House of the Dead (2003)
Director: Uwe Boll
Jurgen Prochnow/Captain Kirk
Thirty-something adults pretending to be teenagers show up at an island expecting the rave of the century. Instead, they find the location deserted and infested with a horde of zombies and an army of video game footage (???). Who spiked my Dr. Pepper?
On blood-drenched paper, "House of the Dead" isn’t a good movie, but I have to admit, it was so good at being bad that I still had a hoot with it. Apart from “SpongeBob SquarePants”, I can’t remember anything else this year that made me laugh as much as "House of the Dead" and in this harsh world of poverty, murders, remakes, rapes, Larry Clark, rappers acting and the MPAA...laughter is gold.
There was some “legit” fun to be had here. We got some tit shots (although the gals weren’t "all that") and some slow motion Ona Grauer (Alicia) bobbling cleavage stuff. You can’t go wrong with that either. Genre favs Jurgen Prochnow (Captain Kirk...get it?) and Clint Howard (Salish) also showed up, had fun with it all and livened the party with their tongue in cheek performances. Prochnow was so kool that he smoked cigars while it was raining cats and dogs on him! You can’t beat that!
Visually, director Uwe Boll had his moments. I dug some of his stylish touches and his knack for nodding the video game feel via his visuals. For example, at times, when a character died, the action would halt, the camera would spin around the immobile player and then fade to red. I expected to see the words “GAME OVER” every time that went down. Pretty clever. There was also one particular scene where there was a character POV shot, with gun in frame echoing the “House of the Dead “ video game vibe to a T. Kool!
Then there was the main candy; the hard pumping, carnage-laced 10 minute action sequence that kicked in at the hour mark. We get all kinds of style whore “money shots”, heads getting blown up, limbs being cut off and bodies getting riddled with bullets. Those with a firearm fetish should take note because there was enough fire power here to take down a small country. But having said that, nothing equaled the films’ “so bad, it's good” quotient when it came to delivering the smiles. How do I love thy unintentional giggle fit-inducing moments? Let me count the ways:
1) The Rave of the Century: The “Rave of the Century” took place during the daytime and was comprised of 20 peeps that looked old enough to have given birth to me three times. WTF? If that’s the rave of the century, I have a couple of tickets to an upcoming Kurt Cobain concert I could sell ya. PRICELESS!
2) Characters and dialogue: The main characters, their relationships and their inane dialogue had me in stitches. The players here were so beyond paper thin that they made the “air” between my ears seem thick. It takes more than a cruddy opening voice-over to establish character substance. FUNNY!!!!
3) Character Reactions: This was my favorite “so bad, it's good” spice. The folks in this movie weren’t too impressed by zombies, that’s for damn sure! They didn’t even blink at the sight of an undead or get agitated about their f-ed up situation! And that wasn’t all. The party island is deserted? No reaction. His girlfriend died? No reaction. His best friend got slaughtered? No reaction. All we get is a shrug of the shoulders and that’s that. To top that off, one instance actually had a character ignore his dying friend to go into a flashback about the whole chain of events that led him to where he is. How about helping your boy instead of reminiscing, dumbass? What an odd narrative choice. Yes, I was literally pissing my pants. YOWZER!
4) Drama: Since nobody and nothing was built upon, every time the movie would pause to deliver heavy handed “drama” (with soap opera music in tow to boot) laughter from yours truly would ensue. That left field “lovey dovey” kiss based on nothing cracked me up! Or my fav moment had to be where a certain character decided to go into his own shite, worrying about his damaged face and the loss of his pretty boy looks. Dude! You’re on an Island FILLED and I mean FILLED with murderous, flesh-craving zombies! Who gives a fudge about your face??? Stop whining and run bitch run!! WOW!
5) The Idiotic Plot Devices: Side-splitting coincidences and plot holes to serve the story were many here! Hey, we need weapons? Well, you’re in luck...Prochnow has a crate of illegal weapons with him. Hey, we need to know what’s going down! You’re in luck! Here’s a book lying around that explains the whole damn thing. Hey, I need to learn how to shoot? Well, you’re in luck because in this movie if you hold a gun in your hands and rub it three times, you become a bunny-hopping John Rambo afterwards. YEAH BITCH!
6) The House: They should’ve called the film Out-House of the Dead. The house was the size of a pack of smokes. LOL! And I would like to know who the contractor for that house was, because the interiors kept getting bigger and when an explosion erupted within it, that little teepee just kept standing. The house takes a licking, but keeps on ticking. NICE!
