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It sure feels good to be back writing this column. I know it’s been a while, but this week, I’m back just in time to review a Halloween film again. Last year, I reviewed Resident Evil, a terrible videogame movie. Well, in true holiday spirit, I shall be doing the same thing again this year. What horror videogame movie could possibly be worse than Resident Evil, you ask? Well how’s about Uwe Boll’s 2003 movie House of the Dead?
It’s been hailed as one of the worst movies of all time, and garnered a 4% on rotten tomatoes. Director/producer Uwe Boll is famous for making absolutely atrocious videogame movies (Bloodrayne, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, Alone in the Dark) and yet somehow, people still keep green-lighting his films. This one was one of his very first professional films ever made and unfortunately for us, it wasn’t his last. But before I delve into the madness that is this film, let me give you a bit of background on just what The House of the Dead (the videogame) was.
Back in 1997, when light gun games were just starting out, Sega developed a horror zombie shooter for the arcade called The House of the Dead. It was critically acclaimed and really lead to the popularization of light gun arcade games.
It was about a mad scientist who creates zombies in an attempt to bring his dead child back to life. The series is known for its difficult challenges, monstrously large boss battles, and terrifying a young Drew Parton.
The movie attempts to sort of (maybe?) be a prequel. It revolves around a bunch of friends going to a super fun island rave party, the boat that was supposed to take them there has already left so they hitch a ride with Jurgen Prochnow. I think that Prochnow’s character has a name, but I don’t really care- I just like to pretend that he’s reprising his role from Das Boot. They arrive on the island finding the party over and everyone gone. Much to the surprise of everyone but moviegoers, the cast starts to be picked off one by one by zombies.
But that’s okay, because there isn’t a single relatable or likeable character among the bunch. And the angsty narrator protagonist (who’s not even introduced until the second act) even mentions that they all die. The characters are perhaps the biggest flaw in the film. Now, I understand that some B movies purposefully have loathable characters because you’re meant to delight in their disfigurement and misery- but the key is that those movies are supposed to be fun, and let me tell you- there is nothing fun about House of the Dead.
The movie can be fun at times- in an MST3K sort of way if you just sit around and riff at it, but really it isn’t even worth your time for that. It’s trite, overly confident in itself, and positively douchey in the same way that Kick-Ass is a douchey movie. It thinks that it’s super hip and edgy and self-referencing/parodying, but it just comes off as annoyingly shallow. The movie’s opening credits are set to actual gameplay footage of the The House of the Dead videogame with some basic Windows Media Editor effects slapped on.
The rave that the main characters miss (which you still get to see, oddly enough) even has a giant Sega (the people who made The House of the Dead, the videogame) banner hanging at it. They even feature actual animation from the videogame in the fight scenes.
The movie just tries so hard to smash your face in it, screaming “Look at us! Look at how cheeky we’re being!” Stop it, Uwe Boll. You’re stupid and unoriginal. It also has some of the most juvenile editing and directing. Every ten or so seconds, Uwe inserts random bullet-time moments for all the character. It’s the absolute most sophomoric film-making I have ever seen. It makes Michael Bay look like Werner Herzog.
I will say that I watched the movie twice, actually. The first time was the normal version, but a lot of comments on the internets said that watching the Director’s cut of the film with Uwe Boll’s commentary on is one of the most sublimely hilarious things in the world. If you couldn’t tell from the above clip, Uwe Boll is batshit insane. The odd thing is that he knows exactly what kind of movie he made. He knows how terrible he is, he just doesn’t care. He likes making movies and has fun doing so. In a way, that’s very respectable. But I don’t think that necessitates sharing said movies with the world. Though, perhaps what is more baffling is that people still give him money to make movies. House of the Dead is the only Uwe Boll film to turn a significant profit at the box office. Usually studios will be content to throw money at bad directors because their movies still make money (see: Michael Bay) because at the end of the day, Hollywood is a business. On the other side of that coin, studios will sometimes continue to fund great directors who don’t always make hit blockbusters because they want to create a quality product (fame and accolades are also very helpful). But Uwe Boll and his films are neither of these two categories. They are financial and critical bombs.
It’s like some kind of eldritch abomination, you can’t look away, but the deeper you stare, the more lost you become. You see, Resident Evil was bad, but it was juuuust solid enough to make me sit through it and have a chuckle or two. House of the Dead, I turned it off about thirty minutes before the end and promptly deleted all of my internet history to erase every trace of the movie. But I can never erase the memory of it, and I know that when I go to sleep tonight, the last thing I will see before the madness takes me is Boll.
Be sure to check out my science column: Trope-ic Thunder
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