" As the credits rolled the 200 people in the theater with me literally began throwing their drinks at the screen and I'm pretty sure, though not positive, that the guy sitting behind me expressed his displeasure at paying 10 bucks to see Dead by actually taking a dump in his seat. "
Title: House of the Dead by Artisan Entertainment
Format: Um…I suppose it's supposed to be a horror movie…I guess…
Reviewing Monkey: Matt H.
The Hype: Hollywood has, of course, a fabulous history of converting video games into movies. Super Mario Brothers, Double Dragon, Street Fighter…all epic examples of how profitable it can be to jump markets and bring pixels to life. But will House of the Dead, based on Sega's classic series of coin eating shooters, keep this trend alive or slip into an early grave. Read on, monkeys…because my pain must be shared.
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Acting: At its heart,
for better or worse, House of the Dead's (from here on simply referred to as
"Dead") story is standard zombie faire. Reminiscent of Dead's co-writer Dave
Parker's previous film "The Dead Hate the Living", Dead follows a group of twenty-something
yuppies (obviously played by thirty-something washed up actors) who are invited
to a rave at a small undeveloped atoll in the pacific northwest's San Juan Islands
(because the northwest is so well known for our random zombie islands). Unfortunately
for them the island has a dark and mysterious history that the locals have a
healthy, if not inexplicable, fear of. They arrive to find the rave has been
destroyed and the island is overrun with zombies. Oh no!
Fortunately for them, the mush-mouthed French schooner captain they hired to take them to the island is also a weapon smuggler (evidently involved in that infamous Vancouver-to-Seattle gun market) and so the kids are able to transform themselves instantaneously from generic, and near mindless, college students to elite para-military commandos. Suddenly, there's not enough logic in the world to save the plot from the senseless violence and random and inexplicable warrior characterizations that follow.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love action in my movies and I'm all for heroes who are the antithesis of the whiny victims that so often plague horror movies, but much like that "classic" From Dusk 'till Dawn, the shift in mood and tone is actually palpable and what starts off as a painfully "B" horror movie (complete with classic "something is following us through the woods but, for some unexplained reason, won't attack" and "menacing figure in hooded cloak" shots) quickly erupts into an advertisement for saving money by buying ammo in bulk. From moronic Matrix-esque gunplay to the battle's rap music soundtrack, any pretense of horror is quickly abandoned in exchange for showing unlimited ammo weapons and various monsters exploding in various ways. But don't worry, in case that doesn't float your boat, there's a third switch at the end during the final boss fight scene in which the heroine, proclaimed an expert fencer during Dead's opening, suddenly has to duel in swashbuckling glory with the man responsible for the zombie menace in broad daylight. Now, in case you don't understand the gravity of that statement, there's a reason no other zombie movie that I know of has ever portrayed zombies during the day…and that's because they are much, much scarier at night. Much scarier. But to understand that would have meant the filmmakers would have had any idea what they were doing…which is patently, and painfully, not the case.
As for the acting; the incredibly wooden, painfully (there's that word again) two dimensional, sophomorically melodramatic, and down right chaotically emotional acting; I would simply like to say it sucked and move on. Sure, it was bad enough that I should focus on it more, but between the acting and the script it took 800 straight hours of therapy to get the drool to stop and my brain to work again and so I don't care to dwell on it any longer. 0 out of 5
Visuals and Directing: It has taken me
three days to get to this part of the review. And no, it's not because I'm lazy,
nor is it because I couldn't decide how I felt about the flick…instead it's
because I've been agonizing about how best to relate to you; the blessed monkeys
who will be saved from ever having to witness this swill, exactly how bad the
movie really was. The plot, though atrocious, on paper looks just like any other
zombie flick. The visuals themselves, while low budget, are also just like almost
any other "B" zombie flick. So what I had to focus on, to try as best I can
to explain why this movie really is poo piled on top of shit, is the directing.
But still, the question was, what can I say in a few small paragraphs that would explain it to you? Should I talk about the ridiculously frequent, yet totally random, Matrix "pan arounds" (where in the person freezes and the camera swings around them 360 degrees)? Should I dwell on the complete lack of directorial focus which, like a bad death-metal music video, bombarded me with so much haphazard imagery and so many dead end developments that almost nothing about anything was ever actually explained in the movie and that I left honestly remembering maybe two character names if I'm lucky? Or maybe I should mention the absolutely asinine way each character gets their own "game over" screen when they die (complete with spinning emotionless body in dramatic pose slowly being washed out to red)? No, instead I decided the best, and hopefully simplest, way to explain to you how bad this flick was is to illustrate one of the director's proudest, and yet easily most moronic, choices he made during production. You get your first glimpse of it about 30 minutes into the film. At one point, inexplicably, during a shot transition (that's where the camera cuts from one scene or shot style to the next) there is a brief flash of maybe ½ a second's worth of House of the Dead video game footage. Now it happens so fast that many people in the audience missed it, but I caught it right away and dismissed it as a joke-one tribute bit spliced into its movie counterpart. Stupid, to be sure, but forgivable. And then it happened a second time, but now slightly longer. And then a third. Then a fourth. Until finally, during the first main battle scene, they periodically cut to long sequences (several seconds) of various monsters getting shot, evidently pulled straight from the original House of the Dead coin-op (which, needless to say, looks beautifully pixilated and dated when projected at 1000 times its original size on the screen.
The apex of this is during a completely pointless scene, expressly put in to draw a correlation to the game, in which the characters are walking down a tunnel, shoulder to shoulder, while monsters jump out from the walls at them (as in every rail shooter ever made). But just in case you miss the correlation, don't worry, every time they shoot a monster it cuts away from the movie to a scene of the video game in which a monster has jumped out in a hallway and gotten shot similar to the situation the heroes are in (but not exactly…because god knows you couldn't actually write any original video game code for this train wreck).
In theory this might have been intended as a cute tie in or homage to the game, but in practice it is, far and away, the worst directorial gimmick I have ever seen. Which, in a way, is okay I guess…because this is easily one of the worst movies I've ever seen. -2 out of 5 (that's right, I said negative two)
Value vs. Admission: Boobs. I'm sorry to say that so immaturely, but as it's the only redeeming factor of the flick and it's such an immature highlight, that it only fits that I say it like a 13 year old peeping into the girls shower. Booooooooobs. That's all this movie has going for it. At a few random points during the first 20 minutes of the film, you will get to see boobs. They are not particularly memorable or impressive boobs. Nor are they presented in a particularly sexy manner. But they're there. Boobs. Sorry, but that's the only possible reason to see this movie. 0 out of 5
|As the credits rolled the 200 people in the theater with me literally began throwing their drinks at the screen and I'm pretty sure, though not positive, that the guy sitting behind me expressed his displeasure at paying 10 bucks to see Dead by actually taking a dump in his seat. A friend who works at the theater said that, during opening weekend, some 160 people left various showings at various points throughout the movie to demand their money back-and got it.|
The Good: There's not a damned thing that makes this movie worth…oh, wait, that's right…boobies
The Bad: There, truthfully, is no bad in this flick. The whole movie starts at abominable and gets worse from there.
The Overall Ugly: Move over Streetfighter, Super Mario Brothers, and Double Dragon…there's a new king in town.
What it's Worth: If watching this movie was a last penance before being allowed into heaven after you died I'd highly recommend you choose an eternity of hot pokers shoved into your urethra instead.