OF THE DEAD (2003)
Director: Uwe Boll
Along with the ideas of remakes and sequels, movies based on video games have become a Hollywood trend in recent years. From games like Resident Evil and Tomb Raider to Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, if it can be made into a movie, it probably will be. Why else would someone have done a movie version of Super Mario Brothers? But if anything is certain, it's that cinematic adaptations of video games are very rarely good. While some can be fun to watch, others are so absolutely dreadful that you regret ever having heard its name. One of these movies is House of the Dead, based on the line of so-called "best selling" arcade games that I personally have never heard of. Nearly offensive in its lack of quality, House of the Dead should be an example of how you shouldn't make a movie based on a video game. So let's get right to the review, and I'll tell you why they think that.
The movie begins with an introduction to five college students - Simon (Tyron Leitso), Alicia (Ona Grauer), Greg (Will Sanderson), Karma (Enuka Okuma), and Cynthia (Sonya Salomaa) - as they search for a boat to take them to a big party on a secluded island off the coast of Seattle. The island is conveniently named "Isla del Muerta," so of course, nothing bad could ever happen. Naming an island "the Island of the Dead" is good luck, right?
So anyway, the group stumbles across the cigar-loving boat captain Victor Kirk (Jürgen Prochnow) and his eccentric first mate Salish (Clint Howard), and offer him a handful of cash in exchange for a ride to the island. Despite Salish's protests that the island is evil, Kirk agrees, and they ship out. However, hot on their tail is Jordan Casper (Ellie Cornell), a cop that may or may not be a member of the Coast Guard who intends to arrest Captain Kirk for something. I guess because he's smuggling illegal cigars.
Upon arriving at the island, they discover the island completely deserted, with the exception of a handful of survivors that include Liberty (Kira Clavell), Hugh (Michael Eklund), and Alicia's ex-boyfriend Rudy (Jonathan Cherry). Said survivors explain what exactly turned the party into a ghost town: a huge army of zombies crashed the party and began feasting on every living person in sight. At this point, everything begins going to Hell.
Stranded on the island thanks to zombies overrunning Captain Kirk's boat, those that aren't killed by the zombies take refuge in an abandoned house they discover in the woods. There, they make the discovery that their predicament was caused by a mad scientist named Castillo (David Palffy), who was exiled from Spain hundreds of years earlier for his experiments regarding the reanimation of dead cells. And luckily for these college students, Captain Kirk isn't just a cigar smuggler, but he's a gunrunner too, and he's packing enough weapons to make him chairman of the NRA for life. Now armed to the teeth, these ill-fated partygoers make their last stand against the swarm of undead threatening to overtake them.
If that plot sounded fresh and exciting to you, you need a good swift kick to the head. Everyone involved with this movie should be ashamed of themselves (though I'll give Clint Howard a "get out of jail free" card, because I like him). One review calls House of the Dead "the Showgirls of horror," and I think that's a close description. It's a lot like Plan 9 From Outer Space or Howard the Duck, in that it sucks so bad, it nearly overdoes itself and sucks its way into being something worth watching. It's just too funny for words. The script, written by Dave Parker and Mark Altman, has absolutely no character development at all, along with a severe lack of tension or drama. And would it have been so hard for them to think up a more creative name for Jürgen Prochnow's character than "Captain Kirk"? Why not just call Clint Howard's character "Spock" and refer to the zombies as "Klingons"? Parker and Altman's script also features dialogue so preposterous that it's insulting. Check out some examples...
See? I wish I was making all that dialogue up. If you're not laughing at its inanity, you don't have a soul.
There's also a plot hole or two that the movie never bothers to explain. Why is the so-called "rave of the century" being held in the middle of the afternoon with only fifteen or twenty people in attendance? (As an aside, why is the rave sponsored by Sega?) And just why are the characters so doggone stupid? Surrounded by flesh-eating corpses? Eh. Just saw your girlfriend get slaughtered? No big deal. Gonna die soon? Whatever. And where did all the characters learn to become such good marksmen? These braindead excuses for partygoers, who probably have never even SEEN a gun in their lives, suddenly turn into John Rambo as soon as they get their hands on a weapon. Despite all evidence pointing towards the contrary, all of the characters are apparently highly trained sharpshooters and skilled martial artists on par with Bruce Lee. And despite being "college students," they all look like they're over the age of 30. I know television and movie casting directors often cast twenty-somethings as teenagers and young adults, but the cast looked like they were way older than they should have been. The only way they could possibly be college students is if they were all going for their doctorates, which is incredibly doubtful. And not a single member of the cast is worth taking the time and effort to watch the movie, so I'm not going to bother about talking about their terrible, terrible performances. But then again, it's not like they had a decent script to work with or a decent director to motivate them.
And boy, was Uwe Boll's direction horrible. The first noticeable bad move was his decision to overuse the "bullet time" effect. Yeah, it was cool the two or three times it was used in the first Matrix movie, but seeing it multiple times for each character over the course of a twelve-minute shootout is absolute overkill. Is it too much to put the camera in one place and let the action go down? Let's not look past his editing, which was so choppy it made my head hurt. I think Boll went into the editing booth hopped up on a combination of speed and Jolt Cola while battling Attention Deficit Disorder. But the killer was the video game footage edited into the movie for no reason. Let me repeat that: Boll spliced in footage from the House of the Dead video games into the movie at the most insane moments. What's up with this crap? It wasn't even put to good use either. I wouldn't have minded it so much if they'd limited it to just the opening or closing credits, because that was at least a novel idea. But this footage just keeps showing up over and over. If I want video game footage, I'll play the game. And the sad part is, Boll just keeps on directing horrible movies based on video games. Why any video game company would let him near the movie rights of their games, I'll never know. People crap on Paul W.S. Anderson for doing mediocre movie versions of Resident Evil and Alien vs. Predator, but Uwe Boll makes him look like the reincarnation of Orson Welles. Boll is like the 21st-century Ed Wood, only Wood's films were more charming.
The movie's only redeeming factor was the gore effects, and that's pretty much it. Well, that and being able to see a pre-Smallville Erica Durance (credited here as "Erica Parker") get topless as the movie's second victim. The whole thing is just one big crapshoot. I have no idea how bargain-basement direct-to-video crap like this got even a limited theatrical release. House of the Dead is one of those movies where you need to watch it with a bunch of friends and spend the whole movie yelling at the screen. So if you and your buddies want to have fun watching an awful horror movie, rent House of the Dead. Otherwise, don't bother.
Final Rating: *½