What is there to say about writer/director Uwe Boll that hasn't already been said? To call him a schlockmaster is almost a complement since schlocky films are among some of the most enjoyable type of movies to watch. His films are famous for redefining terrible thanks to his lack of cinematic skills, scripts that all feel like rough drafts, Amateur Hour actors, and WOEFULLY low budgets. In his case though, none of this comes off charming like it does in some of film's more famous movies, where directors were at least TRYING to make a good film despite their limitations.
In Boll's case they aren't made for the love of the “language of cinema”, but for the love of money. No duh, right? What movie isn't? In Boll's case however, it's a little different. Thanks to the batshit crazy tax laws of Germany, if you invest money into a movie that is filmed there not only is it fully deductible from your taxes, you get a DELAY in having to pay your taxes for the year AND your tax bracket lowers. If you're rich enough in a high level tax bracket, investing in one of Boll's guaranteed to flop movies, you will actually MAKE MONEY BACK. This is how Boll has become one of the most prolific directors of the decade, as I imagine there are German mutli-millionaires tripping over themselves to throw money at Video Game: The Movie Part 26.
The more shoddy and haphazardly he makes a movie, the more money he makes for himself and his investors. I imagine he's probably a HERO to the wealthy class of his home country by now, because he's been at this for well over ten years now. Germany has since changed this crass exploitation of its laws, but considering he's made TWENTY-TWO films since 2003 it's safe to say he's found another loop hole in the system.
This brings us to today's film and the one that made him a household name for all the wrong reasons: 2003's House of the Dead. Based off a Sega arcade game of the same name that involved shooting zombies and other mutated creatures with a light gun, it must have had a story that was just BEGGING for the silver screen treatment. I've played the game back in the day, but I sure don't remember much of a story going on besides “Insert Quarter Now!”. But I'm sure I missed the finer points of the narrative, so let's see it done justice Uwe Boll style with A Ghoul Versus House of the Dead!
We open with a guy sitting in a graveyard, narrating how he came to an island for a rave but found only death. I don't feel too sorry for him because has a trip to an island in a movie ever NOT resulted in death? We cut to the opening credits, which actually employ footage from one of the House of the Dead games. Only to keep costs low Boll must have used the animatics instead of the actual game, because everything has this weird neon outline to it instead of shading and textures. These go on way too long (a theme to every scene in the movie) until finally things kick off with our cast waiting for their boat to the island. Graveyard narrator freezes the movie to give each a brief introduction, so I shall do the same. There's goofy Greg, stupid Simon, slutty Cynthia, token minority Karma, and “I'm really into fencing which I'm sure will never come up later in the film” Alicia. Throwing us a bone by guessing we're already bored to death, Boll does try to keep our attention by putting Alicia in one of the most cleavage-baring tank tops this side of Elizabeth Olsen in Silent House.
Karma has the hots for Simon but he has the hots for Alicia, who is the narrator's ex. I doubt any of this will be important, but I'm mentioning just in case this turns into Twilight and this crucial love triangle becomes the film's main plot. There's a problem though, they've missed their boat. Oh darn, guess we can't have a movie now. The film gets tired of their “witty banter”, so it cuts to the rave, which is held during the daytime like all good raves are. There's a giant Sega banner hanging above the DJ booth, which is sadly a highlight in Sega's sad, sad fall from grace. Back at the dock, Simon tries to find another boat to take them to the island. He finds one owned by that stalwart of B-movies, Mr. Clint Howard himself. Clint is rocking a cheap looking hook hand, as I guess he probably had an audition for I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer after this.
Oh, it wasn't a hook hand, just a hook he was holding. That was a needlessly dramatic introduction then. Howard refuses to help them, but the captain of his boat, named Kirk because ha ha, is interested in ferrying them... for a price. My jaw nearly drops off my face when I get a good look at Kirk, it's freaking Jurgen Prochnow! He's an internationally famous actor best known for his role in the classic Das Boot, but since I'm lame and have never seen that, he was Leto Atreides in David Lynch's Dune. I was going to wonder what the hell such an acclaimed actor is doing in this thing, but looking at his filmography after 1997's Air Force One, you could argue the case this was one of his better roles.
Simon offers 300 dollars and HOLY SHIT this must be the most important rave of all time to pony up that kind of crash. What, are Deadmau5 AND Lady GaGa hosting it? Kirk wants 600, until he sees where they want to go: Isla de Muerta. Normally in these reviews I'd question why a multimillionaire corporation like Sega would hold a party on a placed called the Island of the Dead, but this IS Sega we're talking about. I'm surprised they didn't hold it on Ebola Island instead.
