A haiku:

Zombies hate ravers

Techno music makes them kill

in House of the Dead

I'll be honest with you.  I like zombie movies.  Growing up, there was always a sick appeal to watching the living dead stagger after you in an uncoordinated effort to eat your brains.  However, with the films 28 Days Later and Kitamura's Versus, new breeds of zombie flicks started popping up.  Versus, which came out two years before 28 Days Later, features classic zombies using weapons, guns, and a lot of kung fu.  While you might not have heard of it, it influenced a hell of a lot of people on how exactly to make a good zombie movie.  28 Days Later did what most of you already know:  Running zombies.  Instead of that drunken swagger that we'd been used to, the movie gave us Zombie Track and Field, with the undead running after people like fat kids after an ice-cream truck.  House of the Dead, made in 2003, features both improvements:  Zombies running after you with weapons in their hands.  But I'm getting side-tracked.

  House of the Dead is based on an arcade game of the same name.  Now, most movies based on video games (Tomb Raider & Resident Evil, for example), try to separate themselves a bit from the actual game.  Sure, the movie's similar, but you don't watch the characters looking for secret items or anything like that.  House of the Dead is a little different, mainly because it uses footage of the video game in the actual movie.  As in, while the characters are fighting zombies, we get to see the video game's equivalent zombie attacking the camera as it does in the video game.  The worst thing?  The video game footage is scarier and cooler than anything you're going to see in this movie, save the zombie that likes to stab women in the boobs (what zombie doesn't?).  The point is that watching this movie is like watching an advertisement for the video game....which is obviously of much better quality than what you're sitting through. 

Instead of walking you through this movie step-by-step (because I don't hate you enough to do that), I'm just going to give you the highlights and observations.

Always start your movie off with your best material.  What does that mean for House of the Dead? 

Within the first 15 minutes of the movie, these are the only highlights.

Truly, horror film-making has gone a long way from it's exploitive roots found in its early years.  Oh wait.  No, no it hasn't.  Much like EVERY horror film made in the 1970's and 80's, women have to get topless for no reason whatsoever.  Oh, wait.  One of them's skinny dipping.  That's a good reason, right?  I also have to commend the director for getting women built like 14 year old boys to take off their clothes.  It's an unusual choice, to be sure.  The Gordon's Fisherman in the 2nd picture is famous B-movie actor Clint Howard.  I don't care how many good movies Clint Howard gets bit parts in, he'll always be known as the homeless satanic insect-fetishist/rapist in the movie Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 to me.  But, why is the other girl naked?  Because I lied about the toplessness being the only early highlight in the film.  Behold:

Apparently, when they were writing this film, they thought a "guy puking all over his attractive girlfriend" would really help capture the audience in the movie's compelling drama.  Either that or they were really trying to reach the "vomit fetish" demographic.  Yikes.

What is the deal with the bubbles?

Why is it that in every movie where a monster (regardless of type) is going to attack someone in the water that bubbles start coming up to the surface?  Do monsters all get overly excited just before the kill and can't control their flatulence?   Is it weird that I ask this question?  It just feels like a design flaw to have your aquatic monster start erupting a stream of bubbles whenever he's coming to kill someone.  But let's move on.

Why, for the love of GOD, would you have a rave at a place called the ISLAND OF DEATH?

Yes.  The plot revolves around a bunch of young folks who go to a private rave that happens to be hosted on the Island of Death.  Did the organizers not think of asking ANYONE why the island was called that?  This movie is a lot like very old horror movies (as I said before) because the plot is best summarized as "young people go to a place of evil and die.  a lot."  Anyway, back at the rave, the zombies show up and pretty much kill everyone.  A few people survive by running (such as the Asian stripper by the name of Liberty) or simply because the zombies locked them in a Port-o-potty.  I'm serious about that last one.  God, this film just KILLS braincells. 

Now, what's kind-of interesting about this story is that the zombies do a lot of lurking in the woods before they come to the party.  It's kind of funny, but it's almost like they're trying to get their nerve up to be social, but they're just too awkward for it to work out.  They get nervous and end up eating everyone.  That's my theory:  That zombies just want to party, but don't know how without eating the brains of those around them.  Anyway, since we're on the topic of plot, the zombies end up being the servants of the master zombie, who ends up stabbing the main heroine in the boobs before having his head chopped off.  The end.  Sadly I'm forgetting to mention one major aspect of this movie:

Nothing makes your horror movie better than using music videos instead of action sequences.

