House of the Dead is both a horrible video/arcade game-based movie and a great one at the same time. Yes, this is the same movie that came out in about 2003 with previews showing zombies being Matrixized while DMX’s “Party Up” blazes on in the background (wait, didn’t that song come out in 1998? Or even earlier? I know I’ve heard it in about a dozen other action movie trailers and teasers before that; it ties with Saliva’s “Click, Click Boom” for the Overused Action Theme of the Decade.)
After hearing so many bad things about it, I was expecting to watch a truly horrible film, but, to be honest, at the start of the film I was surprised. For about the first minute and a half, in which one of the characters narrates at what is actually the end of the movie and starts to tell the story of what had happened, the movie is decent, with a nice few camera shots, despite a really stupid analogy (“The island stank…of…death.”) Then, the stupidity begins. But, for its credit, it is very entertaining, laugh-out-loud stupidity that makes this film worth such a rent, or to buy if you like collecting movies that are so bad they’re good.
After the introductory narration, director Uwe Boll strangely decides to have the intro credits backed by a screening of footage from the first House of the Dead game, in all its 1996-8 graphical glory. This is the first part where I start laughing out loud.
Imagine a very early Playstation type of graphics but somehow filtered to be blurred, colored outlines. Oh yeah, and the first bit is from one of the game’s few cutscenes, so you have bad, cheesy dialogue too. But wait, he doesn’t just have this selection of fighting footage with some film score, but with a stupid sounding rap song made for the movie. (“Danger, danger, DANGER, they’re takin’ ovar! You’re approachin’ the final chapter!” Accompanied by footage of blurred monsters and zombies is both really stupid and funny.)
I have to wonder—and I did this many times while watching the movie—if Uwe Boll is as insane as he seems (you’ll see what I mean a little later) or what, exactly, is his deal. The way he treats some of these parts seriously is very strange indeed. Oh yeah, did I mention that the footage from the game continues throughout the movie in a few second intervals as scene breakers, but instead of being blurred to look more realistic they’re presented in the way they are in the arcades. Even sillier is when one of the footage parts is one when the player dies and the game displays INSERT COINS TO CONTINUE! in clearly visible white letters.
Well, to move on, we go on to the narration of some other character whose name I didn’t bother to remember, who introduces most of the main characters in a sort of bio-ish gray still shots. Then, we find out that they’re going to an unknown island for a rave (which, in a shot that zooms over to the island for a few seconds, is taking place in full daylight, consists of people bouncing around with those expandable frame-ball things, a rave which seems to be hosted by Sega—the company that owns House of the Dead—according to the big blue banners all around the camp with the company name on it), which is completely stupid. Because, who goes to a rave on an unknown island some many miles offshore?
Anyway, finding that the boat to island has already left, the characters (a college pretty boy, blond-but-brainless-hottie, guy-that’s-somewhat-smart-and-a-little-handsome, and a black girl) hire a fishing boat captain to take them, after the second in command (played by Clint Howard and supposed to be “the guy who’s funny but stupid”) repeatedly tells them no. It only takes them one thousand dollars to risk their lives, of course, on what they call island “Del Morte,” the Island of the Dead. But before they can, a Marine Sea Patrol (and don’t even ask me why this patrol likes to do this at small docks of what could be an incredibly small fishing town in Maine) orders them to stop for a search, because it’s search day.
To make a not really that long story short, they go to the island, encounter the dead, kill them and end up getting mostly killed themselves, and the one or two left living leave the island. Oh yeah, and for those of you who have played the game, it completely ignores the plot of it, going for “in the 18th century a bald, buff scientist being taken over to someplace on a Spanish ship for ‘crimes against God’ took control of the ship, killed the captain, and landed on an island where he performed experiments on himself and the natives, using them to build his house.” I could go on and on about the stupid events that happen between the two ends of this movie, but I simply cannot afford to write a book I don’t have a market to publish in.
So, I’ll say that this movie is well worth the money to rent or even buy it (the “Battle for the House of the Dead,” as I’ve named it, is especially hilarious, with more bullet time than all three Matrix movies and a bad rap song written especially for the movie—called “House of the Dead,” I think), but for all the wrong reasons. For a real movie, I give this a zero out of five, as this is about the lowest you can get unless your name is has the words “Ed” or “Woods” in it. But as a bad movie, it’s so bad that it’s a great movie, and in that stance I give it a five out of five and I can’t wait until Uwe Boll comes out with his newest masterpiece of video game adaptations, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Adventure, because it looks almost as “bad” as this movie.
Oh, a word of advice: only buy this movie if you can make sure Boll doesn’t receive the profits, because I just don’t want to have the guilt hanging over my head like that if he gets funded due to this review, so check the bargain bins at any local Gamestop or EB Games stores, they’re sure to have copies. And there’ll be more of Boll to come in future reviews: expect to hear about Alone in the Dark in a few weeks, and Bloodrayne whenever it comes out on DVD.