Not to be deterred, Simon offers them A THOUSAND DOLLARS. Good God, there was like thirty people at that rave tops! Unless another five hundred show up in the next few hours, I'm thinking you overpaid dude. Things get strange when, just as they're about to depart, the police show up and order Kirk to stop immediately for an inspection. Simon gives Kirk MORE money and they take off. For all the money Simon has spent getting to the rave, he could have EASILY thrown a much better one of his own. Kirk fills in Simon on his backstory with the one of the cops, Jordan Casper, which... I guess will also be important later?
Back at the rave, one partying couple heads down to the beach for some skinny dipping. Hmm... the woman looks awfully familiar. Wait- is that? Oh wow, it's Erica Durance, best known for her portrayal of the only Lois Lane worth a damn in the television show Smallville. House of the Dead was about a year before she was cast on Smallville, so if this isn't the definition of “starting from the bottom”, I don't know what is. Erica takes off her clothes and goes into the water but the guy she's with won't join her because it's too cold. Yeah right, naked Erica Durance in the water would mean it's probably about three hundred degrees right now. While this goes on, we see they're being watched courtesy of Stalker Cam.
Erica's boyfriend lies down on the sand and promptly... falls asleep?! What the hell is going on here? You have Erica Durance nude not more than a hundred feet from you, and you're just going to catch a quick forty winks? Stalker Cam makes him pay for his incompetence by sneaking up on him. After a minute of teasing us with something in the water about to grab her that goes absolutely nowhere, Erica returns to the beach to find her dumbass boyfriend gone. SUSPENSE! On the boat, Greg gets seasick and pukes all over Cynthia. You stay classy, Greg! Cynthia goes below deck to wash her shirt off, where she seems quite comfortable with Clint Howard watching her topless, making her the only woman in history to feel that way. He gives her a giant cross, saying it's for her protection. She replies she's on the pill (ha ha), and we are now DANGEROUSLY close to this turning into a porno. Either that, or I accidentally bought the porno parody House of Head. He says it'll protect her and her friends and then leaves, while she quips “whatever, Gandalf”. Because it's 2003, Lord of the Rings was popular!
Erica searches the woods for her missing idiot, unaware she's being followed by Stalker Cam. She stumbles across the graveyard we saw at the beginning of the film, which is next to a cabin that TOTALLY ISN'T the one from Evil Dead so stop saying that. For some reason she gets it into her head that he's in the cabin, so goes inside to take a look. And there he is! Damn, I guess she REALLY knows her boyfriend. Oh but he's dead, and here come the zombies. And by zombies, I mean THE WORST LOOKING ZOMBIES IN THE HISTORY OF EVER. These look more like freaking mummies for crying out loud. Well, thanks for playing Erica. See you next year when you're given INFINITELY better material to work with. I'm guessing Erica wasn't too proud of this particular role, as she ended up changing her last name from Parker to Durance the following year. Can't say I blame her ONE BIT.
Kirk makes it to the island, unaware Jordan has been trailing him the entire time. She... orders her ship to drop her off at the other side of the island so she can singlehandedly deal with Kirk. Why would you do that? Why doesn't she just park right behind his boat and bust him? Why is she going to traverse across a rather large island, across completely unknown territory, to surprise him? Is she getting paid by the hour, or what? The five party goers begin hiking through the woods to find the rave, while Kirk parks the boat down the shore to unload his cargo full of stolen goods because I guess he's a smuggler. He said something about it back at the dock when Jordan was trying to stop him, but I really couldn't understand it.
As they search for the rave, we get a quick shot from the video game of zombies attacking the screen. WHAT THE FUCK?! Why was that there?! It's only there for a second, so maybe Tyler Durden secretly directed this thing. I guess we should feel lucky it wasn't a frame of a penis. They finally find the rave, only it's wrecked and completely deserted. Fencer Girl, whose name I've already forgotten, is the only one even remotely troubled by this. She finally convinces Karma, who I don't think has had a single line of dialogue yet, and Simon to come with her to find everyone else.
Nearby Clint becomes the first to fall to the zombies while he's unloading crates, and all I have to say is “Thank God it wasn't the black character to die first!”. Another video game screen follows, and I've figured out these are meant to be transition screens ala the dancing bits in Austin Powers. That is... insanely stupid. I'm sure Boll thought he was being creative here, but I don't think nearly ten year old video game footage is the way to go for something like this. Cynthia is the next to die, there's a heartbreaking loss. I'm really going to miss the airhead blonde stereotype that would have had Ana Farris telling her to step the fuck off.
