinema website and accumulated a view count of 1,521.
- A grin from fear to fear!
IMDb Rating: 4.6/10
Baron’s Rating: 4.5/10