Judge Gordon Sullivan would rather go to House of the Pancakes.
Our review of House Of The Dead, published March 16th, 2004, is also available.
House of the Dead has long been a staple of IMDb's Bottom 100. In a fit of movie masochism, a friend and I decided to watch Uwe Boll's videogame-based crapfest because we need something amusing. Sadly, we were disappointed, but not for the reason most people would think. We were disappointed because, on the whole, the film just wasn't that bad. Yes, it had a threadbare plot, goofy special effects, annoying use of bullet time, and a host of other cinematic sins, but really, I could probably name at least a hundred movies that are worse, many of them by far, than House of the Dead. No, that doesn't say much for Uwe Boll, but I think that House of the Dead has been unfairly maligned in the public eye. However, that doesn't mean that I think we needed a "Director's Cut," let alone one that is intentionally trying to be funny. In some ways the film becomes more watchable, since the humor is more obvious, but by focusing on the humor, the film loses serious momentum, making it even harder to sit through.
Facts of the Case
In typical zombie film fashion, our heroes depart for an island-based rave, but they're a little late. To get to the island they have to engage the services of smuggler Captain Kirk (Jurgen Prochnow, Das Boot) and his first mate Salish (Clint Howard, Ice Cream Man). Once they reach the island they discover all is not well, since no one is around. Eventually the group is attacked by zombies and must flee to an abandoned house to hold off the undead.
If you've seen the original cut of House of the Dead you might wonder why they needed to make a "funny" version, since the original had its share of laughs. The zombie makeup and special effects were pretty cheesy, the lame attempts to tie the film to the video game were feeble, and the constant use of bullet-time effects was ridiculous. Then there was the "rave of the century" that had, maybe, fifty people at it—and of those fifty people, not one could act convincingly.
Despite the fact that it is totally unnecessary, we now have a second cut of House of the Dead that plays like a cross between an MST3K episode and VH1's Pop-Up Videos. The film begins with two terrorists who have Uwe Boll tied up, and they intend to make him watch his own movie as punishment for his crimes against cinema. The pop-up segments offer snarky commentary on the acting, continuity, and direction of the film. Occasionally, alternate "funny" takes of some scenes are shown. The film is also sometimes rewound or sped up to relive or skip parts of the story.
Revisiting the film did make me wonder about Uwe Boll's directorial career. He's like a Midas in reverse: everything he touches becomes utterly unremarkable. Almost every aspect of his films (especially this one) is average, or slightly below, and that should add up to an average, or slightly below-average experience. Somehow, in Boll's hands, these elements have a subtractive effect, leading to a product that is less than the sum of its parts. In House of the Dead, nothing sticks out as horrible: the script is clichéd but not bad, the acting is wooden but not unprofessional, and the horror elements are lackluster but not generally laughable. Somehow House of the Dead still becomes a tedious mess of a film, at least in this incarnation. If only we could harness Boll's talents for reduction and use it to decrease carbon emissions.
Pretty much everything about this release screams unnecessary. The film wasn't that good (or bad) to begin with. The comedy isn't quite good enough to make the film worth watching again (in fact you and your friends could probably do a better commentary on the film after a six pack). It's been half a decade since the film was originally released, and I think the world would have been a better place if House of the Dead had simply sank into obscurity.
If you've been suckered into renting (or, heaven forbid, buying) House of the Dead, you're actually in for a pretty competent technical presentation. The anamorphic transfer demonstrates the film's low budget, but is free from serious errors like noise or compression artifacts. The audio is fairly unimpressive, with some balance issues once the shooting starts, but it does a decent job with the dialogue and sound effects.
The extras include the featurettes from the previous DVD, "Behind the House" and "Stacked for Zom-bat." The former is a standard look at the production, while the latter follows the ladies of the film as they go through a zombie boot camp. It tries to be light (and provide plenty of shots of the girls in various skimpy outfits), but comes off as pretty lame. The new extra for this release is a commentary by the man himself, Uwe Boll. He's very open about the quality of his film, and he discusses his career and the production of the film at length.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
If you want to see House of the Dead with more nudity, then this is the release for you. I remember a bit of incidental nudity here and there in the original film, but this cut features a number of extended scenes of topless women. The scenes are not long enough, and the women are not attractive enough to make the film worth watching just for them, but it's a small consolation for those who end up watching the film.
If you're a diehard fan of House of the Dead, this release has a small chance of appealing to you. Uwe Boll's commentary might make it worth a purchase for his fans (if they exist). Everyone else should stay far away. If you must see House of the Dead, stick with the original cut. It's not a great zombie film, but it's certainly better than this drivel.
House of the Dead is guilty of reanimating the corpse of a film that should have stayed dead.
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