The trio find the Cabin in the Woods, but sadly no trace of Kristen Connolly or Fran Kranz. Fencer Girl wants to go in and investigate, but Karma says that is beyond stupid... and then joins her to go inside. Sigh. As they walk towards the cabin we can see a cloaked figure with stitches all over his face watching them, and I'm pretty sure he's not a zombie. They enter the cabin, and are jumped by zombies and torn to pieces! Alright, that's most of the cast gone! Hopefully this movie will be over within minutes- oh. It's just some of the escapees from the rave, our graveyard narrator among them. THAT'S what this film needed, more characters.
One of them, let's just call him Creepy Perv, shows the trio footage from the rave he filmed on his camcorder where the zombie-mummies started attacking everyone. It's hilarious to watch the people in the tape try to be scared and run, but keep bumping into each other because of terrible stage direction. Fencer Girl thinks it's just a stunt, but Narrator says it's all real. He also knows Fencer for reasons that aren't explained, but like it really matters at this point. They all agree to go get Greg and Cynthia and GTFO off the island on the boat. As they walk Narrator and Fencer catch up on old times apparently, Fencer commenting on the woman that is with him. She was one of the dancers at the rave and is wearing an American flag themed bodysuit, so Fencer says “I don't think she's a natural red, white, and blue.”. What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Is it because she's Asian? Was that a racist remark?
Narrator fires back by backing fun of Simon, so Fencer suddenly defends him and starts getting cuddly with him after spending the entire film rejecting his advances. WOW, our lives are in deadly peril but I totes have time to try to make Narrator jealous! They make it back to the rave where they find Greg and Cynthia, only Cynthia is now... I don't know, I guess a zombie? She's moving superfast and instead of biting, she attacks by snapping Creepy Perv's neck. I'm thinking Boll saw 2002's 28 Days Later and at point during shooting this and said “Yes, let's do that!”.
Unfortunately Cynthia doesn't get a chance to thin out more of this worthless cast because Jordan bursts out of the woods and shoots her with with an assault rifle in one of the WORST slow motion shots you'll ever see. Also, I forgot Jordan was even still on the island. We get our first good look at the police officer and OH MY GOD it's Ellie Cornell. This name will be instantly recognizable if you're a fan of the Halloween films, as she starred in parts 4 and 5 as the AWESOME Rachel Carruthers, a tough as nails character who certainly wasn't taking any of Michael Myers' shit. Normally I'd be horrified at over how badly Cornell is reading her lines here, but since I know she's a good actress I'm putting this one all on Boll's “direction”.
Some atrocious dialogue exchanges later, everyone starts in the direction of Kirk's boat. Flash forward to the boat, which is currently under attack by zombies. Kirk is nonchalantly shooting them with a pistol while smoking a cigar in a scene that is probably MEANT to be badass, but it's so slow paced it causes the opposite. Also, I can't help but notice Kirk is bodyshotting all of the zombies dead when we JUST SAW Jordan had to finish Cynthia off with a headshot to keep her down. Maybe the zombie mummies are weaker than newborns? Oh Lord, I'm trying to find logic in this film now. I hope you're happy, Uwe Boll.
When they get to the boat, they see no sign of Kirk. Since the boat is a distance from the shore, Simon dives into the water and begins swimming towards the boat, unaware the deck is infested with zombies. They all start jumping into the water to greet him, including one zombie that has a HUGE smile on his face. Instead of the movie trying to make us believe these zombies have emotions, it's a safe bet to say the actor just go done reading the script and couldn't stop laughing. Simon is saved by Kirk (boo!), who is now standing on a ridge by the shore armed with a laser sight rifle that I assume he got from the crates Clint Howard was stashing. Kirk, the only saving grace of the movie, gets bit on the arm during the rescue (boo!).
Simon returns to the beach and begins stomping the shit out of one of the shot zombies in a fit on anger, but this proves to be foolish because it springs up and... spits acid in his face? OKAY, so we're just making this shit up as we go along, aren't we? Got it. Jordan takes Greg with her to go... do something involving rescue, I don't know. While she leaves everyone begins to speculate on how the zombies can exist, prompting Kirk to launch into the legend of the island. OH COME ON! NO ONE CARES! This just ain't a boring story though, it's a boring black and white FLASHBACK. This is mildly important because it sets up the main villain of the movie, a rogue Spanish priest named Castillo, aka Stitchface. You care, right?
Click here for Part 2!
Click here for Part 2!