Based on the popular videogame, "House of the Dead" is only notable for the fact that it somehow got Jurgen Prochnow ("Das Boot") to play the captain of a small boat. The film opens with five young folks - Greg (Will Sanderson), Simon (Tyron Leitso), Alicia (Ona Grauer), Cynthia (Sonya Salomaa), and Karma (Enuka Okuma) finding themselves in need of transit to get to a rave on an island off the coast of Seattle that's supposed to be "the rave of the year" (seemed pretty underpopulated to me).
They hire a captain named Kirk (Prochnow) and his first mate (Clint Howard - yes, that Clint Howard) to take them out to the island, but the coast guard - who's been after the ship - is following behind. Once they actually arrive, they find out that the party has been overrun by zombies - who got everyone but Rudy (Jonathan Cherry), Alicia's ex, and a couple of other people whose names I don't think were ever even mentioned.
So, as one might expect, the film turns into a lengthy series of attacks and near-misses as the band of 20-somethings must figure out a way to escape the zombies marching across the island. The acting is bad, the dialogue is worse and the film rips off from lots of other films in the genre (often using a tracking shot of the island w/strings on the soundtrack as a transition similar to what De Bont did with "The Haunting"). In case you didn't know the film was based on a video game, the filmmakers have edited in little quick bits of footage from the game randomly into the film. In case you didn't know this was based on a video game, the random animated footage is going to seem really odd.
The film seems to have a sense of humor about itself, which is both its greatest pro and con. The movie's screenplay is so thin and mediocre that the goofiness (I mean, no movie that has Clint Howard in a fairly sizable role is taking itself that seriously) does manage to make it barely watchable. However, there's also the fact that the general silliness (along with the bad acting and terrible dialogue) makes it really difficult to care or make anything about the movie remotely frightening. Also, why did the filmmakers decide to make this an action movie when I remember the game being much more horror.
The locations are attractive and the sound design is respectable, but the effects and make-up work are pretty weak and the film's constant use of techno (not good techno, but bad, bland techno) on the soundtrack is downright annoying. The film also rips off "bullet-time" from "The Matrix", an effect so played out at this point that it's like a parody of itself.
Unfortunately, the director's already at work on two more movies based on video games, including one mediocre game that I really thought could make for a terrific movie ("Bloodrayne" - think "Blade", only female). Oh well.
VIDEO: "House of the Dead" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen.
SOUND: "House of the Dead" comes with no less than Dolby Digital 5.1-EX and DTS-ES 6.1 (Discrete) tracks. For this review, I listened to the DTS 6.1 presentation. If it wasn't for the near-constant techno, this would be a more enjoyable presentation. As is, the film puts the surrounds to fairly good use, with a handful of scenes that offer some noteworthy discrete effects. For those with 6.1, the presentation does boast a decent amount of activity in the rear back surround. Effects are clear and don't sound compressed, while dialogue remained clear.
EXTRAS: 2 commentaries are included - one with director Uwe Boll, post-production supervisor Jonathan Shore, producer Shawn Williamson and actor Will Sanderson; the other with executive producer Mark Altman. Also included is a "making of" featurette, storyboard comparisons and deleted scenes, the film's trailer and trailers for both other Artisan films and Sega videogames.
Final Thoughts: So dumb it's unintentionally amusing at times, that's still no reason to even rent this weak action picture. Artisan, however, has put together an impressive DVD for those out there who are fans of the flick, complete with lots of supplements and very good audio/video quality. Not recommended.