Dead Next Door on DVD

Tempe Entertainment today announced that their 1990 flagship underground film THE DEAD NEXT DOOR has been acquired by home video titan Anchor Bay Entertainment for release as a Special Edition DVD to mark the film’s 20th anniversary in 2005. Admittedly the largest and most expensive Super-8mm feature film ever made, this fully-restored edition will be released to home video in the U.S. & Canada as well as the United Kingdom.

THE DEAD NEXT DOOR began life during a chance meeting in mid-1985 with a legendary Detroit, Michigan-based cult director known only as “The Master Cylinder” who encouraged 19-year-old J.R. Bookwalter to get his own feature rolling after seeing the young director’s short films. The Master Cylinder even put his money where his mouth was and thus began a 5-year odyssey for first-time feature filmmaker Bookwalter, who shot the epic-scale film in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

The low-budget horror film quickly became legendary in northeast Ohio during the summer of 1986 as more than 1,500 area residents of all ages came out to play zombies with massive coverage from the local media. Soon the “mysterious identity” of the film’s executive producer sparked the interest of leading horror movie magazine FANGORIA, who did an exhaustive feature in their March, 1987 issue — a full 3 years before the film’s initial home video release on the obscure Electro Video label. Bookwalter’s Tempe took over the film’s distribution in 1992, where it eventually got worldwide exposure in Germany, Japan, Spain, the U.K. and other countries.

Despite the film’s spotty distribution over the last 15 years, THE DEAD NEXT DOOR has found a loyal and steadily-growing fan base worldwide that has allowed Bookwalter to keep making films, including the cult hit OZONE in 1994 and more recently the critically-acclaimed WITCHOUSE 2: BLOOD COVEN and WITCHOUSE 3: DEMON FIRE for Full Moon Pictures. The screenplay for a proposed sequel called DEAD FUTURE: THE DEAD NEXT DOOR has been circulating waiting for the right deal and there is even a video game in development based on the original DEAD.

"It’s hard to escape the shadow of your first film, especially one with such a bizarre history,” Bookwalter explains. “That’s the one people wind up remembering you for, and over the years I’ve repeatedly been asked two questions — ‘When are you making the sequel?’, and more recently, ‘When are you releasing a Special Edition DVD of THE DEAD NEXT DOOR?’”

Thanks to Anchor Bay’s Michael R. Felsher, at least half of the fans’ prayers have finally been answered. “This is going to be a fantastic project to work on,” Felsher says. “Having been a longtime fan of this zombie epic, it's going to be a real treat to see it restored and exposed to a whole new audience of living dead fanatics.”

Bookwalter is also thrilled with the new partnership. “I have been a huge DVD collector right from its launch in 1997, and Anchor Bay has become the preeminent distributor of classic horror films. They’re the best at what they do, and I have used them as a template for my own Tempe DVD releases. To have the same company that has restored such classics as DAWN OF THE DEAD, THE EVIL DEAD and HALLOWEEN behind our little flick is an honor.”

To that end, Bookwalter is personally supervising an extensive remastering of THE DEAD NEXT DOOR from the original Super-8mm film elements, complete with a 5.1 surround remix and a long list of all-new extras documenting the film’s 20-year history. “This will be what I like to call the ‘proper burial’ of this film,” Bookwalter laughs. “When this work is finished, all that will be left to do is to answer the fans’ other question and get that sequel made at long last.”

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