Ah, Uwe Boll, the filmmaker that we (that is, we who enjoy non-sucky movies) love to hate. I must admit, I've managed to avoid Boll's oeuvre, never succumbing to the morbid curiosity that motivates so much of my viewing habits; perhaps its the constant video-game adaptation, which usually turns me off, or that he's achieved some sort of begrudging mainstream acceptance, but if it wasn't for this blog I still wouldn't have watched his 2003 breakout film HOUSE OF THE DEAD. (I did sign the petition that would cease and desist his directing career, mostly because I'm tired of him being called the modern-day Ed Wood. Wood at least gave a damn about his deliriously inept films; Boll's simply a hack with a knack more for self-promotional hucksterism than filmmaking.)
Detailing what's wrong about this silver-screen version of the Sega arcade game would be like describing a root canal--you've been there, you know how much it sucks. Watching it I was struck by how truly awful it really was, not just in the ways I expected--a pedestrian screenplay that serves as a bridge for shallow action set-pieces, phoned-in performances, and an overall air of apathy that hangs over the whole enterprise--but in ways I couldn't even imagine. Sure, I got an easy chuckle out of the so-called "rave" that the characters absolutely must get to (I'm no hipster by any means, but aren't raves supposed to be, like, at night? In underground clubs? Otherwise it wouldn't exactly be a rave, would it? Do people still go to raves anymore? And doesn't it look more like a sparsely-populated Goth cookout with clumsy Sega product placement than the ultimate party headquarters? Have you had enough rhetorical asides?), but what's the deal with the video-game clips that serve as ham-fisted transitions? Does Boll assume we'll keep forgetting what movie we're watching? Sorry about all these questions, but this is basically a transcript of my thought process as I waded through this offal. But while we're at it, just what kind of compromising photos did an actor like Jurgen Prochnow have to be in to get roped into this junk? Clint Howard I can understand, but the DAS BOOT guy? (Actually, I just scanned Prochnow's recent credits on IMDB, and his appearance here doesn't seem quite so incongruous anymore.) And speaking of actors, I don't expect anything remotely resembling a three-dimensional performance in this dross, but dammit if you're going to compare a character to Foxy Brown, you damn well better make her a bad-ass Pam Grier would approve of. Otherwise, why bother?
HOUSE OF THE DEAD is faithful to the source material, if that's your thing, in that it's nothing more characters shooting a procession of pop-up zombies; so faithful, in fact, that most of the actors stroll through their roles with the same passion as a bored kid plugging in quarters. But unlike RESIDENT EVIL or SILENT HILL which at least tried to emulate the game-playing experience, HOUSE saves any direct connection until the end for a gimmicky twist--hell, the movie's halfway over before they even reach the titular house.
And when the characters finally make their way to the house it's a show-stopping, jaw-dropping piece de resistance that rivals nothing I can recall in recent memory--not even TROLL 2 or SHOWGIRLS--for spectacularly bad cinema, a mind-numbing, repetitive "action" sequence with such an abuse of the 360-degree turn-table technique that it makes Jess Franco's zoom fetish look positively restrained. God, just writing about this transcendentally abysmal set-piece is exhausting me.
Coming soon (that is, when I can muster the courage and/or consume a sufficient amount of alcohol) we'll take a look at the Boll-less--no, no pun, too easy!--HOUSE OF THE DEAD 2, but for now I just want to lie in a dark room and wait for the image of Clint Howard in Gorton's Fisherman drag to clear my head.