Wednesday, June 23, 2010

House of the Dead

Movies that are based on video games are not usually very good.  Double DragonSuper Mario BrosStreet Fighter These are movies that make you shake with self-loathing after watching them, because you know you would have enjoyed yourself more if you had just sat in a bathtub filled with butterscotch pudding and ate raw bacon all day.  Again.  House of the Dead makes those movie watching experiences seem like viewing Citizen Kane while getting a body massage.

The first clue that this movie will unabashedly suck?  Clint Howard gets third billing.  Yeah.  This guy:
When you make Ron Howard look like a Chippendale's dancer by comparison, you know you're ugly.  Well, let's not pick on a guy for being less than pretty.  Ugly people often make positive contributions to society, right?  Ron Perlman and Willem Dafoe are good examples of this.  Maybe Clint will turn in a surprise break-out supporting role in this movie.  Let's see...Clint's costume is a Gordon's fisherman outfit with a hook hand.  Not a good sign.

Maybe the story is better.  It takes place off the coast of Oregon on the Isla de Muerte, which translates into "Island of the Dead."  Apparently, this is an educational film, because I didn't know that the Spanish had ever colonized, named, or even visited any part of the Pacific Northwest.  No wonder the British could never find the Isla de Muerte in Pirates of the Caribbean --- they were looking in the wrong ocean!  A group of roughly college-age kids are trying to get the the Island of the Dead for a rave.  Unfortunately, they missed the last boat leaving for the island and are forced to charter a boat (the one that Clint Howard works on) owned by Victor Kirk (Jurgen Prochnow); yes, that means that he is called Captain Kirk, and yes, the script notices that hilarious joke.  The boat gets them to the rave a little late, but it is still daylight, which makes me wonder how awesome this rave was if it was outdoors and started around lunchtime.  Aren't raves supposed to have deafening levels of music and trippy light shows?  How does that translate well into an island setting?  I guess I'm just not a raver.  The kids show up to the rave site, only to find it absolutely deserted, with a lot of the tents and equipment knocked over.  How you respond to a deserted party where many people went to great lengths to attend indicates the type of person you are.  Do you...
  • A) look around and conclude that the party doesn't start until you walk in!
  • B) say, "He-e-e-y, Scoob, looks like we got a mystery on our hands!" 
  • C) decide that, despite the total lack of blood, that something very wrong has happened here and needs investigating!
  • D) thank God that there is still lots of beer left in the kegs!
  • E) go home as fast as you can, THE END.
Well...?  What kind of person are you?  Here's the answer key: (A) - a mangy, scabby whore and/or a Marmaduke fan (B) - a typical stoner and/or Casey Kasem (C) - a horror movie idiot and/or an insurance liability (D) - alcoholic and/or a frequent user of the term "Dude" (E) - a survivor.  The only correct answer is E, but this group splits between C and D.    Stupid rave kids.  

Some of them opt to wander around the island in the dark (because it got dark all of a sudden), while some decide to stay behind and have sex in a random tent.  Not to be overly prudish, but isn't that kind of what got Goldilocks in trouble?  "Somebody's been sleeping in my bed and...eeewww!!!"  In accordance with the Horror Movie Ethics Code of 1978, those lusty young adults that partake in premarital sex and/or abuse drugs are the first to die, so zombie-ish creatures attack the tent-sex girl and drag her body away, while the tent-sex guy is off peeing in the woods.  I wonder if the National Park Service has statistics for how often peeing on trees saves lives.  As this is happening, the others find a shack in the woods and decide to check it out.  After all, is there anything more inviting at night in an unfamiliar place than a dilapidated shack?  Or maybe this the titular House of the Dead?  Actually, no.  It's the place where the remaining original ravers took refuge, including the main character.  That's right...the main character has not even made an appearance in the movie so far.  The only reason you know it's the main character is because he delivered an ominous monologue (in the past and present tense) at the beginning of the film and gave brief insights into the other characters, so the script didn't have to waste time developing them.  Anyway, these ravers explain that zombies attacked the rave (killing future television actress Erica Durance) and suggest leaving the island on Captain Kirk's boat.  The rest of the movie has the kids trying to leave the island and fighting the zombies.

