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The House of the Dead

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Ona Grauer (right) contemplates zombie love.

© 2003, Artisan
All Rights Reserved

Over the months leading up the release of "The House of the Dead" (IMDb listing), I've been reading reviews, monitoring gossip and laughing over interviews that detail just how misguided and bizarrely conceived this latest video game adaptation is.

The reviews, gossip and interviews were right.

The knee-jerk reaction to "Dead" would be to write it off as a cheapie production, clueless to the ways of filmmaking. "Dead" is certainly all that and then some. I'll go even further and say that "Dead" is the most hilarious crapfest I have sat through in a very long time. The film is just so good at being so bad.

The plot is inconsequential, but it does feature some obviously 30-year-old "teens" who commandeer a boat--owned by a "Captain Kirk," cue worthless "Star Trek" jokes--and set off to a mysterious island where the rave of the century is taking place. Upon arrival, these "adolescents" discover the island is infested with zombies, forcing the "kids" to fight their way off the island. This leads to expected horror/action movie trademarks like gigantic fireballs, chaotic gunfights and loads of other surprises director Uwe Boll has in store for his audience.

"Dead" is Boll's first stab at big action, and oh boy does it ever show. The first signs of trouble are found right away in the casting. The "stars" of "Dead" are Jurgen Prochnow and Clint Howard. One is a respected German actor with lead roles in such classics as "Das Boot" and the other is, well, Clint Howard, former child star and brother to Ron. These are the stars, folks. That's the best the production could do. The zombies themselves are another source of comedy. They don't look like the Satan-spawned hell-beasts they need to be. Rather, they're dressed in "only-364-more-days-till Halloween drug-store costumes." In one shot you can see an actor's nose under his zombie mask!

And the zombies can move in miraculous ways! They run like Carl Lewis, jump off hidden trampolines to catch their prey, and swim like there's no tomorrow. Not very zombie like, if you ask me. Boll attempts to explain the zombie outbreak with a sepia-toned flashback sequence, but all he really does is add laughs to the film by suggesting a historical perspective in a video game movie. A Spanish rogue chasing immortality? Whatever, Mr. Boll. Just get to the next action sequence already.

Boll has also made a wholly outlandish aesthetic choice in splicing actual video game footage into the film. As if the audience needed reminders of where this material was born. You'd think someone with production power would've killed this idea in the discussion phase.

To make sure the audience is even more aware of the video game surroundings, Boll employs the finest in special effects ... if the year was 1999. Yes, my friends, our old pal "Bullet-Time" has returned. Boll uses the effects liberally throughout the film to add theatricality to the carnage. Sure it looks silly, yet Boll doesn't seem to mind. He even uses the effect to give two of the actors "video game deaths," by circling around the characters 360 degrees, then slowly fading to a blood red screen. It's as bizarre as it reads.

Heavens, there are so many awful details in "Dead," that I feel I'm cheating the reader by leaving out the rest. There is the lead character (played by Jonathan Cherry), who, mid-fight, suddenly feels the need to recall the entire movie's events in a quickly edited montage--leaving out the fact that he wasn't around for half of these events. "Dead" employs some hilariously bargain-basement "rap" songs from unsigned artists to underscore the action scenes. And there's Uwe Boll. Oh, he has his fun name-checking George Romero and playing his little tribute to "Jaws." But this guy shouldn't be allowed to say the word "movie," much less continue to make them.

"The House of the Dead" is as bad as earlier reported, with even the distributor, Artisan Entertainment, removing their name from any mention in the credits. "Dead" is so artistically and creatively bankrupt that it boggles the mind just how a miserable little picture like this could sneak into theaters and enjoy a theatrical run.

Filmfodder Grade: F

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