DVD Review HTF REVIEW: House of the Dead

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Elliott, Jul 17, 2004.

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  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    House of the Dead


    Zero Stars/[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]




    Studio: Lions Gate/Artisan
    Year: 2003
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 90 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 6.1, DD 2.0 Surround
    Subtitles: Spanish
    Retail Price: $19.95




    I’m a life-long horror fan but I must admit that I pretty much stay away from the new crop of horror films yet I was pleasantly delighted when I opened my mailbox to find a screener of House of the Dead. The DVD is scheduled for a price reduction so that’s why I’m receiving this a year after release and in that year’s time I had read various message boards talking about how awful this film was. I had even seen horror fans viciously attack the films director saying some of the worst things I’ve ever read in my life. In return, I read a note from the director taking some words back at fans. After reading so much about the film I was so hyped up for this film but that hype pretty much died down before the five-minute mark of the film.

    The story is very simple, which is always a good thing for a B-rate zombie film. Five punks from Seattle head off to a Tropical island for what’s being called the biggest rave party in the history of rave parties. After missing the boat they find a drunken Captain Kirk willing to take them there but he warns them that the place is cursed and death will follow. Of course they should listen to him but characters in horror films are stupid so they go to the island anyways. When they arrive on the island everyone from the party is missing and before you know it zombies start popping up from all sides. Thankfully Captain Kirk was smuggling illegal weapons so the good guys load up to take on the zombies in a blood match to the re-death.

    Once again, I had read how incredibly awful this film was but sometimes I think horror fans just join the fun in bashing a film that usually doesn’t deserve it. As for myself, I can’t help but recommend this film to every single person in the world. Everyone should buy a copy of this film and share it with their friends, family, lovers, enemies and even their local priests. Yes, everyone should see this movie and even if you must steal it, see this movie at once. Why? Because this is without a doubt one of the worst films ever made. I’m sure you’ve read about how bad this was but all that reading could never possibly prepare you for what we have here. Calling a film like this bad would be insulting the word bad. Calling it awful would be like calling Martin Scorsese a wannabe Ed Wood. However, House of the Dead does make history in the fact that it beats out Astro Zombies as the worst zombie film ever made.

    With a film this bad you’d expect everything in it from the acting to the screenplay to the effects to be bad but that’s actually not the case. In fact, I’d be willing to say that the acting is no worse than your typical horror film and the gore effects, while far from Tom Savini, are actually fairly decent. Even the screenplay has a somewhat decent story that has an easy setup for gore and violence to follow. It’s even smart enough to throw in some good looking naked girls so what went wrong? I hate to beat a dead horse but the direction by Uwe Boll is what totally destroyed this movie. The first zombie film was 1932’s White Zombie and in the seventy-two years of zombie films I can’t think of a single one where everything bad was due to the direction. I might even go a bit further saying I’ve never seen a film where everything went so incredibly wrong all due to the direction.

    For some unknown reason director Boll tries to mix a Lucio Fulci zombie film with CGI zombie action, which seems like leftovers from The Matrix. The flying in the air/karate/zombie action scenes are so incredibly bad that I had to turn my head and watch my ceiling fan do its job. I’m sure this could have been pulled off with a better director but it seems like Boll was trying to impress the viewer and telling us how great a job he’s doing but instead of coming off stylish or cool then entire thing become very annoying and irritating. Imagine a mosquito bite that you can’t help but scratch for a few weeks and you’ll understand trying to watch one minute of these action scenes. Even worse is a showdown at the end where our “heroes” must fight their way into a cabin. There are so many quick edits, fast motion zombies and rocking music that my head was spinning as if I had just drank a few kegs of beer before eating raw fish. I’ve seen thousands and thousands of films in my life but I can’t recall a worst moment in my life.

