‘Destroy All Neighbors’ Review: A Film That Never Lives Up to Its Potential

Destroy All Neighbors

Horror movies and rock music go together like breakfast cereal and milk. Todd & the Book of Pure EvilBlack RosesThe Gate, and Green Room are a few noteworthy examples of the successful marriage of that very juxtaposition. The Shudder original Destroy All Neighbors is sadly a less noteworthy example of that pairing. Though director Josh Forbes manages to serve up some flashy visuals and an impressive cast of characters, the film is hindered by a half-baked screenplay and pacing issues. 

Destroy All Neighbors follows William (Jonah Ray Rodrigues), a sound engineer who dreams of finishing his prog rock album. Try as he might, William cannot seem to achieve his musical aspirations. Then, he accidentally kills his noisy neighbor, Vlad (Alex Winter). That unexpected mishap sets a series of bizarre and violent events in motion that may just give William the boost he needs to finish his long-gestating record.  

Although Destroy All Neighbors isn’t a total bust, the elements that work aren’t enough to overcome the absence of a cohesive script. Screenwriters Mike Benner, Jared Logan, and Charles A. Pieper almost seem to be serving up distractions to keep the viewer from realizing that the narrative is threadbare and doesn’t take the viewer on a particularly meaningful journey. Sure, severed heads and wayward limbs make for a fun time. But elements like that can only enhance what’s already there. Sight gags do not make up for the absence of a cohesive story.   

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Though he isn’t given a lot to work with, Alex Winter does turn in an impressive showing on a performance level. He is entirely unrecognizable as Vlad. His voice, mannerisms, and physicality are all effectively disguised, making this an impressive feat for the actor.

Despite a stellar performance by Winter, Vlad’s presence adds very little to the narrative. He’s there to serve as a pseudo-antagonist at the onset and eventually comes back around to function as a sidekick of sorts. He’s the source of a few good laughs. But he doesn’t bring much value to the proceedings.  

If we had a particularly compelling protagonist, Vlad’s lack of purpose (outside setting off a bizarre series of violent events) would be forgivable. But William is about as milquetoast as a lead character can be. He’s boring, whiny, and passive. That affords him room to grow. But he isn’t given much of an arc. Worse yet, nearly every supporting player is all sorts of over-the-top and lacking even a modicum of depth. On that basis, the film isn’t particularly accessible.

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Aside from the lack of relatable characters, there are additional elements that don’t quite connect for me. There are ridiculous developments that I’m sure were meant to add comedy that simply didn’t tickle my funny bone. For instance, the musician/blogger whose videos William repeatedly watches just so happens to have uploaded an instructional video on how to dispose of a body. If that development had been presented as more tongue-in-cheek, with a wink and a nod, it may have gone over better. But as it’s presented, that piece feels like lazy screenwriting. 

I found myself further frustrated as William was watching the murder cleanup tutorial and didn’t take the time to watch it through to the end. That leads to him starting and stopping the cleanup multiple times to get everything he needs. That might have had the potential to be funny once. But the gag is used repeatedly, to the point where it just becomes irritating. 

I recognize that some elements of comedy are subjective. So, I will admit that some of my issues stem from personal preference. However, I can’t help but think that a lot of the jokes pander to the lowest common denominator and don’t tread new ground or do anything we haven’t seen before. 

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Multiple exchanges are belabored for the sake of comedy. That draws out the proceedings and frequently wreaks havoc on the pacing. What we are left with are jokes that aren’t particularly original or amusing and a sluggish pace that gives the audience little reason to stay invested. 

By the end of the film, I got the impression that the filmmakers thought a bunch of outrageous setups and impressive visual effects would distract from the lack of any meaningful narrative developments. And for some, it may. But that was not the case for me. On paper, it sounds great. Partying and playing rock music with a severed head? Hell yeah. Count me in. But it takes more than that to sustain a feature.  

Although this one fell flat for me, you may have a different experience. If you’re curious to check out Destroy All Neighbors, you can find it streaming on Shudder.   

  • ‘Destroy All Neighbors'


An unpolished screenplay makes this rock-infused horror film a drag to sit through.

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