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House of the Dead

Most videogame-derived movies have failed because attempts to graft conventional character/story onto purely sensory original material didn't take. But director Uwe Boll's version of popular Sega game "House of the Dead" really <I>makes </I>no attempt at character or story development. Pic is as close to vidgaming as cinema has gotten.

With:
Rudy - Jonathan Cherry Simon - Tyron Leitso Salish - Clint Howard Alicia - Ona Grauer Casper - Ellie Cornell Greg - Will Sanderson Karma - Enuka Okuma Liberty - Kira Clavell Cynthia - Saloma Salomaa Hugh - Michael Eklund Castillo - David Palffy Captain Kirk - Jurgen Prochnow

This article was updated Oct. 9, 2003 at 3:45 p.m.

Most videogame-derived movies have failed because attempts to graft conventional character/story onto purely sensory original material didn’t take. But director Uwe Boll’s German-financed, Vancouver-shot, English-language bigscreen version of popular Sega game “House of the Dead” really makes no attempt at character or story development. There’s establishment of premise, introduction of cannon-fodder leads, then action, action, action — making “House” as close to vidgaming as cinema has gotten. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on just how much 14-year-old boy you’ve got in ya. More hectic than scary, but for sure not dull (and perhaps preferable in its frank cartoonishness to pretentious fantasy behemoths like “Daredevil”), this loud, dumb, bloody effort should have a long home-viewing shelf life among its youthful target demo. Theatrical runs are likely to be much briefer, with some territories requiring gore trimmed before pic can get an “R” equivalent.

Framed by sole survivor Rudy’s (Jonathan Cherry from “Final Destination 2”) gloomy voiceover recall, feature has a quintet of hotties dismayed at missing the last boat from Seattle to “the rave of the year” on a San Juan Island dubbed “Isla del Muerte.” They bribe Captain Kirk (Jurgen Prochnow, doing a roadshow Ahab) and skittish first mate Salish (Clint Howard) into ferrying them via fishing boat. Meanwhile, one skinny-dipping lass and her boyfriend are first victims of as-yet-unseen marauders.

Once landed, the comely kids find the rave site trashed and ominously unpopulated. Several set off to locate where the party’s moved to, leaving Cynthia (Sonya Salomaa) behind — to her great misfortune. Meanwhile the others have discovered a creepy old house, as well as the few rave-slaughter survivors hiding inside. One shows video footage he’d shot of that prior party melee — which reps pic’s one disappointing, “Blair Witch”-style cheating of a major setpiece.

Upon their return, Cynthia has already converted into a zombie. The survivors make a fruitless attempt to re-board the fishing boat, only to discover these undeads can swim — as well as run fast and jump very far. Captain Kirk is still alive, however, and the wealth of weapons he’s smuggling prove quite useful. He also relates the legend behind Isla del Muerte, told in sepia flashback.

Group decides to make for the aforementioned house, involving a prolonged graveyard battle aping familiar vid-game, “Matrix” and “Crouching Tiger”-style FX.

Action is intercut with flashes of the Sega graphics, underlining the sense that “House” means to amplify — rather than layer a story onto — the game’s cartoon carnage. Pop-culture references are rife, from “Scooby-Doo” to George Romero. Unlike latter’s original “Living Dead” pics, however, gore in “House” is mostly too silly to be stomach-churning. There’s not enough character identification to create real suspense, though most thesps maintain an admirably straight face. Suggestions that pic doesn’t take itself at all seriously are clear in the outre nature of the action. Still, dialogue badly needs wit; it’s dirt-dumb without signaling overt ironic intent.

Hyperactive lensing and editing, lurid coloration, soundtrack of surprisingly conventional orchestrations and intermittent rap-rock bombast all do their intended bits. Overall package is glossy-professional, with no subtlety achieved or desired.

House of the Dead

U.S.-Canada-Germany

Production: An Artisan (in U.S.)/Odeon (in Canada) release of a Boll Kino Beteiligungs (Germany)/Brightlights (Vancouver)/Mindfire (Los Angeles) production. (International sales: Interactive Film Sales Intl., Marina Del Rey.) Producers, Uwe Boll, Wolfgang Herold, Shawn Williamson. Executive producers, Mark A. Altman, Mark Gottwald, Dan Bates, Daniel S. Kletzky, Michael Roesch. Directed by Uwe Boll. Screenplay, Mark A. Altman, Dave Parker, based on the Sega videogame.

Crew: Camera (color), Mathias Neumann; editor, David M. Richardson; music, Reinhard Besser; production designer, Tink; art director, Peter Stratford; set decorator, Ide Foyle; costume designer, Lorraine Carson; sound, Wolfgang Herold; special makeup effects, Bill Terazakis; second unit directors, Dean Choe, Robert Lee; stunt coordinator, Choe; visual effects supervisors, Alain and Doug de Silva, Jan Stolz, Christian Haas; associate producers, Max Wanko, Dan Sales; assistant director, Bryan C. Knight; casting, Maureen Webb. Reviewed at the Fifth Avenue Cinema, Vancouver, Oct. 7, 2003. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: Rudy - Jonathan Cherry Simon - Tyron Leitso Salish - Clint Howard Alicia - Ona Grauer Casper - Ellie Cornell Greg - Will Sanderson Karma - Enuka Okuma Liberty - Kira Clavell Cynthia - Saloma Salomaa Hugh - Michael Eklund Castillo - David Palffy Captain Kirk - Jurgen Prochnow

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