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"House of the Dead"

Directed by Uwe Boll.
Written by Mark A. Altman and Dave Parker. 
Starring Jonathan Cherry, Ona Grauer and Jürgen Prochnow.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  2/20/03 


Don’t worry, you haven’t missed any previews for “House of the Dead” yet, because the film is still a few months away from being released.  But, the San Francisco Independent Film Festival somehow scored the world premiere of “House of the Dead” (in part because Sega’s US headquarters are based in San Francisco) as part of their end-of-festival celebration recently, and my friend Max and I were all over this one like white on rice.

“House of the Dead” is based on the Sega video game of the same name, a light gun game where you essentially move around a haunted house gunning down zombies while trying to rescue innocent folks from the zombies’ clutches.  The game is not bad...but, the movie was fucking great.  Prior to the premiere, German director Uwe Boll called his film “the ‘Saving Private Ryan’ of zombie movies”, which was reason enough for me to see it; and, as zombie movies go, this one would win the Oscar if they made up a horror category.

The plot is as simple as the game--a horde of ravers are slaughtered by zombies at an island off the coast near Seattle when the movie opens, and five partygoers not yet on the island hire a fishing boat captained by a guy named Kirk (Jurgen Prochnow) to get to the party just a little late.  This turns out to be lucky for them, as they figure out upon landing that something fishy is up when they discover an empty DJ stand at an open park and no ravers!  Later, they discover a house where three survivors are holed up, including Rudy (Jonathan Cherry, currently appearing in “Final Destination 2”), and the combined party sets out to find a way off the island before those nasty zombies can catch up.

This is easily the first time that I have fully enjoyed a video-game translation ever.  Boll was right when he introduced the film to us--most video game movies get the lead character right, but not always the setting; Boll stayed true to the product and gave us a movie where for about 60 of the film’s 90-minute running time, people are shooting zombies.  The film even incorporates shots from the game as transitions to other scenes, a genius move to further back the point that all the film does is have people shoot zombies for the whole damned thing!!  And shit, is “House of the Dead” violent--this has got to be the highest body count of any film I have seen since John Woo’s “Hard Boiled”, easy--I am sure about 300 zombies get capped during the course of the film by the good guys.  By giving all of the heroes an excuse to have ridiculous amounts of shotguns, machine guns, machine pistols, Desert Eagles, grenades, axes and the like (through a stash of weapons kept on the fishing boat), Boll takes about half of the running time to show us people diving around in the dark in slo-mo firing bullet after bullet.  With loud house music, violent special effects and hot women with dual pistol action, I was having the time of the life watching this film go by.  The packed house loved it too, which must have been cool for the production crew and the Sega reps, all of whom were in attendance.

“House of the Dead” has some problems, mostly with continuity, stiff acting by some of the good guys (as you may have guessed, this is as no-name a cast as you can find save for Prochnow), and Boll’s reliance on a circular camera effect used to shoot his heroes that “The Matrix” made popular four years ago.  And, I wonder how much of the film will get cut to bring it DOWN to an R; the version we saw was the director’s cut, and the body count is way too high for the MPAA to not recommend some cutting.  But, if the final draft is close to what I saw this past weekend, you are gonna love the action/horror elements of “House of the Dead.”  (Release date still undetermined, but expect it to be out sometime in late spring; the special effects and sound effects editing are completed.)

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09