House of the Dead (2003) – Movie Review

For those that didn’t know, the film House of the Dead (2003) was based on the old light gun arcade game with the same name released by Sega back in 1996. In the game, you played the role of special agents that were fighting off zombies and other twisted science experiments that were created by a mad scientist named Dr. Curien. It was a two player game where you took on wave after wave of monsters looking to take a bite out of you. Fast forward and now there are five, first-person shooter style, House of the Dead games out.

Eventually, House of the Dead made the jump to the home platforms and you could play it on the PC, Dreamcast, Wii, Xbox, PlayStation 3. If you’re a fan of the arcade version, then here’s a fun surprise for you. There’s a new House of the Dead game coming out and it’ll be debuting at Dave and Buster’s, which is an arcade/bar/restaurant type joint. The newest title to be added to the franchise is called, House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn. Word has it that it may be out in time for Halloween 2018, so keep your eyes out for it.

House of the Dead is an action/adventure/horror that was directed by Uwe Boll. It has an eighty-three-minute runtime and was written by Mark A. Altman, Dan Bates, and Dave Parker. House of the Dead is rated R for language, violence, and nudity. Here’s what’s going on in the story. There’s a party happening on an island off the coast, and a group of college coeds wants to go. They finally find someone with a boat that’s willing to take them out to the island.

However, by the time they get there, the party seems to be over. Tents, trash, and other signs tell them they are in the right spot, but where is everyone? It doesn’t take long before the group finds out what happened to the other party goers, and realize just how much danger they are really in. Now, they are stuck on an island with hoards of zombies and not enough bullets. Guess it’s time to knuckle down and kick some zombie butt!

Like so many other zombie movies, House of the Dead has everything it needs to perfectly fit into a typical zombie flick. A ton of hungry zombies, a hand full of skilless survivors who magically become skilled combatants, fighting for their lives and stuck out in the middle of nowhere. The story is your basic evil genius that finds a way to create zombies and somehow, a ton of partygoers find the one spot in the entire world where they shouldn’t have the party. So, the zombies and the survivors have plenty of targets to kill.

I think the biggest problem I had with the movie was the zombies. Even the most rotten ones have the mobility and skill set of a newly turned ninja. Some of the zombies are doing these crazy Jackie Chan jumps and flips to attack and defend themselves from the humans. I’m sorry, what? They use weapons and attack with precision? For a horror flick, I found myself laughing more than anything else. At no point in the movie is anything scary and the gore level is pretty tame considering everything that was going on. Upside, the music they picked fit and helped crank up the feel of the scenes.

The playthrough was weird at times, but it keeps a fast pace so you never get bored. Like I said, things get weird during the movie at times. In one of the big battles, it’s almost over when they stop the fight to do a quick rewind and then replay the battle in fast forward. Once the replay catches up to the current scene, they pick the fight back up and move forward with the movie. Why? My guess, they thought it would look cool. Or that the film didn’t have enough action scenes, so why not just reuse what we got cause it’ll be cheaper.

Either way, it was kinda stupid. Here are some odd, but looked cool-ish moments that try to help the movie stand out and remind the audience that the film is based on a video game. When one of the main characters died, we would get a still of them with the color red transitioned over them to show they died. One of my favorite, cheesy moments is when the team takes the fight to the zombies. We get these crazy matrix motion fight scenes and three-sixty spins around the characters as they were frozen in place (in cool action posses) during the fight. All that was missing from the moment was having the characters name written out next to them with a skills list.

Some of the cast is Jonathan Cherry (Wolfcop), Ona Grauer (Elysium), Enuka Okuma (Caught), Tyron Leitso (Wonderfalls), Will Sanderson (BloodRayne), Clint Howard (The Waterboy), Jürgen Prochnow (Dune), Ellie Cornell (Halloween 4), Michael Eklund (The Call), Kira Clavell (Rogue), David Palffy (Full Metal Jacket) and Sonya Salomaa (Watchmen). The cast was ok, but most of the acting is pretty bad. It was cool seeing Howard and Prochnow because they’re cool, but even having them in the cast couldn’t save the movie from dying a painful death.

Yeah, there’s a long list of things that are wrong with the movie, but I have to give the movie credit for the special effects. The zombies and gore looked really good. Also, I kind of liked all of the different video game nods they throw in. Like the nod to the game creator. There’s a Saga banner hanging above the DJ at the rave. Or the how they sometimes use flashes of gameplay from the video game as a scene transition. There are even two agents (Rogan and G) that pop up in the movie, which were characters you played as in the game.

Sidenote, the film is a prequel to all of the House of the Dead games, which is something I didn’t know. House of the Dead was considered a critical failure but if (for some reason) you find you like the movie, there’s a sequel you can catch called House of the Dead II (2005), which was actually a little better than the first film.

Overall, if you need a laugh, then give this one a go. If you were wanting a good video game to film adaptation… keep walking, there’s nothing to see here.

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House of the Dead

4

Score

4.0/10

Pros

  • Good effects
  • Cool to see Clint Howard

Cons

  • Bad acting
  • Matrix fight scenes
  • Low gore for a zombie flick
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