What can you say about a movie where, when the hero addresses the bad guy with, “So you did all this to become immortal — why?,” he’s answered with, “To live forever”? Apart from marveling at the obviousness of the response, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of needed comment.
One acquaintance dubbed The House of the Dead as “the worst movie ever made,” and while I am not prepared to go quite that far, neither do I feel like launching much of an argument against the assessment.
It is perhaps worth noting that this same person actually liked Cabin Fever, which is, admittedly, the Citizen Kane of horror pictures by comparison to this disaster. I will say that House is hands-down the worst movie ever adapted from a video game — a spectacular and alarming accomplishment few could ever hope to claim, though fewer still would want to.
House is everything you expect — and less. Though a scant 94 minutes long, it seems to drag on interminably, and is bereft even of much in the way of unintentional laughs. I have to confess that I nodded off three times during those 94 minutes (trust me, it was time better spent, and was considerably more edifying), so I may have missed some of the finer points of its rampant stupidity. I am confident, however, that I missed none of the plot, since there really is none to miss.
House is made up of a bunch of bickering, drinking, horny “teens” (one of whom looks about the same age as Clint Howard) being menaced by bargain-basement zombies on an island. That’s it, apart from some window-dressing about gun-smuggling (the better to explain the impressive array of firepower on hand), plus a completely undeveloped story about some 300- or 400-year-old heretic named Castillo (David Palffy, who played “Sleazy Man” in Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever), whose makeup job would be laughed out of an elementary-school haunted house. This Castillo fellow is somehow responsible for the zombies; I don’t know how, and it really doesn’t matter, since the movie is all about blasting the undead, or getting eaten by them.
In one respect House may be singular in video-game movies in that it insists on reminding you every few minutes of its source, inserting actual video-game images every so often right in the middle of its action scenes — thereby proving that just because a thing is unique, it isn’t automatically any good.
On the plus side, the actual “House of the Dead” is a pretty cool set, even if director Uwe Boll doesn’t seem to have a clue what to do with it. And then there’s Clint Howard as a crusty old sailor (obviously in between gigs for his famous brother). It isn’t that he’s good, but rather that he’s so supremely over-the-top that he brings the film to brief life.
The same cannot be said of Jurgen Prochnow, who spends his scenes in a perpetual sulk — possibly because he doesn’t get out of the movie as quickly as Howard (or perhaps it’s having to suffer a lame in-joke about his role in Das Boot — like the target audience for House has ever heard of that film — the minute he walks onscreen).
The only possible redeeming thing about House is that you will finally fully understand the meaning of the late, great George Zucco’s line in Dead Men Walk: “You’ll pray for death long before you die!” OK, that might be a wee bit extreme, but I am betting you’ll pray for this atrocity to end long before it does.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke