House of the Dead review by Matt Fuerst


I once had a tooth split right down the middle, top to bottom. I really didn't realize it had happened and, gross alert, my gums got infected. Pressure continued to build up until one night it was literally unbearable. No matter how tired I was, my entire body was buzzing with the pain, I felt on edge continuously. Not a fun night. I got that problem taken care of the next day and swore I would never be in that situation again. (I've been inspired by Tom Hanks in Castaway for how to take care of the same problem again.) In spite of my vow, I came very close to the same level of discomfort for 88 minutes yesterday. That 88 minutes comprised of the 88 minute timeperiod that House of the Dead was sitting my DVD player. I wasn't expecting anything. Literally nothing. I read the reviews, I was aware of how bad it was supposed to be. But it was worse.

A group of 5 gorgeous people arrive on the shores of Seattle, invitation to the Rave of the Century in hand. The Rave is taking place on a deserted island off the coast. We quickly flash over to the rave to see what the late arriving groupies are missing, and the first problem quickly surfaces. The rave is what I think my grandparents would imagine a rave looking like. There are about 25 people huddled around a DJ and some coconut trees listening to loud music in the middle of the day. I quickly grab the DVD Cover to make sure this isn't a PG movie. Nope, I am quickly reminded that it isn't by the quantity of female breasts that are exposed, but I've had more entertaining parties than this in my parents house while they were home. The late arrivals manage to coerce Captain Kirk (J├╝rgen Prochnow) and his first mate Salish (highly billed but hardly present Clint Howard) to take them to the Island of the Dead, in spite of the ominous name. Cut back to the island, and we see what's really happening to the partygoers, groups of people with drab makeup are attacking them and apparently doing something bad, since the kids seem scared, but don't worry, you won't be.

The group arrives on the island to find the deserted. They decide to scout out the island, only to be attacked by yet another group of people in drab makeup. Apparently they are supposed to be zombies. The group hooks up with the remaining survivors from the party as they fight to try to get off the island. Of course by this point their boat is overrun, Kirk and Salish abandoning it. Government Agent Casper (Ellie Cornell), hot on the trail of criminal Captain Kirk shows up with some guns, and we finally get to blow away some zombie scum. The boat overrun, the group decides to make their way back inland to a house they saw along the way. The requirements for the films title are now met. House, Dead: Check, Check. By the time we reach the house the group has been distilled down to about 4 disposable characters and Captain Kirk. Alicia (Ona Grauer) happens upon a book that describes what is going on. Some silly, poorly done subplot is quickly developed and dispatched. Some pirate was sailing around the seas, was unpopular and killed, but wasn't really killed and somehow had developed an army of the undead. You won't care. I don't care. Let's move on.

More shit goes boom, more bad effects, more running jiggling breasts slow-motion shots. Will anyone survive the night? Does it really matter when there is endless amounts of undead? Alright, enough of the requisite plot summary. This is a movie that was inspired by a video game. I'm sure the video game has some sort of storyline, but definitely not enough to support the weight of a story, even a short one (since the 88 minute running time is heavily inflated, but more on that in a bit). But that doesn't really matter. A movie like this can succeed without a decent story or decent acting. If it's fun, it can work. No fun is present here though. Simple monotony abounds. If you've read a review of House, you've probably read stylistic choice that director Uwe Boll decided to interject between scenes. In between each scene he inserts a few seconds of the actual House of the Dead video game footage. It was fairly novel starting out in the opening credits, and for an occasional dissolve between scenes, but I kid you not it happens at least 25 times over the course of the flick.

Also, the revolving 360 degree camera style popularized by The Matrix film was used extensively in the video game. So, it is overused extensively in the movie. I am certain this movie was pitched, green lighted and produced based solely on the 20 minute segment where the group fights from the riverbank to the house. They are all armed to the teeth against a unlimited horde of zombies and simply blast away. We get probably a 2 minute segment of each character, swiveling all around them several times as they slowly fight off the zombie masses. I'll admit, it's neat in a 12 year old boy watching wrestling kind of way. It's the only payoff in the whole movie honestly. But it goes on too long and is far too late to save the film.

So, the heavily padded running time. The movie begins at the end, with those alive reflecting on the course of events. It's replayed at the end without too much change. We've touched on the video game clips inserted into the film to pad. It takes the original group a good 20 minutes to get onto the island, which definitely could have been hurried up in favor of more time with good quality zombie horror. There are other horrific touches, for example while the government agent is chasing Captain Kirk's boat, apparently Boll missed coverage of the boat or didn't care to film it since we just get a voiceover to the effect of "Ok, we're following him. Let's keep on his tail." That type of thing only works for Jack Webb's Dragnet.

Any zombie movie can work. Any zombie movie with a reported $12 million budget and a cast of reasonably good looking twenty-somethings can work, but this one doesn't. The ingredients aren't exactly secret. While a character pays homage to Romero's "Holy Trilogy" (Night, Dawn and Day of the Dead) the filmmakers obviously didn't take any lessons. Zombies are scary, and can be an makeup persons dream. Instead of highlighting the grotesque and horrible nature of zombies, we are stuck with dark shadows and poor effects. Ugh. So poor, such a shame. Don't rent even if you think you know what you are getting yourself into.

2 out of 10 Jackasses
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