I'm actually quite shocked that I didn't hate this movie as much as I was supposed to! I'd heard so much bad stuff about House of the Dead that, perhaps, it softened the blow, because I actually had fun with this movie. It's a stupid film about stupid people doing stupid things, but, y'a know what? So are about 80% of the Italian zombie flicks I hold so dear.
On an island off the coast of Washington, a group of kids have gathered for what looks like a SEGA company picnic, but we are told, in whiney voiceover, that it's the "rave of the year" or something to that effect. Meanwhile, back on the mainland, a group of prospective ravers miss their boat, and hire a gun smuggler, Captain Kirk (Prochnow), to ferry them across to the Isla De La Muerte! It's especially funny to hear Prochnow say it in his German affected accent;
Eeeeesssslaaaaaaaa Daaaaaaaaaylaaaaaaaaa Mooouuuerrrrrrrrrrrrrte....
I'd love to see this guy ordering in a Mexican restaraunt.
Kirk is being pursued by some sort of imaginary marina police led by Jordan Casper (Halloween 4 hottie, Cornell), who is in this film simply to provide most of its arsenal.
When the kids reach the rave they find it's abandoned, and do what any rational people would do: split up and search the island and/or have sex. One group arrives at a ramshackle little hut where a few rave survivors are holed up. Rudy (Cherry) tells the tale of a full on zombie assault, and, before you can say "self-aware humor", another survivor compares it all to a Romero film. They all decide to return to the rave camp, only to find one of their friends is now a zombie, and Casper arrives just in time to save them. At this point, Casper seems to be dubbed by a tone deaf female wrestler. I guess Cornell's voice was too girly.
Anyway, the whole gang head down to Kirk's boat, where they are attacked en masse by a horde of extremely fast moving zombies, who are also Olympic trained swimmers. Kirk and Casper shoot off a few thousand rounds of ammo, quelling the zombie attack for now, and then break out the REAL firepower in the guise of Desert Eagles, Mossberg shotguns, RPK's, Uzi's, grenades, and sharp, pointy sticks. It's at this time that our daft raver teens are handed weapons, resulting into a Power Rangers like metamorphosis into lethal ninja assassins!!! This is presented by Boll in sweeping camera movements showing each individual cocking weapons, doing karate, and dispatching zombies, and that's before the fight even begins.
We are then treated to the big finale in what seems like 11 hours of really crappy looking bullet time "enhanced" warfare, in which people who were running and screaming like infants merely minutes before now fight like battle hardened mercenaries. Boll splices in actual footage from the SEGA video game, and, as our heroes die, we are treated to a shot of them standing still as the film is saturated red. This is one of the gayest things I've ever seen in my life, and I laughed like there was no tomorrow.
Uwe Boll set out to make a film based on a video game, but the results look more like a video game based on a film. It's basically like watching someone play a souped up, satanic version of Duck Hunt, with the occasional interlude of disastrously bad dialogue courtesy of genre hack Dave Parker. The performances range from quite good (the luscious Ona Grauer), quite bad (Cornell should have stayed retired), and quite drunk (Prochnow must have needed a house payment).
The zombie effects are really well done, as are many of the gore effects (even though our heroes' deaths are sanitized, some of the zombie deaths are fantastically bloody). Sadly, all of the good that went into the film is meticulously destroyed by Boll, who should never be allowed near a camera again. He takes what's already a pretty bad film, and renders it a cinematic atrocity.
The DVD from Artisan, however, is a pleasant surprise. Along with a commentary by Boll (he thinks this movie's great), we get a few featurettes, including one called the "Anatomy of the Zombie Movement" that features interviews with George Romero, Tom Savini, and the House of the Dead creative team, as well as clips from the Dead films, and a general round-up of zombie cinema in general. It's very entertaining, even if it seems quite out of place here. The behind-the-scenes featurettes are also a lot of fun, with "Stacked for Zom-Bat" showing us how the hot chicks in the film trained for battle against the undead. It's silly filler, but worth it for the hot tub scene in the end. There's also a very in-depth Making-of featurette, trailers, deleted scenes, and more.
While House of the Dead is an incredibly bad film, it's one that I'm sure to revisit on various pharmaceuticals, and with other inebriated friends. I liken this one to the Bruno Matei films, or even some of Fulci's later atrocities, in that, while it's not a good film, it's still entertaining on a whole different level. The real shock, however, is how good the supplements on the DVD are. I can't say those are reason enough to buy the DVD, but if you're like me, and love the occasional so-bad-it's-good horror flick, House of the Dead is an essential rental at the very least.