Movie Review: THE NEON DEAD (2016)

Have you ever been to that incredible haunt house where the makeup, effects, acting, sets, atmosphere and more could be a movie?  More and more films are finding inspiration within the atmosphere of the haunted house theme.  Now perhaps it is reversed where the haunted houses are so heavily influenced by the creative layers of modern horror films, look at what Universal Halloween Horror Nights has done!  Whatever the relationship may be, filmmakers are keeping an eye on what connects to fans.  In the independent horror film circuit, the ability to use all your resources and budget effectively, along with crafting engaging and scary narratives with hidden gems of talent are becoming more and more eye opening.  Not truly reinventing the wheel, but having a fun time spinning it, comes THE NEON DEAD.

Distributed by the very horror eclectic company called WILD EYE RELEASING, this label offers filmmakers at all stages of their careers a chance to find new audiences in major areas.  It’s exactly what THE NEON DEAD needed to garner a growing and deserved following for this indie ingrained, visually haunting and rocking demonic whirlwind!  Filmed on very basic and nostalgic sets (flipping video stores!) and showcasing some rising acting talent, filmmaker Torey Haas (V/H/S 2) wrote, directed, edited, did visual effects and more, and it’s resulted in a growth in his second feature film.  In THE NEON DEAD, Haas’s focus lies in visual presentation as well as flowing, snappy dialogue which he succeeds in crafting on both fronts with talent that understands his vision.  Delivering the range of emotions that are barbed-wired into the sarcasm, concern, and playful tones are two male leads – Greg Garrison, who plays the smart ass video store clerk in Desmond along with his best friend and fellow focused demon hunter Jake played by D. Dylan Schettina.  They are joined by a truly strong and empowering female character Allison Hillstead, who is played by the wonderfully embodied, in spirit and smarts, Marie Baker.

Baker, Schettina and Garrison all work off of each creating a believable connection & timing as they fight demons, voodoo and dark magic on the grounds of Allison’s family home.  Between the use of flashbacks and modern day small town America, Haas tells the story of how Allison inherited her family home after graduating college.  Blending a historical haunting with the premise of THE SENTINEL, the narrative tells how Allison’s very distant relative killed many people, including his beloved, to acquire the powers of darkness so as to rule over and destroy the world all in the name of Z’athax!  Returning to modern day, the trio of slackers must stop the army of zombies by going to extremes they never thought possible and finding faith in each other.  Oh wait… Sorry Sons of Z’athax, as Jake says.  Through death, dark magic, defiance, sarcasm, attraction and friendship we see them come together in a film that is just plain trick r treat fun!

Haas focuses on the visual aspect in THE NEON DEAD, taking the enhanced technology of the haunting industry and creating a new dimension on a limited but effective budget.  In the process, Haas and crew show homage and some very simply effective sights, costume and masking in the tone of a much lighter visual film similar to INSIDIOUS.  This creates an atmosphere that complements the interaction, timing and humor offered primarily by Desmond and sharp wit from Allison.  The film also finds a foundation with the rhythmic darkness of the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD as well as a surf inspired/rock infused score by composer Hsiag-Ming Wen.  This shows how resourceful, planned and smart Haas and his team were in pre-production and their execution during the filming to make this film look much more than it could have been.

With a pretty systematic film formula, we witness that Haas as a filmmaker is a fan much older than his age in his dark heart, as he channels his twisted and classic horror mind and spirit in THE NEON DEAD.  You see influences in all areas of this film from primarily the last three decades including cult favorites like classic voodoo zombies along with HOCUS POCUS and EVIL DEAD, as well as some recent indie gems like DETENTION OF THE DEAD, DANCE OF THE DEAD, DEATHGASM, Astron-6, BLOODY KNUCKLES and an infusion of Kevin Smith’s ability to create mundane dislodge and sharp wit.  Hopefully, THE NEON DEAD will find a cult following and video store audience that it deserves as the horror, humor and the spirit of Halloween are found in this neon illuminated nightmare.

For more information on THE NEON DEAD follow them on FACEBOOK and order your DVD copy on AMAZON.

THE NEON DEAD will be available on DVD & Digital HD September 13th from Wild Eye Releasing

Jay Kay
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