    Another incredibly silly thing has clips from the video game being thrown into the film. Again, what was the point of this? Did the director think it would be cool? Was he trying to remind us this was based on a game? Was he trying to make us want to go buy the game? I’m still not too certain why we got clips from the video game and I’m sure no one else, including the director knows why. There’s not even any direction when it comes to the zombies. I’m not looking for too much logic in a horror film but there needs to be some sort of playing ground when it comes to the zombies. These zombies seem to be able to be killed in any sort of manor, which is a major no-no in my book. The typical rule is that you shoot them in the head to kill them. In this film, I swear I could see one getting killed after being shot in the knee. Some die from stab wounds, some die from having their heads blown off and I’m sure several died from pure boredom.

    I love watching bad horror films whenever they at least offer me some good laughs. Just last week I watched Robot Monster followed by Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and I had a very good time even though both films are terrible. Sadly, I didn’t have a good time watching House of the Dead and in fact I’m rather pissed off because I just wasted ninety-minutes of my life on this film. I’m even more upset because I’m writing this with a major headache, which hasn’t gone away even after two Aspirin.

    However, I’m sure you’ve read plenty of negative reviews of this film before so you should see mine as nothing different. In fact, I hope you’ll be like me and blow these reviews off and view the movie for yourself. I really hope more people check this film out because, once again, you’ll never know how bad this film is until you actually see it for yourself.


    VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. You’ve gotta wonder how a film like this gets a brilliant transfer while something like Dario Argento’s Sleepless is released all hacked up and looking poor to boot. As bad as the film is there isn’t a single flaw in the transfer, which is one of the best of the year while the film is one of the worse. Go figure. The entire transfer is so crystal clear that you’d swear you were actually on the island with all the zombies chasing you around. The flesh tones look very accurate and colors are extremely rich throughout the film. Those looking for good red blood will also be very happy there. The black levels are also very good, retaining perfect shadow detail. There are a couple scenes that are full of grain but I’ve been told the scenes looked that way in theaters as well so that isn’t a DVD issue.

    AUDIO---We get a Dolby Digital 5.1 track as well as a DTS 6.1. I compared various scenes together and the 6.1 is the clear winner here, although the DD isn’t exactly bad. Both are demo quality but if you have the ability to play DTS then go that route. The sound mix for this film is quite incredible and if you’re a fan of techno music then you’ll be in Heaven here. The (IMO) incredibly awful soundtrack does sound wonderfully coming from the speakers in full, room shaking destruction. The dialogue is upfront and crystal clear without ever being overshadowed but the Surround action. Everything from the gunshots to the heads exploding sound very good and the Surrounds throwing the bullets from one speaker to the next add some good fun.

    EXTRAS---Once again, a horrid movie gets a lot of special features. Up first is Behind the House: Anatomy of a Zombie Movement, which runs just under twenty minutes and isn’t too bad. In this featurette there are several nods to previous zombie films, which makes this watchable. The likes of Romero and Savini are credited for their brilliance. The next featurette runs just under six minutes and is titled Zom-bat: The Sexy Babes of House of the Dead. This here shows four of the women showing up for “boot camp”, which is nothing more than playing the video game. As boring as this is I’d rather watched two hours of this over the movie. Up next is a storyboard comparison section, which features commentary from the exec. producer. There’s not too much interesting here so I really wouldn’t bother. Also included are three deleted scenes, which are just as bad of the hundred scenes in the actual film. There’s no character development in the scenes so I’m not sure what they were supposed to be.

    Up next are two commentary tracks with the first one featuring director Boll, post production supervisor Jonathan Shore, actor Will Sanderson and executive producer Shawn Williamson. The track is rather boring because it appears no one is really interested in talking about the film. We can hear cell phones going off and throughout the track it appears as people are walking away from the recording equipment and doing other things. There are a few stories told but not too much is to be learned. No one comes out and says it but it appears no one is too thrilled about the film. The second commentary track is a whole lot better and features executive producer/screenwriter Mark A. Altman. Sadly, Altman doesn’t go all out bashing the director but he does shed some light on what the movie was supposed to have been. Apparently all the character development was removed so that more action and CGI could be added. Altman manages to give great detail about the troubled production and how everything went so badly. It’s rather sad hearing him talk and one wishes he would go all out on how he really feels. Perhaps for the 25th Anniversary DVD? Finally we get the films theatrical trailer as well as trailers for S.I.C.K., Dracula’s Curse, Cutthroat Alley and The Punisher.

