(Originally posted on 2/6/04)
The unabashed laziness of mainstream horror films need not be recounted here, but even given the recent degradation of the genre, I’d be remiss in not singling out House of the Dead as both last year’s crappiest film ( it would have made my Worst of 2003 list had I seen it earlier) and one of the most astonishingly idiotic pieces of entertainment I’ve ever had the displeasure of sitting through. A group of Ken and Barbie look-alikes bribe a gun smuggler (Jürgen Prochnow) to take them to a happening rave on an island named Isle de la Muerte (“Muerte means death in Spanish” explains Albert Einstein, er, I mean Ron Howard’s bro Clint). They arrive to discover that the ravers have been turned into zombies who, for inexplicable reasons, have changed out of their loud, garish outfits and into drab work shirts and jeans. The personality-deprived zombies skitter and leapfrog around the woods, but it’s tough to be scared by creatures resembling deformed clowns swathed in white make-up and lipstick. Director Uwe Boll incessantly displays his inability to grasp The Matrix’s bullet-time special effects, and inserts lightening-quick footage of the film’s videogame source material for scene transition effects. What’s amazing, however, is that the film manages to be less frightening (or profound) than the game, which itself amounts to nothing more than a glorified "Duck Hunt" with monsters instead of birds. Nothing -- not the peripheral romantic subplots, not the evil villain’s sepia-toned origin story, not the perplexing, slow-motion final swordfight -- makes a lick of sense, but the film’s main criminal offense is that it fails to make such incoherence even mildly campy. House of the Dead is the kind of film that gives videogames and horror films (and the people who enjoy them) a bad name.