House of the Dead

Making a movie from a video game is almost always a losing proposition. The movie needs to find some way to transcend its origins and come up with a compelling story that people, not just fans of the game, will want to watch. The closest comparison to House of the Dead comes from Resident Evil, whose source game had more of a story to begin with. House of the Dead is more a traditional shooting game, where the plot is secondary to the number of dead things the player can kill. Here, the movie does at least attempt to flesh out the story. The results are less than stellar.

Knowing this, the filmmakers pile on the horror movie staples of lots of gore, gratuitous nudity (the first of which occurs minutes into the film) and stupid teenagers. The teens here are trying to make their way to the Isla del Morte to a weekend rave. First, anybody who wants to do to an island with that name deserves to die. When they get to the island, they find it abandoned, as if everybody ran away. Then, the zombies begin attacking in earnest. These are zombies along the lines of the ones in 28 Days Later, ones that run and drool and attack with fury. What are the hapless teens to do but fight back?

The backbone of the disposable cast is Rudy (Jonathan Cherry, Final Destination 2, They) and Alicia (Ona Grauer, My 5 Wives). Rudy found out about the party, and made it there before his friends. Alicia, his ex-girlfriend, and the others find him along with a few other survivors after some tense moments on the island. Other misfits include Captain Kirk (yes, that is the character name for Jurgen Prochnow, Dark Asylum, Ripper), the Gorton's fisherman (Clint Howard, Austin Powers in Goldmember, The Grinch) and Jordan Casper (Ellie Cornell, The Specials, Free Enterprise). The kids hired Kirk to ferry them, and he agreed for a large sum of money and the chance to hide a stash of arms on the island. These arms come in handy once the zombies arrive. Casper works for the government and is hot on the trail of Kirk. In a subplot (thankfully quickly forgotten about), Casper and Kirk used to date.

As most horror movies go, House of the Dead is typical. It's easy to predict the story. It's easy to predict who will survive (or at least survive longer). Director Uwe Boll (Blackwoods, Sanctimony) ups the blood and gore, yet it seems like nothing when Kill Bill comes out the same day. The eventual backstory that arises from Mark A. Altman (Free Enterprise) and Dave Parker (The Dead Hate the Living!) borders on the ridiculous, but that's not that important. What is really bothersome is Boll's insistence on reminding people that this came from a video game. At various points during the action sequences, scenes from the video game quickly flash on screen. He also overuses the popular Matrix bullet-time technology, where the camera zooms around characters seemingly frozen in time. Each character has their turn, and some have more than one. Basically he sets up a ring of cameras low to the ground, then films the actor in some sort of shooting pose. It quickly becomes highly annoying, so much so that if the specific actor were to die, no one would care. Then, when a few of the characters do die, the same thing happens, and the screen fades to blood red. These little "flourishes" are amateurish and distracting, and by themselves manage to sink House of the Dead further than it otherwise would have.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated R for pervasive strong violence/gore, language, and some nudity.

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