Obviously, this is a movie where several normal people try to kill zombies to save their own lives.  How can that possibly go wrong?  Well, for starters, you need cool zombies.  The zombies in House of the Dead are not your typical zombies.  They switch between the shuffling, moaning, classic movie zombies and the running zombies of 28 Days Later.  Oh, and then there are the water zombies.  Apparently, some zombies just spend their freetime just chillin' in the water by the island's only dock, waiting for some suckers to try and leave by boat.  Or, maybe all the zombies go to the dock to wash up after a messy kill.  That would explain the complete lack of blood anywhere on the island after the zombies attack.  That prissiness would also explain why the zombies seem to die, no matter where you shoot, punch or kick them.  This is a rare zombie movie where the headshot is hard to find.  I can't remember any, but sometimes I lose my short term memory after a trauma like this.

So the zombies aren't classic zombies, or even remotely cool.  This is based on a video game, so action is the key.  So how is the action?  It sucks.  Sucks.  It sucks worse than a kid that had a Novocaine shot to the lips and then tried to drink a thick milkshake through a coffee stirrer.  I would like to pause and congratulate myself for a great "sucking" analogy that was not vulgar; that brings my score up to Brian: 1, Rest of the World: presumably several million.  Here's a hint to the quality of this movie's action: despite dozens of explosions, the same result is seen every time --- some dude flying through the air in front of the explosion, flailing his arms.  And yet, the majority of the budget was clearly spent on the action.  Well, at least a few key scenes.  You will notice a few shots that suddenly jump into a low-rent version of The Matrix's bullet time, where everything freezes around an actor and the camera does a quick 360-degree spin around them.  That might sound totally awesome, but that's because I'm a damn poet; it is random, pointless, and doesn't even look that good.  And if you just couldn't get enough of those bullet time shots, don't worry --- when characters die, their character has another bullet time 360 spin, but this time, they aren't shooting zombies and just look sad.  Aww.

If you decide against following my (and probably your doctor's) advice and watch this movie, you might notice some symptoms of hallucination.  Don't worry.  Those two-to-three second jarring interruptions to your concentration are not actually your brain trying to punish you for watching this movie.  That will come later.  No, those interruptions to the film are actually snippets of somebody playing the House of the Dead arcade game.  The snippets do not have a direct correlation to anything in the movie; the environment and action in the game is completely independent of that in the film.  I would like to point out that the game footage includes instructions for a second player to insert quarters and press start to play.  I realize that this movie had a small budget, but a second player would have cost maybe five bucks.  It's not like they bought the arcade console; they probably just took a video camera down to Dave & Buster's.  Five dollars.  That's all it takes to make a crappy idea to insert video game footage in a movie look like it's not a cheap crappy idea to insert video game footage in a movie.

Sadly, one of the most redeeming features for this movie comes as bonus material with the DVD case.  The DVD insert has a character breakdown page, listing each character's position within the group (leader, scout, etc.) and their weapon of choice.  Hilariously, the brains of the group (according to the insert) is described as a moron by the main character.  Oh, and I'm pretty sure several of the weapons of choice aren't used by those characters in the movie.

That is the highlight of the movie for me, and it's not even a part of the movie.  How did this celluloid abomination get made, you ask?  Thank the Germans.  There is (or at least, there was in 2003) a law that allowed Germans to finance movies as a tax write-off; if the movies made money, then the investors had to pay tax on the profits, bu if it tanked, they got the entire investment written off.  Uwe Boll, you are a terrible director, but a brilliant man.  But this...this is a bad, bad, bad movie.  It's not even funny-bad.  This is, without a doubt in my mind, the most poorly made movie in the past decade to have widespread theatrical release.  Please.  Don't watch it.  

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