Mania Grade: B+
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- Disc Grade: B+
- Reviewed Format: DVD
- Rated: R
- Stars: Emmanuelle Vaugier, Ed Quinn, Sticky Fingaz, Victoria Pratt, James Parks, Sid Haig, Nadine Velazquez, Ellie Cornell, Paige Peterson
- Writers: Mark A. Altman (story), Michael Roesch, Peter Scheerer
- Director: Michael Hurst
- Distributor: Lions Gate Home Entertainment
- Original Year of Release: 2006
- Suggested Retail Price: $26.98
- Extras: Widescreen 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced; English DD 5.1 & 2.0 Surround; English & Spanish subtitles; audio commentary track; Making-Of featurette; deleted scenes; trailers
HOUSE OF THE DEAD II
By BRIAN THOMAS
April 02, 2006
HOUSE OF THE DEAD II
© Lions Gate Home Entertainment
The 1998 Sega video game HOUSE OF THE DEAD wasn't exactly groundbreaking. A First Person Shooter, it takes inspiration from games like DOOM and simplifies the concept to its most basic elements, then pours on the gore. In its initial arcade incarnation, players don't even have to move through the game just go with it wherever it takes you and blast as many enemies as possible, while the added power of an upright arcade box allowed a greater degree of detail in its 3-D rendered characters and environments. The game has a story: basically, you're part of a team of armed agents sent into a colossal mansion overrun with zombies (and other monstrous creatures). Your assignment is to shut down the monster making activities of the mad scientist within while rescuing your comrades that preceded you. The "plot" provides just enough of a framework for a bit of mild role playing, but the main point is to shoot zombies into bloody chunks. The game's main innovation was that it set up shop in arcades and significantly theater lobbies, where kids barred from seeing R-rated movies could participate in far more violent simulated action.
In 2003, Uwe Bolle directed HOUSE OF THE DEAD as the first of a series of video game adaptations allegedly financed for tax reasons by a consortium of wealthy German businessmen. Bolle, who has confessed to having little interest in horror, nevertheless impressed his bosses with his early serial killer featurette AMOKLAUF, and has gone on to carve a critically despised but profitable niche for himself within the genre. He and his writing team rejected even the simple but workable story outline of the game, instead turning in pretty much a generic zombie movie about teens who get lost on their way to a rave and end up in an island undead outbreak. The film's scant acknowledgements of the game besides the fact that there's a much smaller House in it come in a few scenes which emphasize gunplay.
HOUSE OF THE DEAD II, which debuted on the Sci-Fi Channel in an edited-for-TV edition, is thankfully Bolle-free, with the directorial reins passed to former martial arts champ Michael Hurst, who directed the 1999 gangster thriller NEW BLOOD. Hurst wastes no time in preliminaries, delivering both
glorious nudity and a hungry zombie (both represented by Paige Peterson) before the opening credits. Campus mad scientist Sid Haig (THE DEVIL'S REJECTS) uses a stray sorority girl in his experiments in re-animating the dead, resulting in an instant outbreak of undead flesh-eaters. The sequel gets back to the game's plot by introducing AMS agents Ellis (Ed Quinn of BEEPER) and "Nightingale" Alex (SAW II's Emmanuelle Vaugier) who arte sent into the infected college town to retrieve a blood sample from the attacking "hyper-sapiens", along with any survivors they might find, before the military destroys the whole area with bombs. As insurance, their CO Col. Casper (Ellie Cornell, lone holdover from the original) provides them with a Special Forces team one of the least professional units seen outside of comedy movies.
Throughout its run through zombie movie clichés (such as the "survivor" that turns out to be a zombie, infected team members who need to be executed, etc.), HOUSE OF THE DEAD II manages to keep things interesting with an undercurrent of self-aware humor, and of course, plenty of bloody gore. The cast, for the most part, is capable of delivering even the most insipid dialogue with conviction, and they're given some refreshingly intriguing situations to contend with alongside the familiar. The DNA sample is being sought to develop a vaccine against the plague, one scene has a soldier infected with the zombie virus by a mosquito, there's a zombie football game, and the living dead move more quickly than the traditional Romero zombies due to the mutation of the virus. There's nothing exceptional about any of the material, but this is a classic next to the awful original.
On the disc's Making-Of featurette and commentrak, the filmmakers reveal that they did indeed put some thought into the production, and owning up to the fact that nobody was happy with the original, but it gave them an opportunity to build a better sequel. The script was developed from another finished script, which may account in part for the way the story holds up, as it wasn't written as a "video game movie". Writer/producer Mark A. Altman is especially impressive with an enthusiasm that reminds me of a young John Landis. One big problem with the flick shows up in the deleted scenes, which show the intention of more fully introducing the college setting a series of scenes that unfortunately were condensed into a title sequence.
Copyright © 2006 Brian Thomas, author of the massive book VideoHound's DRAGON: ASIAN ACTION & CULT FLICKS
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