In the wonderful world of low-budget indy horror features, you never know what you're gonna get. With THE NEON DEAD (2015), you get it all--good, bad, funny, cringey, bouncy, and blah--all coming at you like someone just kicked a box of chocolates in your face.
The cast aren't Oscar material, but they're good enough, and funny enough, and...darn it, I like them. Marie Barker plays Allison Hillstead, a cute blonde who just moved into a large secluded house she inherited and finds out that it's haunted by terrifying supernatural creatures who look like zombies sporting glow-in-the-dark war paint and neon eyes.
When she calls the number on a business card given to her by Ashley, a passing Wilderness Scout (Josie Levy) who's out stumping for donations but gets all excited by the prospect of seeing real zombies, a couple of losers working in a video store (Greg Garrison and D. Dylan Schettina as Desmond and Jake) hurry out to her house and introduce themselves as freelance paranormal exterminators, conveniently leaving the word "inept" out of the description.
Allison discovers that a previous relative from the 1800s named Drake Hillstead (Andrew Puckett) once invoked deadly supernatural forces to create undead servants to do his evil bidding, and these zombies (Jake keeps insisting that, technically, they aren't really "zombies") are now popping up all over the place along with an equally undead but much more hostile and super-evil version of Drake with bulging lit-up eyeballs and a giant neon smile.
I stopped keeping up with the rest of the exposition related to this phenomenon and just watched the ensuing cavalcade of undead carnage which began to fill the screen like a whirlwind of hokey horror.
First there's a hark-back to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD with our three main characters barracading themselves in the house to repel a zombie attack, only this time there are good zombies inside the house helping them. (It's a long story.)
Not that this is a bad thing, though--I love to see talented people doing what they can within modest means, and here, the tech artists really get a chance to outdo themselves. There's even quite a bit of good old-fashioned stop-motion animation which should please fans of that near-obsolete technique (like me) to no end. In some shots, even the faces of the "zombies" are rendered in stop-motion animation and inserted onto live-action bodies.
First-time writer/director Torey Haas keeps things sailing along at a fast clip that only drags during a flashback sequence about midway through, and stages the action nicely. The winsome Marie Barker gives us a befuddled but scrappy Allison, while Garrison and Schettina deliver an amusingly wisecracking Desmond and an endearingly nerdy Jake respectively.
Comedy kudos, however, belong (in my regarded opinion, anyway) to young Josie Levy in her too-brief role as Ashley the Wilderness Scout, whom Haas lauds in his commentary track as one of the most professional members of the cast.
Besides this informative commentary, extras on the DVD include several character profiles that play like deleted scenes (they're quite good, too), two short films by Haas, and trailers for this and other films from WildEye Releasing. The feature is widescreen with 2.0 sound. No subtitles.
As with any other bag of tasty Halloween treats, THE NEON DEAD is like a bunch of yummies with the occasional yucky mixed in. I didn't mind, though, and happily gorged myself on the whole teeth-rotting concoction until it was all gone.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Street date: Sept. 13, 2016