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House of the Dead (2003)

You Won't Last The Night

House of the Dead
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Just when zombies are hip again, House of the Dead threatens to send them to back to an early grave. Director Uwe Boll has made an incredibly bad film and unfortunately it involves the greatest of horror icons. Boll might as well have pushed the undead back into their earthen holes and kicked the dirt on top of them. He's done zombies a great disservice and I can only hope the damage is not long lasting. Zombies have just recently been dug up, dusted off, and thrown at the mainstream audience again and I'd hate to see that go away so soon.

The story of House of the Dead is familiar and clichéd with zero distinguishing marks. It really should have been called "Island of the Dead"', since the house isn't the focal point of the film, but there are two reasons that it's not. The first being that there isn't a top-selling video game called Island of the Dead. The second reason is that there's already a movie called Island of the Dead and in an interesting coincidence, it's just as bad, or maybe even worse than House of the Dead.

Five college students take an ill-fated trip to a remote island, endearingly called "Isla del Muerte". That's "Island of the Dead" for you non-Spanish speakers. They're expecting to take in a rave, but they get oh so much more than that. There be zombies on that thar island! That's about all the setup that you need, sadly it's not any more elaborate than that. And sadly, such a simple concept is convoluted by the fact that it's told as one big flashback with a bunch of flashbacks scattered throughout.

I find it hard to believe that Uwe Boll actually thinks that this movie works on any level. Okay, it's got some gratuitous nudity, so it may work for the pubescent teen boys, but that's about it. Those shots were nice, but the not-so-ample breasts are not going to cover up the rest of the flaws, which are many.

I was completely disappointed by the garbage script that was churned out. Completely abysmal. I wouldn't have been as disgruntled if I hadn't seen the writers' other work. I thought that Dave Parker's The Dead Hate the Living was a much more inspired effort, and Mark Altman's screenplay of Free Enterprise was complete genius compared to this tripe. Some of the lines are complete head-shakers. Much like the boat captain's name, Captain "Kirk" (Jürgen Prochnow), the movie seems like it wants to be tongue-in-cheek, but Boll directs it completely straight. That's where it all unravels.

The action sequences would have been a positive for the film, but alas, Uwe Boll drops the ball again. If I see another bullet-time action sequence, it'll be too soon. The way it's callously thrown around, you'd think that Boll was the creator of the effect and this is the first time it's ever been seen or something. The main battle between humans and zombies is ruined by the insertion of distracting video game shots (which appear throughout the whole film) and the far too generous dose of slow-motion bullet-time. Every single character is granted a useless 360 degree slow-mo shot of them shooting off their weapon. It makes the transition from "ridiculous" to "completely ridiculous" when Rudy (Jonathan Cherry) takes a moment, in the middle of the carnage, to reflect on the events so far. The flashback is simply a super-fast collage of clips from the movie up to that point. I don't know about you, but the last thing that I'd do in the middle of a battle for my life would be to take time out to think about things. Utterly pointless and somewhat insulting. It's like we needed a refresher because we hadn't remembered what we've seen in the last 30 minutes.

Speaking of being insulted, House of the Dead is the new poster boy for predictability and awful foreshadowing. You'll know pretty early in the film that there's a stash of guns going to be available to the group, that someone's going to be a master swordsman when fencing is brought up, and of course Rudy's knack for first aid is explained by the fact that he's in medical school. Do you really need to be in med school to know how to put gauze on a wound or to tie off a limb to stop the bleeding? I guess so. Then there's the main villain of the movie who likes to hide among bushes and behind tree branches to observe. He's not even hidden by shadows; they just toss him out there for you to see, which destroyed any kind of mystery I may have been holding. It was complete cheese and I'm amazed that in 2003 that it was used in anything but a film spoof. The back story of the villain is thrown in almost like an afterthought, and comes off pretty campy. I think it should have been a bit more detailed and would have been better served coming at the beginning of the film.

