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"House of the Dead 2" Screenwriters Speak Out about the Unspeakable

House of the Dead 2 If you're looking forward to "House of the Dead 2" airing tomorrow night on Sci-Fi just so you can invite your friend over for another laugh fest, you might want to reconsider. Screenwriters Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer recently took time out of their hectic schedules to answer some of my burning questions, and hopefully some of yours. But there remains one question we'll all have to answer for ourselves, of course: Does "House of the Dead 2" fall into that exclusive category of sequels that are better than the originals on which they're based? The odds look favorable.

Fearfodder: It seems that a video game doesn't have to worry too much about plot, because the player fills in a lot of the blanks. But a film, especially a horror film, is all about plot. The original "House of the Dead" missed this point entirely. Have you guys nailed it in round two?

Peter Scheerer: We hope so! You're right. Plot is one of the main differences between a video game and a movie--and that makes it so difficult to make a great video game adaptation: to expand the story, to have a solid plot for your movie, but to expand it so carefully that the video game fans are still happy with it.

Michael Roesch: For us it is very important to have a storyline that works. In "House of the Dead 2" the AMS anti-zombie forces are sent to clear a campus overrun by zombies. They are on a search for material of the very first zombie, the zombie that spreads the whole zombie plague. If they find the material, they could develop an antidote. The idea was to send a platoon to the very heart of the zombie plague, to a point of no return, and then let hell break loose.

FF: Despite Uwe Boll's jarring attempts to merge video game footage with the action of the first film, the story lacked the sense of adventure that you often find in video games. Please tell me there are no video game shots in the sequel.

MR: No, there will be no video game footage at all!

PS: The video clips were a disaster so we’re glad that "House of the Dead 2" is “video clip free.”

FF: This is such a clear opportunity to best your predecessor. Was there a sense of competition with the first film as you wrote this one?

PS: We just wanted to make a great movie. This was our main focus.

MR: The "House of the Dead" series is such a great franchise; it's a classic game series, with so many possibilities for great movies. It deserved a sequel more true to the games.

FF: How do the two of you work? Do you each tend to write a certain type of scene by yourself, or do you collaborate pretty evenly on everything?

MR: We work in a very structured way; usually even the first drafts of our scripts work very well. That's a reason why many producers hire us. First we start to work on the concept and the storyline. We don't start to write before the storyline, with all its twists and turns, works perfectly.

PS: Then we start writing rough drafts of the scenes. We're sending the scenes back and forth via e-mail. A few weeks later we have the final, polished script. You only have 100 to 120 pages to tell your story, so structure is very important.

MR: We have been writing screenplays together for a few years now, so our collaboration works very well. And this year we even started to direct our own first movie, "Brotherhood of Blood," with Sid Haig, Ken Foree and Victoria Pratt.

PS: It was very helpful to be used to working in such a structured way; this helped a lot on directing "Brotherhood of Blood."

FF: Do the zombies look and behave in pretty much the same fashion in this film as they did in the first one?

House of the Dead 2PS: No, it´s a completely different movie, with no ties to the first one. Director Mike Hurst brought his own vision into this project--and I think the zombies are fantastic.

MR: Almost Human did the special effects, and they did a great job!

FF: Did you study a lot of zombie flicks before tackling this project, or did you just sit down and crank it out?

MR: Oh, we've seen dozens of zombie movies over the years! But we haven't studied particular zombie movies before writing this script.

PS: There are even some good books about zomies. But we had a very clear idea for the movie: to follow an AMS anti-zombie unit in their latest mission. And fortunately the producers liked this idea.

FF: I want to believe that there's some potential in video game adaptations, but I've seen precious little evidence of it. Is "House of the Dead 2" going to convince me?

PS: We hope so! But watch the movie and decide yourself.

MS: It's difficult to keep the balance between being close enough to the game and to get a good movie. But we think "House of the Dead 2" will work well for video game fans as well as for non-gamers. It is a fun movie.

FF: I read somewhere that you've dropped the "Dead Aim" subtitle from this picture. Is that true?

MR: Yes. This was a decision by Lions Gate, the studio behind the movie.

PS: As screenwriters you are not involved in such decisions. But I think it works well without the "Dead Aim."

FF: And this premieres on Feb. 11, right?

PS: The Sci-Fi Channel will air "House of the Dead 2" on February 11. And Lions Gate will release the DVD by the end of March.

MR: It is a cool DVD, with a lot of behind-the-scenes material! And with all the blood ´n´ gore. Don´t miss it!

--Pete Mesling

Posted by Pete on February 10, 2006 5:57 PM
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