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Dustin Putman

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House Of The Dead (2003)
1 Star

Directed by Uwe Boll
Cast: Jonathan Cherry, Ona Grauer, Tyron Leitso, Enuka Okuma, Ellie Cornell, Clint Howard, Jurgen Prochnow, Will Sanderson, Sonya Solomaa, Kira Clavell, Michael Ecklund, David Palffy, Ben Derrick
2003 – 90 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for violence, gore, language, and nudity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 11, 2003.

After a solid year for horror films with such low-budget successes as "May," "House of 1000 Corpses," "Wrong Turn," and "Cabin Fever," leave it to first-time hack director Uwe Boll to single-handedly sink the genre's currently high GPA. Based on the Sega Dreamcast video game, "House of the Dead" exhibits all of the things one should avoid when making a horror movie. It's cheesy, lame, embarrassingly acted, sloppily written, and totally unscary.

Five Seattle-based friends who are supposed to be in their early twenties but look closer to thirty hop on a boat to take them to a large-scale rave happening on a nearby island. When they arrive, however, they find the decorations up but the place mysteriously deserted. Of course, they think nothing of it, and before long Cynthia (Sonya Solomaa) and Greg (Will Sanderson) are having a go at each other in a tent. Then the resurrected corpses from the island cemetery arrive to crash the party. With the help of coast guard cop Jordan Casper (Ellie Cornell), the stranded "kids" must fight to survive the night.

The zombie genre is one not often utilized in studio productions, probably because of their noted problems with the MPAA board, and so there was promise in the storyline of "House of the Dead." Had director Uwe Boll concentrated on the realities of the horrific situation and the characters involved, he would have been off to a good start. Instead, he reaches for the lowest common denominator in filmmaking at every turn, going as far as using clips of the video game itself to act as scene transitions. It gets old very fast, as does its bullet-time sequences (a direct rip-off of "The Matrix") and frozen motion camera movements. And finally, if you were being chased by an endless gaggle of rotting zombies, would you (A) be freaking out and trying to stay alive, or (B) find it the appropriate time to strike up a romance? In the case of two different sets of characters, they inanely find the latter choice to be the sensible one.

The mostly no-name actors whom we may rightfully never see again in another motion picture are not worth mentioning, except to say that they are laughably bad. It's nice to see Ellie Cornell again, whom you may remember as Rachel, little Jamie's teenage stepsister, in "Halloween 4" and "Halloween 5," but she is admittedly not much better than her younger co-stars. And what, pray tell, are veteran actors Clint Howard and Jurgen Prochnow doing in this hogwash?

"House of the Dead" is the type of film that gives horror movies a bad name. While fast-paced (the movie is essentially one long chase scene), there is no sense of timing. No effective suspense or scares. Characters as dumb as a box of hair and as thin as a slice of cheese. And, just for good measure, a cloying rap song pops up during the film's most violent fight scene. Yeah, that'll have viewers awake at night. If "House of the Dead" achieves anything, it is possibly two cinematic world records: the highest amount of editing cuts in a single minute, and the most bullets fired in the course of 90 minutes. When you have time to think about things like this during a horror flick, you know it's not doing its job correctly. To make matters even more dire, "House of the Dead" ends on a stupid cliffhanging note that suggests a future sequel may be upon us. If there is a God, such a frightening proposition will never reach fruition.
© 2003 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman