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The Filmmaker Next Door: Akron’s Own Horror King Is Still Scaring Audiences 21 Years Later

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It was more than ambitious for the time. Forget digital cameras and Macs loaded with editing and special effects software – the kind of off-the-shelf film staples that define the modern no-budget filmmaker today. This was 1988. A feature-length horror epic shot on a shoestring budget and Super-8mm film in downtown Akron, Ohio? What was J.R. Bookwalter thinking?

“It was a complete fluke,” the filmmaker says. “A once in a lifetime thing.”

That fluke turned into The Dead Next Door, a thunderbolt fueled by flesh-eating zombies, tough-as-nails soldiers, genius scientists, insane cult leaders, and gore – lots of it. It was even named one of Top 50 Essential Gore Films by Rue Morgue magazine.

While it was made on a miniscule budget, it comes from a rich horror pedigree. Sam Raimi, the Detroit-born writer/director/producer, known for both is low-budget, independent horror film Evil Dead and his big-budget, studio blockbuster Spider-Man, produced the film. Raimi’s bosun, the legendary B-movie sta…