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House of the Dead (2003)

House of the dead: Le jeu ne fait que commencer

The dead walk...You run

Rating: 1/10

Running Time: 90 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

“It was a nightmare,” says narrator-cum-hero Rudolph (Jonathan Cherry) in the opening moments of ‘House of the Dead’. “So many people dead, so many victims,” he continues. “It all started a few days ago when I came here for a rave, and now all that remains is the rotten smell of death.” Well, that’s not entirely true Rudy, is it? The smell of death isn’t ALL that remains. There’s also the dense, putrid stench of diabolical acting, appalling dialogue, and downright atrocious direction. In fact, by comparison, the smell of death isn’t actually all that offensive.

Featuring hordes of laughably unconvincing zombies terrorizing party-goers on a remote island, the film is based on a barely-known late-90s Sega video game of the same name. And, just to prove he didn’t just make the game up, talentless German director Uwe Boll intersperses the action with split-second clips from the console romp, like bizarre corporate subliminal messages for idiots.

Product placement aside, it’s a pretty tough task coming up with anything positive to say about this film. The acting, carried out by largely unheard-of youths and often involving completely unprovoked toplessness, swings back and forth from laughable to just plain bad. Little wonder, then, that the camera spends much of its time ignoring their faces completely, choosing instead to focus on lead girlie Ona Grauer’s admittedly spectacular breasts. Even Clint Howard, probably the best-known face on the screen, produces surely the worst performance of his career as a ridiculous doom-predicting ship’s mate. Mind you, none of them stand a fighting chance of coming out of it with much credibility in tact, so awful are the lines they’re expected to deliver, presumably, with straight-faces.

Perhaps the worst thing about it, though, is Boll’s insistence on padding out the running time with amateurish bullet-time fight sequences, in which all laws of continuity go out the window and characters can be seen wielding completely different weapons from one frame to the next. And, amid all the gun-fire, I couldn’t help but wonder why bullets would make any difference on zombies, given that – by their very nature – they tend to be dead anyway.

In short, ‘House of the Dead’ is a film so hypnotically bad that I found myself envying the victims. After all, at least they get to leave early. If Boll really wanted to give the big screen treatment to a Sega game, I’d have preferred him to do ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’. At least I’d be able to take a giant blue spinning rodent a little more seriously.

It's Got: David Palffy reminding me of ‘The League of Gentleman’s Papa Lazarou character in his role as the chief un-deader. “You’re my wife now!!!!”

It Needs: To at least have a more appropriate title, such as ‘Island of the Dead’. The “house”, you see, only actually features for the last 20 minutes or so.


Given a straight choice between zombification and another hour-and-a-half spent watching this stupefyingly awful plop-horror, I’d choose joining the ranks of the undead every time.