It's hard to miss the fact that there are no action sequences in this film.  That's not completely true, but it's not a lie either.  You see, when it comes to an action sequence (which usually involves zombies being shot at or hacked to pieces), the director decided to stop shooting normally and just make a music video.  It's kind of like those montages you see in every 80's film, except all the time passing involves zombies being blown up.  It's kind of ridiculous, too.  45 minutes into the film you get a 10-minute scene where there is no dialogue, just techno music and gangsta rap, as the cast lobs grenades and fires bullet after bullet into the bajillion zombies that run around.  Doing my best to count, I tallied a total of 74 on-screen zombie deaths.  The scene is completely bizarre, as you get to see how all these kids apparently learned kung fu while no one was looking.  Suddenly the scared and whiny kids have all types of Matrix-like moves.  My favorite is how the tiny black girl jumps 12 feet straight up into the air to fire her shotgun into a zombie (who's also jumped 12 feet up in the air).  It's completely random and unexpected.  It's sort-of silly to what extremes the director goes to make the scene "cool."  The only thing the scene might need would be a woman in revealing clothing.  Speaking of which, because the stripper (Liberty, remember) is Asian, of course she has all types of ninja skills (which she uses in her Red, White & Blue stripper costume).  It's almost racist how instead of just shooting like everyone else is, the Asian girl has to judo throw the zombies around.  Gah.  On the plus side, if you like electronic music, the action sequences are pretty cool to listen to.  I think the studio knew this as well, because the soundtrack is one of the DVD's Extra Features.  But, yeah.  There are no action scenes in this movie, just montages of random things happening that may or may not add up to something to do with the plot.  Also nice about this scene is because there are so many zombies, the director couldn't put everyone in zombie make-up...so if you look carefully you can see normal guys just running around pretending to be back-up dancers from Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Tangent:  Now, a lot of film critics have criticized this film for being too "MTV" or saying this film was yet another example of the "MTV style."  Does anyone else realize what's wrong with such statements?  First off, MTV has been around for almost 3 decades now.  It's older than I am, for God's sake. So, the MTV criticism doesn't quite fit.  Secondly, whenever I hear critics make such statements, you have to realize it's them saying something akin to "Gosh Darn whipper-snappers! Tarnation ah Hates them hula-hoops and baggy pants, yesireee!"  Film critics have tenure.  Did you know that most of the "high class" film critics have been doing what they do for over thirty years?   I guess what I'm saying is that a lot of film critics are decades removed from the target audiences of a lot of the films they review.  I mean, how are you supposed to review a sex-comedy if sex to you involves viagra and a penis pump?   Damn it film critics, hurry up and die so some new opinions can get out there.  Sheesh.

Back on the topic of House of the Dead:  I liked this movie.  I liked this movie because it climbed on top of me and sat on my head without relenting.  It hurt me a lot.   But why?  Keep an eye out for more films from Uwe Boll (pronounced Ewwwww Bowl).  He was the director behind this amazing piece of work, but, more importantly, this film LAUNCHED his bad-movie making career.  Well, not really, but after this he got financed to make Alone in the Dark, another terrible film that'll get reviewed one day, and he's already got at least four more B-movie horror films (also based on video games no less) on his agenda.   So, the point is that this guy not only made a terrible horror film but is still being encouraged to make them....you have no idea how happy that makes me.  Not that I'm worried I'll run out of bad movies, but you've got to thank Hollywood for consciously putting them into production.  

In conclusion, I think that the biggest thing that this film inspired me with is the desire to play more video games and watch fewer movies.  Sadly, whatever game I choose to play, chances are Uwe Boll will eventually make a film of it.  Damn it.  I'm screwed either way.

-Jared

 

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copyright Jared von Hindman 2005, except for all but one of those images which are the property of their respectful owners.  Hell, even if the owners aren't respectful, they're still there.  God I'm funny. :sigh: