House of the Dead

By Adam Lippe

dead“You created these things to become immortal!!! Why?”

“To live forever!!”

“They were Spanish. From Spain.”

It’s indicative of this dialogue that all of House of the Dead is pretty redundant. From the need to name the captain of a boat Kirk, so you can make jokes about it, to actually repeating the same song in its entirety during an action scene.

There were a lot of things that would make you wonder who this movie was made for. The captain is played by Jurgen Prochnow, from Das Boot, usually playing the requisite foreign villain in Amercanized kung fu and/or action movies nowadays, when Tcheky Karyo isn’t available. One of the characters says upon seeing him, “He looks like a U-boat captain.” Hilarious. But really, would anyone who would intentionally pay for and possibly enjoy House of the Dead have even heard of Das Boot? Then there are the setups for graphic kills, and just as the human gets bitten, or is attacked, they cut away. Why? Is this a movie about subtlety? The gore eventually arrives, but it resembles more of the Troma watermelon standing in for exploding head variety, and it is in the midst of easily the worst action sequence ever conceived.

For about an hour the movie “builds” to a showdown with the zombies (or whatever they are). The idiots who ended up on the island for the purposes of a massive rave, have a cop and the captain with them at this point. Luckily, the captain has smuggled weapons onto the island, otherwise director Uwe Boll would have no way to kill more zombies. These are the types of zombies who can be killed by gunshots. To the shoulder. Anyway, they have a wide array of weaponry, and they are confronted with a huge number of zombies. We shant worry about the fact that these are fashion model types who would have no idea how to use a gun, let alone some of the more complicated machinery on display.

zombiePreviously, the film had been using actual video game footage from the Sega game (which has a very amusing plug during the rave, it’s just a random banner hanging on a stage, as if the island was brought to you by Sega) which the movie is based on as scene transitions and occasional cutaways. Now the footage is literally spliced into the action, as the “heroes” shoot at real zombies and video game zombies. But this is where the bullet time footage comes in, and as each character fires a shot, the camera swirls around them, sometimes twice, and then the bullet kills the zombie. This goes on with the same terrible rap-metal song playing in the background, for about 15 minutes. Each character gets their own showcase in the same exact manner. At one point the scene seemed to be over, but I guess that was because they had to back up the CD to play the song again, because it restarts 10 seconds later.

The slapdash and humorously convenient feel of the movie doesn’t end there. After The Matrix/zombie killing scene, the five survivors hide in the “house” of the title, or rather, boarded up rooms that have an extensive laboratory attached, even though it appeared to be a dingy shack from the outside. The five are made up of four of the stupid twenty-somethings and the captain. After they tend to the injured captain who has been bitten by one of the zombies and can barely walk, they get him on a table and give him a huge cigar and he smokes it. The four idiots separate into couples and for some reason, although their camaraderie has not been established beforehand, begin kissing. I thought to myself, “the Captain has been left to rot on the table, and he doesn’t get any?” Then you realize what we were being told. The other 4 had tongues in their mouths and he had a huge cigar.

The movie has a few things that make it almost tolerable. There is plentiful nudity in the first 25 minutes or so, and the filmmakers are utterly shameless about it. In the first scene, we are told which characters will live and which will die (the whole thing is needlessly told in flashback form from the POV of the lone survivor, not for any real reason), and so it becomes sort of funny that Boll actually expected us to be surprised when they do in fact die. And finally, the flashbacks to the Spanish ship are a riot, as amateurish as the dramatization footage of the origins of the Merton-Flemmer building in Being John Malkovich.

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By Adam Lippe

Whenever there’s a genre parody or ode to a specific era of films, such as Black Dynamite’s mocking of Blaxploitation films or Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the second half of Grindhouse, the danger is that the film might fall into the trap of either being condescending without any particular insight, or so faithful that it becomes the very flawed thing it is emulating.

Black Dynamite has nothing new to say about Blaxploitation films, it just does a decent job of copying what an inept [...]

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Featured Quote (written by me)

On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.