House of the Dead: Horror’s Version of the Fyre Festival

For a brief and shining moment, Uwe Boll was the undisputed ‘king of bad movies’. Like Ed Wood, only more angry and less earnest, Boll made aggressively bad movies. Alone in the Dark, BloodRayne, Postal – he was notorious for the sheer incompetency of his filmmaking. Following the success of Resident Evil, Boll wasted little time jumping on the video game film adaptation bandwagon. The result was the laughably bad, House of the Dead. Sixteen years later has ‘House of the Dead’ acquired ‘so bad, it’s good’ status. Or is it still DOA?

Synopsis

College students pay a ship captain to sail them out to a remote island for a rave. They arrive to find the rave deserted and grounds left disheveled. As they explore the island, they soon discover that they’re not alone. Something forbidden, neither alive nor dead, is waiting for them.

House of the Dead Laughably Illogical

House of the Dead is a truly awful movie. But you know what it’s not? Boring. The movie actually clips along at a decent pace, and Boll ensures that there’s a lot happening on screen. Does this mean that House of the Dead moves too fast for your brain to catch most of its logic-riddled errors? Not even a little bit. But this is where watching Boll’s turkey can be loads of fun. Watch it with friends and take a drink every time something implausible happens. Though House of the Dead isn’t incoherent, there’s very little logic holding the story together.

During a shootout with zombies, mild-mannered characters suddenly become skilled martial artists and crack marksmen.

So where to start with House of the Dead? First, Sega holding a rave on a remote island seems pretty unlikely. Boll also must have run out of money for extras because it’s the smallest rave I’ve even seen. When our main characters arrive to find the rave abandoned and in ruins, one couple still thinks disapparing alone together and having sex is a good idea. Instead of getting on the boat and trying to leave, the surivors opt for seeking refuge in the titular ‘house’ despite knowing people have already died in the house. As for the ‘house’ itself, the outside looks pretty small but it’s practically a mansion on the inside. During a shootout with zombies, mild-mannered characters suddenly become skilled martial artists and crack marksmen. An opening monologue by a survivor is completely contradicted by the movie’s ending. The list goes on and on.

Boll Just Makes It Up As He Goes Along

To be fair, I’ve never played the video games upon which the movie is based. But I’ve watched a lot of zombie movies – Night of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead, and 28 Days Later – to name a few. Apparently, Boll hasn’t watched these movies. Are these shuffling Romero zombies or ‘running’ Danny Boyle zombies. Well, Boll has a little bit of each, just to be safe. One zombie even performs quite the acrobatic flip before throwing an axe. Yes, the zombies use weapons. At least everyone knows you have to shoot zombies in the head. Almost everyone. Sometimes Boll’s zombies get shot in the head and die, other times they’re riddled with bullets. Boll seems to be making up the rules as he goes along.

One of the oddest things about House of the Dead are the unconvincing zombie effects. You don’t need a lot of money for a good, old-fashioned zombie romp. Romero did it on the cheap over 50 years ago. Even Bob Clark’s midnight cult flick, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, boasted more convincing zombies. And it’s not like Boll didn’t have some money kicking around. His Matrix-esque action sequences aren’t impressive, but required some coin. Nevertheless, House of the Dead’s zombie range from normal-looking with some fake blood to blue-tinted face makeup ghouls. In fact, most early zombie scenes never include both the zombie and victim in the same camera shot.

Care for Some Derivative Arcade Shoot’em Up?

Perhaps House of the Dead’s biggest moment is its ‘battle royale’ shootout scene. You can find pretty much everything wrong with Boll’s filmmaking approach here. Repetitive, hackneyed 360-camera shots and slow motion. Check. Continuity errors and characters visibly doing nothing in the background. Check. Pounding techno music score. Check. Pointless use of footage from the video game. Check. Uninspired early 2000’s rip-off The Matrix rip offs. Check.

Poor Juergen Prochnow. From Das Boot to Uwe Boll movies

All of this uninspired action and horror accompany grade school dialogue delivered by a cast of forgotten verterans and unknowns. Poor Juergen Prochnow. From Das Boot to Uwe Boll movies. Halloween fans will recognize Ellie Cornell from Parts IV and V. Aside from these actors, the rest of the cast are unknowns. One actor gets to play a character called ‘Liberty, who is decked out in a American flag-themed outfit. Arguably, the biggest name in the movie is Clint Howard (Evilspeak). And he barely makes it to the movie’s halfway point.

House of the Dead Is the Definition of B-Movie

Overall, Uwe Boll’s House of the Dead is the very definition of a B-movie. Neither dull nor generic, House of the Dead seems to exist in its own logic-free world. This is a movie that aptly fits the description of ‘batshit crazy’. Not surprisingly, Boll even had the audacity to threaten a sequel (which in fact happened). Yes, House of the Dead is a prequel to the events of the video game, but I have no intention of watching any sequel. Boll caught lightning in a bottle with the awfulness of this one.

FINAL VERDICT: SO BAD, IT’S GOOD

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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