    OVERALL---There are a few noticeable horror veterans here but not even they could save this films, which is certainly DOA. I'm sure everyone has read how bad this film is but you've still gotta see it for yourself. Artisan delivered a wonderful DVD with brilliant V/A and one nice commentary but even with the upcoming price reduction you’d be better off renting this.


    Release Date: Out now; upcoming price reduction
     
  2. Travis W.

    Travis W. Second Unit

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    ...yeah maybe this info would have been useful when it came out in January...[​IMG]

    I'm just joking around, I knew how bad this film was and I still rented it. The theater I worked at had it for the minimum two weeks and in it's second week we bumped it to one showing. I've seen a lot of films in my life but this had to be the worst of them all. I mean they screwed the pooch on everything in this film, zombies, scares, everything.

    One of the funniest things I remember about this heap of garbage were the quick snippets of video game footage thrown in there every few minutes, then the obvious trampoline used by one of the jumping zombies. Oh and then the obligatory "camera spin around the actors while they shoot their guns" shots that repeated themselves about fifty times. One could fill tomes on how bad this film is.

    And to think one of the characters mentions Romero's classic trilogy...[​IMG]

    Good review though and most of all I admire the courage it took to watch this all the way through.
     
  3. Lev-S

    Lev-S Second Unit

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    I felt like I deserved some kind of explanation for it sucking so hard, even though I downloaded it! [​IMG]
     
  4. Ben Silva

    Ben Silva Stunt Coordinator

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    This is and Wrong Turn are the only movies I have ever walked out of.
     
  5. Tony_Faville

    Tony_Faville Supporting Actor

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    Nice review of a horrible movie.

    The only thing I liked about this piece of garbage was Ona Grauer, and it was not her acting I appreciated. [​IMG]
     
  6. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    As a HTF reviewer I am disappointed you weren't able to create any more elaborate insults for this loathesome piece of crap.

    "Stinks worse than a burning house of bird-crap stuffed with dead dogs" would have been a good summary line.

    And you missed a few highlights of the film.

    *The captain's 1st. mate. Good to know "Torgo" from Manos: The hands of fate got another job.

    *The first on-screen zombies are pretty obviously generic halloween masks with red christmas-tree light "eyes". If the effects are really 'fairly decent" as you describe... I'd hate to see "bad".

    *Characters usddenly become firearms and kung-fu experts as soon as zombies attack!

    *Jumping zombies and the on-screen springboards.
     
  7. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    I really didn't have that much of a problem with the zombies. I didn't like the fact that there weren't any "rules" when it came to killing them but the actual "look" didn't bother me too much. I actually prefer the look in DAWN OF THE DEAD the best even though they do look a bit silly. The look of these zombies, and especially the scene you mentioned reminded me of C.H.U.D. Even them becoming kung-fu experts didn't bother me because most characters in horror films start out wimps and by the end are able to destroy the bad guys (could be zombies, Jason, Freddy).

    I remember the zombies in NIGHTMARE CITY also jumped, used guns and even cleaned their mouths after biting someone. [​IMG]

    Again, I hate beating the guy when he's down but I think every single inch of blame must go towards the director. I could have lived with everything else in the film but the direction is what made this movie so incredibly bad. The video game clips and all the edits were the biggest problem.

    My girlfriend watched the film with me and afterwards we discussed how bad this film was. IMO, I think the director made this a bad film on purpose. I thought about it for hours and couldn't come up with anything better. Some of the things here are so incredibly bad, directing wise that this must have been done on purpose. Perhaps he knew he couldn't make a Romero or Fulci type film so he decided to make his name making something bad.

    I apologize for the late review but I just now received the screener, which was sent for the upcoming price drop. At least we just got EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD and have two versions of ZOMBIE coming this month.
     
  8. Ehren G

    Ehren G Extra

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    I might rent it since every review of this film has called it one of the worst ever.

    One wonders how bad Alone in the Dark will be.
     
  9. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

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    So same basic problem as Resident Evil then? A game based on bad movies may be good, but a movies based on games that are based on bad movies won't be?
     

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