A red ethereal substance, floating through a cemetery, invades the body of a deceased man.  The entity reanimates the corpse.  The rotting corpse comes across a man and a woman in the cemetery.  The corpse strangles the two people and absorbs their life force.  The corpse uses the life essence to rejuvenate itself.  Now as a human looking specter, the corpse goes to the suburban house of a former relative.  The cousin of the dead man has a for-sale sign on the lawn.  It takes down the for-sale sign, disposes of the occupants and moves into the basement of the house.  It takes the name of Eric Longfellow (Don Leifert) and sets up a business as a music teacher, employing meek nerd, Dennis Frye (George Stover) to run the business and balance the books.

Longfellow can maintain his seemingly normal life provided he rejuvenates himself from time to time.  To do that he must kill and absorb the life essence of those he targets.  If he does not, he will quickly revert to a decaying corpse.  Longfellow begins targeting and killing mostly women but will kill anyone who either gets in his way or may be able to expose him as a serial killer.

Longfellow’s next-door neighbors are Gary and Marsha Kender (Richard Nelson, Elaine White).  Gary doesn’t like his rude and pretentious neighbor.  Longfellow plays violin music that Gary finds annoying, and Longfellow’s attitude is standoffish.  Marsha thinks Gary is just overly sensitive and should mind his own business.  She sees nothing wrong with Longfellow.  Gary’s interest in his reticent neighbor deepens when a child is murdered in their back yard.  Longfellow was the only one home at the time.  Gary believes he saw something, but Longfellow maintains that he was home with his assistant reviewing music tapes.  Gary is convinced that Longfellow had something to do with the child’s death and begins an investigation into his elusive neighbor.  

“Fiend” AKA “Deadly Neighbor” was released in 1980 and was written and directed by Don Dohler.  Classified as a horror movie it has more aspects of a psychological thriller with horror aspects.  Dohler made several regional, low budget horror films in his home territory of Maryland.  As with most of his films the actors were comprised mostly of family and friends.  He even used his own home as the house Eric Longfellow lived in.

The special effects aren’t that great, but the make-up is pretty good.  There are some dull spots and some padding here and there and the acting is so-so most of the time.  Even the story is basic but there is a feel to this movie that is different from the usual Don Dohler fare.

If you strip out the cheesy horror story corn what you have is a cold psychological thriller.  Longfellow’s obsession with killing could be compared with your basic homicidal maniac if it weren’t for the fact that Longfellow does it for existence.  Add to that Gary’s obsession that his neighbor is not who he seems to be is the stuff of thrillers like “Rear Window” 1954.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way comparing Dohler to Hitchcock but “Fiend” does contain many of the basic elements of your average crime thriller.  1. An evil villain: Longfellow, 2. A likeable if flawed protagonist: Gary, 3. Raising the stakes: when the murders begin happening close to home, 4. A ticking clock: when Longfellow begins focusing on Marsha, 5. A shocking twist.  Granted some of them are done a little clumsy but all in all Dohler is closer to the mark than you would think.

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