7) The Bald “Villain”: The reason behind the madness led to some pretty tacky flashbacks to the days of old where some bald “Herbert West” wannabee baddie was shown to be responsible for it all. Not only was the nature of the “why” in this flick so hilariously blah, but when bald boy chewed the scenery, he did it like Pac-Man on steroids. Yes, you guessed it…my stomach was hurting from all the LAUGHING!
Which brings me to the film’s “not so funny” faults. First off, it didn’t have enough content to fill in a buck and half so it padded things up left and right with too many shots of the kids walking in the woods, tenseless glimpses of zombies prowling about and “scary scenes” that fell flat (the swimming "Jaws" rip scene is a great example of that). On a technical standpoint, the 360 bullet time technique was overused to the point of self circumcision during the main action scene. One after another, each character was shown shooting their weapons as the cam spinned around them. All right, we get it…LET'S MOVE ON! I would’ve much rather seen more bloody carnage then stand witness to the same cam technique repeated 5 times in a row.
Horror-wise, zombie fans will be disappointed in the fact that the undead here were basically running targets on two legs and were seldom focused upon. Sure, we’d get glimpses of rotten zombies here and there, but most of the time all I saw were dudes running around with toothpaste smeared on their faces. It could’ve been an army of Ronald McDonalds sprinting around that island and I wouldn’t have known the difference. So if you’re looking for a hardcore zombie movie, look elsewhere. The undead here had the same presence as the soldiers in “Commando”: they were there to get blown to bits, not scare us.
But the flick’s worst sin of all was the injection of actual crappy looking video game footage into its action scenes. Come on man! Now I actually liked the video game footage rolling over the opening credits, was barely able to stomach it as a tool for scene transitions but slapping that shit during the most exciting moments of the movie was so "out of school"! It constantly took me out of the sequences and resulted in cop-outs when it came to zombie violence. I respect the desire to try something different but in this case, it just didn’t work for me. And why didn’t they use footage from one of the recent games? The footage here looked older than what my beaten up Atari puts out!
So overall, "House of the Dead" was a pretty lousy film, but a charming lousy film. Its flaws were so "in my face" that I couldn’t help but derive some enjoyment from them. When I wasn’t laughing at this movie, I was laughing at it some more...get my drift? Enter the shack…I mean, the House of the Dead!
The goodies are here, we get blown up heads, severed limbs, beheadings, cut in half torsos, crushed heads and more. But don’t blink because the editing is so tight that you might miss something.
Almost everybody played it “one note”, often with hilarious results. Jonathan Cherry (Rudy) underplayed it way too much. Was he falling asleep during takes? Ellie Cornell (Jordan) played it assertive the whole way. She felt "off" at first, but eventually got her groove on. Will Sanderson (Greg) played it goofy. Prochnow (Captain Kirk) and Clint Howard (Salish) had stereotypical “sea dog” parts and they played them to a tilt for better and for cheesy better. Ona Grauer (Alicia) came out of this looking the best. Her character actually had minor levels and she handled her more serious scenes adequately. Her cleavage also rocked! Sonya Salomaa (Cynthia) and Enuka Okuma (Karma) were grating and far from convincing. Tyron Leitso (Simon) handled his part adequately, too bad the part was so badly written.
T & A
We get 3 tit shots (one of them via video camera footage) as well as a G-string shot. Too bad the ladies were just not my type. I’ll leave it at that. I did highly appreciate the constant focus on Ona Grauer’s bouncing B-Balls though.
Boll kept it flashy and energetic. On the upside, he displayed some gnarly ideas and laid the slick visual aesthetics on thick. On the downside, the 360 bullet time tracking shot was overused, the video game footage didn’t work, some of the hand-to-hand fights were too tightly shot (Asian chick scene) and suspense was nowhere to be found.
We get some slick techno, a stinking “drama” score and one putrid Hip-Hop tune. God, I hated that damn Hip Hop ditty! Give me some metal or an orchestral score over that crap any day!
You get your ham and your melted cheese! "House of the Dead" is the “Showgirls” of horror. It is the definition of a “so bad, it’s good” movie. Man, did I ever piss myself with laughter! Next time I see it I’ll dress up as Captain Kirk, have my friends dress up as zombies and I’ll pretend to kick their asses in bullet time. NOW THAT’S AN EVENING! I wouldn’t recommend flying solo on this one. This is such a "get drunk off your ass with the boyz while providing your own commentary throughout" flick. Unearth the key to the liquor cabinet, get the hombres to back you up and bring the house down!
Anthony Timpone of Fangoria Mag has a cameo here as a zombie.
Canuck rock singer Biff Naked has a cameo as a DJ.
The film cost $12,000,000 to make and was shot in Vancouver BC.
Ellie Cornell is renowned among horror fiends as the gal that played Rachel in "Halloween 4" and "Halloween 5".