a critiQal film review House of the Dead (2003)

  • DVD
  • Vudu

Plot: A group of friends is on their way to the rave of the year. They arrived a little too late, and missed the boat to the island though. Luckily for them Captain Kirk (Prochnow) agrees to take them to La Isle De Morte - The Island of the Dead. When they get there, however, the rave is deserted, and before they know it, they’re up against the undead...in a fight for their lives.

661 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 18s)
  • ...Uwe Boll's adaptation of the video game series is so bad it's laughable.

Continuing with my horror flick weekend, after watching Cabin Fever (2003), I popped in House of the Dead. I hadn’t really heard about this (except seeing the preview), and was surprised to notice it was based on a video game, since I’d never heard that name for a game.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the film, as the name seemed a bit reminiscent of that royal stinker House of 1000 Corpses (2003) but knowing it was based on a video game, and remembering Resident Evil (2002) – also based on a video game – fondly, I knew it could go either way.

Funny, it went somewhere totally different than either of the ways I thought it would.

The actors tried real hard to make their characters believable in House of the Dead, but they just couldn’t quite do it. With the help of some odd camera effects/scenes (see below), the characters came off as highly unbelievable, but still enjoyable to watch.

The cheese factor in the acting sequences in this movies is so high, it provokes many unintentional laughs along the way, totally destroying the horror atmosphere the movie is trying for, but also makes it fun to watch – even while you groan at the cheese. This is partly due to the actors themselves, but mostly concerns the dialogue and actions that are scripted.

While the plot of House of the Dead isn’t original – combining pieces of Island of Dr. Moreau with Night of the Living Dead (1968) – it’s actually the best part of the written aspects of this film.

The dialogue sounds like it was pulled directly from an early film in the Friday the 13th (1980) series, and sounds even cheesier in this film than it ever did in those films.

The actions of the characters are also a big hit on the cheese o’ meter at times, making House of the Dead even funnier. An example? There is a break in the action, a few of their friends have died (and one lies dying on a table in the next room)…and they separate into couples and start making out. C’mon! How cheesy can you get?

There aren’t very many surprising twists and turns in the film, and the whole mood of the film is transformed into more of a comical video game with a bit of gore in it.

The special effects only add to the cheese factor of House of the Dead, for the most part. A huge battle sequence is interrupted countless times by a slow-motion 360 degree revolving shot on one of the main characters. Every so often, scenes from the video game pop up, as a comparison to what the characters are facing in that sequence (If you hadn’t heard of the video game before, it seems to be a first-person shooter, along the lines of Doom or Quake). As someone lies bleeding to death, you may notice that their blood looks a heck of a lot like paint, complete with that shiny finish on it.

The bad guy at the end of course isn’t killed the first time, and comes back again…but more than that, he escapes a gigantic explosion unscathed – his clothes aren’t even dirty! And so on and so forth…these silly sequences just keep coming throughout the film.

If you’re looking to be scared, don’t go for House of the Dead…try Cabin Fever (2003) instead. If you like cheese, then you’re probably a fan of the 1980’s…and you’ll probably enjoy laughing along with this movie. There is gore, but it loses a lot of it’s effect if you’re laughing at most of the film, so don’t worry about that freaking you out.

Try renting this and Big Trouble in Little China (1986) for a real cheesefest night. But, like I said, if you’re looking for something horrifying, House of the Dead is a dead end.

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