2024 is opening hard and fast with one of the first genre releases of the year. From director Josh Forbes, Destroy All Neighbors is a story about an artist chasing perfection, avoiding distraction, and accepting that sometimes you need a little help to cross the finish line. It’s also kind of a bonkers movie with a high energy level and a ton of practical effects. 

William (Jonah Ray Rodroguez) is stuck. He works as a recording engineer, finishing albums for other, more successful musicians, while slaving away at his passion project - a prog rock album that he has been “so close” to finishing for a number of years. He just can’t seem to get past the final hurdle and bring the whole thing home. He is constantly working on it, but as all artists can relate, sometimes the ending just gets further away. He lives in a small apartment with his girlfriend Emily (Kiran Deol). While she supports his dreams and recognizes his talents, she is becoming frustrated with the toll that his slow-moving obsession is taking on their relationship. He isn’t present in the way he wants to be and can’t seem to get out of this rut.

Like any artist, he worries. What if it isn’t good? What if it isn’t perfect? What if people don’t like it? Maybe I can make it a little better. He knows that prog rock isn’t for everyone, but he is certain (in his heart, anyway) that his music will find the people who will appreciate it. His head can’t seem to accept that fact long enough for him to finish the album. He always seems to encounter another hurdle to slow him down.

As the film opens, that latest hurdle presents itself in the form of Vlad (Alex Winter), an aggressive, loud, EDM enthusiast who moves in next door and proceeds to cause all manner of chaos. Whether it be moving in his absurdly over-sized couch, playing music at all hours, or lifting weights, Vlad’s neverending decibel level is constantly invading William’s tiny apartment and providing endless distractions. Emily is less bothered by it, but William’s senses are under constant assault. Unfortunately, he’s not much on confrontation, so his only real choice is to just sit there and take it.

One day, he finally snaps. 

Well, maybe not snaps, exactly. But he does reach the end of his rope and goes over to Vlad’s apartment to ask him to keep the noise down. It turns into a strange and unexpected confrontation of sorts, and Vlad ends up dead. 

Well, dead-ish. He is definitely no longer among the living, but his remains can still move around and communicate with William. He becomes something of a strange sidekick as works to get rid of the body and destroy any other evidence. Before long, a series of even weirder circumstances winds up with dumping even more talking dead corpses into William’s path. The army of dead bodies has turned into just another roadblock on his quest to finish his masterpiece and William has had enough.

Jonah Ray Rodrigues gives a great performance as William, imbuing him with the right balance of artistic drive and frustrated burn-out. But it is in the cast of supporting characters that the film really shines. Alex Winter goes absolutely crazy with his portrayal of Vlad, finding new levels of intensity and goofiness in each scene. And the practical effects from Gabriel Bartalos do a really great job of bringing everything to life. Full corpses, talking heads, and random body parts - this film has it all. In some cases, the effect is a makeup application, enhancing the actor’s performance. In others, the corpse is performed through complex puppetry. In all cases, the result is incredibly effective and a lot of fun. 

In a lot of ways, this film kind of fits onto the same shelf as Psycho Goreman. It’s utterly ridiculous, embraces an unhinged sense of silliness, and is perfectly comfortable riding the wave that it launches, regardless of the fact that said wave doesn’t flow perfectly. Here, the pacing is a little uneven and there are a handful of details that are more mentioned in passing than actually explored. It’s a bumpy ride at times and probably won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. It just means that you have to strap in and roll with it. Because chasing perfection is tricky. You will probably never get there and you might be sacrificing something that is extraordinary in its own way. Like the prog rock celebrated by its lead character, Destroy All Neighbors contains a little bit of everything, which doesn’t make it perfect, but it does make it special. 

Movie Score: 3/5