I'm not even going to comment on the acting, mostly because I don't even think that Pacino or DeNiro could have done much with that script. Clint Howard (Salish) was wasted and not even he could inject anything interesting. Jürgen Prochnow has yet another junk film on his resume, joining such forgettables as Judge Dredd and Wing Commander. The techno/electronic music was decent, but was completely overshadowed by everything happening onscreen. It's hard to pay attention to the music when you're looking at your watch and wondering how much longer you've got to suffer. House of the Dead is more action than scares, which is accomplished with ease seeing as there are zero scares.

The plethora of zombies ran like Olympic sprinters, leaped long distances, and intelligently used weapons at times. I had no problems with any of that, as I'm not a stickler for the classic slow-shamblers. The zombie FX were respectable, but nothing to write home about and certainly didn't make up for everything else.

Movie studios really make me sick. They make me sick because movies like this can make it into theaters while better movies get the shaft and are doomed to the straight-to-video stigma. While it's not as bad of a stigma as it used to be, it's still a complete injustice. Movies that are well-directed & original, like May, who got no love after a limited theatrical release, and Below, which got no marketing push behind it, are often overlooked because nobody remembers it being in the theaters. Both of these are far superior films compared to House of the Dead and deserved more than what was given them.

This film should have never made it into the theaters, plain and simple. There's nothing redeemable, nothing original, nothing even's pretty much a waste of time. Uwe Boll is a hack; I'm not going to sugarcoat it. I can imagine that he thinks he's very clever and his use of all the flashbacks was wasn't. He probably thinks his action scenes were mind-blowing with all the slow-mo and his camera tricks...they weren't. If this movie is any indication of what he's capable of, then the forthcoming Alone in the Dark will be another waste of film. What's scarier than that? The fact that Mindfire Entertainment wants to make this franchise a trilogy. <shudder>


(Out of 5)
October 10 2003
October 12 2003

Don't waste your money...or your time.
1. When you show up on a remote island expecting to see lots of people and discover it deserted...don't hang around.
2. When committing suicide by dynamite to take out a bunch of it far enough away from the house your buddies are boarded up in so as not to blow the doors and windows out.
-"What's that?"
-"It's for your protection."
-"It's okay, I'm on the pill."
-"I can be quick."
-"What else is new."
-"I'm either gonna get better, or I ain't"
-"I'm a freak. I belong in a f*ckin' circus."

Uwe Boll (Heart of America, Blackwoods)
Mark Altman (Free Enterprise)
Dave Parker (The Dead Hate the Living)
Mark Altman Dan Bates
Mark Gottwald Daniel S. Kletzky
Uwe Boll
Jonathan Cherry Rudy
Ben Derrick McGyvers
Ona Grauer Alicia
Jürgen Prochnow Captain Kirk
Clint Howard Salish
Tyron Leitso Simon
Enuka Okuma Karma
Ellie Cornell Jordan Casper
Will Sanderson Greg
Steve Byers Matt
Elisabeth Rosen Skye
Boll KG, Mindfire Entertainment
Artisan Entertainment
United States
90 mins R

Mindfire is hoping this will be the first of a trilogy of films (in addition to inspiring a TV series).
The House of the Dead 4 video game will be based upon this movie.
The movie had been made for an eventual unrated, gore-filled DVD. Uwe Boll was being quoted as saying "We can never have too many exploding heads." Originally it was said that there would be an X-rated DVD released approximately 6 months after the theatrical release, but as of now, only an R-rated release has been announced.
The events of the film are supposed to precede the original House of the Dead video game.
Production started on April 29th, 2002 in Vancouver, Canada on a budget of $12 million. Filming was expected to last ten weeks, but wrapped approximately 3 weeks earlier than expected.
Official Trailers
House Of The Dead: The Occupants Speak -
Dave Parker Quote - Creature Corner
Weekend of Horrors HOTD Panel - Creature Corner

The skipper finally rids the island of Gilligan's antics A really large bowl of zombie soup
Seriously honey, I was just out with the guys! Still a nerd even in death
I like mine with a bit more meat on their bones For Rent: Nice Island Home - Cemetery Included


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