House of the Dead (2003)

After the (literally) seven minute long opening to “House of the dead”, I was almost sure this would suck as I instantly lost patience with this frenzied film; man, I should learn to listen to my instincts more. I sat in the theatres watching and squirming in my seat because I had to use the bathroom, and had pre-determined I would hold it until the movie ended (not wanting to miss out). After about ten minutes in, to the bathroom I went. What’s sad is that this is not only a bad movie, but a bad zombie movie with a lot of potential to it. With a plot off of “Zombie” and “Resident Evil”, the movie had a lot of chances to become innovative and creative yet Uwe Boll takes no chances and goes by the book.

I’m terrified of zombie movies yet I left the theater clearly un-phased and anxious to leave. The film begins on a bad note with the long opening (as the aforementioned paragraph noted) with a negative from the video game playing nonstop, then we’re treated to the character Rudy (Jonathan Cherry) sitting on a step on the island after the horrible events and badly narrates the story for the audience in flashbacks. He mentions the characters one by one and instantly gives the story away: “These are good people; too bad none of them would make it off the island alive”. My instant response was: “Thanks for giving the movie away!” What’s the point of sitting through a movie when you already know which characters will die or live? It wasn’t much of a loss, though.

We’re shown these terrible characters that have basically no depth, any back-story, and spout terribly inane and awful dialogue that doesn’t add to the story at all. But, the narrator makes a point of mentioning that the hottest character Alicia (Ona Grauer: Black Sash, The Lizzie McGuire Movie) had been extremely fond of fencing and became skilled in it. Why would he point this out when it had basically no validity to the story? You find out at the end when her skill conveniently comes in handy. You don’t think I’d give it away, do you? Then there’s your basic array of disposable horror characters: The beer guzzling lunk head, the kinky sex kitten, the token black girl, the smart but whiny girl, the brooding love interest, the Asian person who conveniently knows martial-arts.

These characters are about as one dimensional as it gets as we learn nothing of them and are never really given the chance to, because we’re instantly thrown into the horror. Not to mention the fact that none of the cast members can act for beans; so watching their scenes are so awful it becomes funny and nauseating. There’s the hilarious romantic scenes between the characters that had no build up from the beginning so there’s basically no reason for it being inserted, and there’s even one hilarious moment when a character is sprayed with acid in the face and begins moaning on how ugly he looks and how he looks like “The Elephant Man” not really considering he might not make it out alive from the island. It’s a hoot.

The partiers go to the biggest rave in centuries (considering the rave is taking place during the day, and consists of only about twenty-five people) on a deserted island (of all places), and are taken there illegally by a strict boat captain named Captain Kirk (Jürgen Prochnow: Dark Asylum, Ripper) who is a mix of Robert Shaw in “Jaws” and the Skipper from “Gilligan’s Island”. There’s even a horrible running gag throughout the movie about his name similarity with the prolific character from “Star Trek”. There’s also his “comical” (I use the term loosely) first mate played so badly by Clint Howard who wears an oversized rain slicker and attempts to talk boat lingo, the teens are told by the two sailors that the island is the “Island of the dead” and its cursed but the teens decide to go regardless.

They inevitably enter the island and find everyone is gone. They’re randomly attacked by zombies who run and howl like beasts and soon take refuge in a deserted house where they meet three other survivors, one of whom manages to tape the entire attack from the zombies on the partiers. The scene of the taped rampage is so quick and random, it’s hard to feel any impact of death or dread. The zombie’s are mostly shown through shadows and dark lighting so it’s difficult to get scared or tense when a zombie is present and it’s hard to feel the carnage that was so present when the zombies ravaged the island, but we do manage to get a glimpse of a large “Sega” banner visible during the party. It’s a horrible advertising plot on part of the company that manufactured the game.

The zombies are run of the mill and arbitrary; some are rotted beyond recognition, some are fresh as meat, some can run, swim and jump really high (thanks to obvious and visible wirework), some carry wooden sticks and knives like villagers, none are scary. Most of the zombies look like zombies you’d see in a scary kids show with glowing red eyes and groaning comically. You know which ones are people dressed in a padded costume as a zombie and which ones are just badly painted actors. All of them look like their make-up was purchased from a nearby shopping mall. The film does manage to add some coincidence to the plot whenever needed. The supporting characters who are there to get killed, die at the hands of quick moving running zombies, while the main characters barely get touched by sluggish slow moving zombies to keep their characters in the movie longer.

What’s terrible is no one will care when a character dies, not even the characters in the movie care. In possibly one of the most ridiculous scenes, while Liberty, the Japanese martial arts rave survivor is being killed, Doug watches on with a stone face not even lifting a finger to help her. It not only shows that he’s a terrible actor, but that none of the actions composed by the characters make any sense. The characters don’t look sad when a friend dies so why should the audience? Half the time there’s no impact of death given to the audience here. A best friend of the group is killed early, no one reacts, one of the friends is slaughtered in the forest, no one cares, there’s zombies by the dozens yet no one seems terrified. Uwe Boll is a terrible director tending to mix a majority of video game footage from the original game into the movie, and it meshes so badly and awkwardly that it becomes distracting to the point where you almost don’t want to finish the movie.

It’s kind of like Sega had no faith in their game or its loyal fans, so they decided to add the game footage as a tap on the shoulder to the audience remarking: “See, it’s exactly like the game! Told you!” There’s innovative and then there are concepts that should never be tried. “Resident Evil” wasn’t a perfect movie, but it took the source material seriously, took on real actors for the cast, and never added video game footage onto the movie. At one point a character notes the George Romero “Living Dead” trilogy to help the moronic characters comprehend that they’re being chased by zombies, but it’s mostly meant as a hip reference, but what’s the fun of watching a zombie movie when you’re being reminded that you’re watching a zombie movie? Plus, I doubt this film could even compare to George Romero’s superior films.

Somewhere he’s shuddering at the mention of his name during this tepid film. What’s even sadder is that as the movie went on I began to realize the video game footage is just filler. There’s even one really agitating moment when there’s the large  climactic sequence of the survivors fighting their way through the zombies, then when it ends, the entire sequence is replayed in a minute sequence like a really bad music video. You’re sitting there watching the same scenes over except faster and louder. This sometimes plays like a giant music video with incredibly corny rap and techno soundtracks booming among the badly choreographed action and horror scenes and it soon becomes so annoying you’d prefer leaving the theater than watching this any further. If you take away the seven minute opening, the footage, and long narration, you’d only have an hour and ten minute movie.

What’s funny is when a character dies there’s this easily over used 360 degrees camera shot showing them standing up then fades away into another scene like the video game. There’s no point of showing this constantly over-used movie device from the “Matrix” with the 360 degrees pan around the actors and annoying wire induced stunts. It becomes increasingly hard to concentrate among the movie because there are so many plot holes and lapses in logic it soon becomes routine. Why did Captain Kirk tell the kids not to blast the house because it’d let the zombies in, yet when he kills himself he blasts the house?

Why did he pull out a small crate of weapons yet had enough ammo and guns for everyone to use? How did everyone in the group go from screaming and running to commandoes in just an hour? Unfortunately it’s hard attempting to apply reasonable logic to a film like this, because it soon becomes so overwhelming, you tend to just ignore it. When it can’t get any worse, the writer rips an ending off of “Resident Evil”, and heads into the city for a potential zombie fest. This is a truly bad waste of money and film, and should have never been made. Such potential yet it all instantly goes downhill. What’s the scariest aspect of the movie? There might be a sequel. I’m already shivering in fright.