I've seen a lot of bad movies in my short career as a movie critic, but the video-game-inspired House of the Dead poses a new challenge. I feel a typical review would do little or no good. You've seen the commercials with a bunch of young people firing endless rounds into zombies. Well, that's the movie, minus DMX's rapping. Sure, there are a couple of bare breasts here and there, but what you see in those 90-second spots is what's waiting for you at the multiplex.
There's nothing of substance to discuss. All I have is a lot of hatred welling inside of me. So, I figured a timeline would work, that way I can see what went wrong. I didn't have a watch on me at the screening, but I figured since time passed so slowly, my estimates are pretty accurate
9:35 p.m.--Credits roll. Clint Howard gets third billing. I already don't feel good.
9:37 p.m.--We're introduced to five characters, who the narrator informs us, will all be dead at the end of the night. Gee, nice way to maintain suspense.
9:46 p.m.--The five characters -- the narrator isn't among them -- are off to a rave on an island. Now, I'm not a club kid, but raves aren't held during the day, are they? And do they usually have corporate sponsorship? (In this case it's Sega, the makers of the video game that's the basis for this movie.)
9:49 p.m.--Jürgen Prochnow plays the ship's captain. His name? Captain Kirk.
9:56 p.m.--Zombies appear. In a shameless promotional stunt that continues throughout the movie, random clips of the aforementioned video game appear during most of the attacks. The movie is as close to being a commercial for the damned game without listing store locations and holiday prices.
10:01 p.m.--Three of the characters meet up with three other characters, including the narrator. (The movie never gives any of these people a personality, so what incentive do I have to do so?) It is explained that zombies stormed the rave "and killed everyone." One character shows a video event of the attack, which is so seamless and steady you would have thought Haskell Wexler was the DP.
10:09 p.m.--In his review of the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre, my esteemed colleague Sean O'Connell shrewdly observed that the cast looked too pumped up and pretty to look scared. House of the Dead is another classic example. Everyone looks like they own a Soloflex and uses it regularly.
10:13 p.m.--Coast guard officer appears. She's armed to the teeth and even sports a gun resembling Tony Montana's "little friend." Sure.
10:17 p.m.--Extended scene of coast guard firing round after round of ammo into zombies, while one character fights off zombies underwater. At one point she slashes them with a knife. Character wears skintight outfit; where did she keep the knife?
10:22 p.m.--Flashback of how the zombies got onto the island, which is known as the Island of Death. Begin thinking about weekend plans.
10:28 p.m.--Characters arm themselves (thanks to Captain Kirk's stash of illegal firearms) in slow motion. Scene doesn't work because it's been used way too often, and is best effective as a way to pump up the audience. We don't know these characters, we don't care about these characters, and so pumpitude is not achieved.
10:30 to 10:38 p.m.--A shootout scene between the zombies and humans that makes Tarantino's sword-fighting scene in Kill Bill look like a masterpiece of subtlety and brevity. Also get more clichéd shots: the bullet shot in slow motion and at least a dozen Matrix-style stop and pivot shots. Jump cuts and jittery editing dominate the tedium.
10:39 p.m.--How did a group of club kids suddenly become expert gun handlers? [Duh! They play the video game House of the Dead! -Ed.] Why in the battle scene is one of the zombies wearing what appears to be a brand new set of clothes?
10:42 p.m.--Characters get to the house. Four of them make out.
10:45 p.m.--Characters find a lab, which... You know what video game they should make into a movie, Spy Hunter. Man, that was a great game; it even had a cool soundtrack. [They are. The Rock is in it. 2005. Mark your calendar. -Ed.]
10:49 p.m.--Another clichéd shot: Characters leaping to safety as an explosion goes off behind them. Shot repeated five minutes later.
10:52 p.m.--Head zombie looks to perform experiments on surviving humans. I am reconsidering my Dad's advice to learn air conditioning repair.
10:54 p.m.--See 10:49 p.m.
10:56 p.m.--Sword fight between female survivor and head zombie. Female gets stabbed in chest. Male survivor (the narrator) cuts off zombie's head, who continues to fight. Female sees the struggle, gets up, and squishes the severed head like it's an oversized jelly doughnut. I haven't really ruined anything. No writer, no matter how gifted, could describe this scene properly.
10:59 p.m.--The GNI appears to rescue the characters. At this point, I don't even care what the GNI is. Tagline for the movie is "You won't even last the night." They're right. I barely lasted the movie's 90 minutes.
The future--You decide not to buy House of the Dead on DVD, missing the deleted scenes, the two commentary tracks, and the featurette "Stacked for Zom-bat: The Sexy Babes of House of the Dead Prepare for Battle!"
Swords sponsored by Sega.