Not only is House of the Dead one of the worst movies based on a game, but also one of the worst movies ever made.
Uwe Boll is well-known for poorly directing film adaptations of video games. Some abominations that immediately come to mind are Bloodrayne, Bloodrayne II and Postal among some others. House of the Dead is no exception to this rule, as not only is this one of the worst movies based on a game, but also one of the worst movies ever made. Interestingly enough, this was the first film based on a game to be directed by the infamous director and the result is simply repulsive.
The plot is quite basic so don’t expect any kind of deep character development. In fact, expecting any kind of character development at all would be a serious mistake. At the beginning of this film, we meet a group of teenagers who want to go to a rave party that takes place in a faraway island. Unfortunately, they don’t make it in time to get a boat and lose their last chance to leave to the island. As a consequence, the immature group of teenagers tries renting a local fisherman’s boat to go to the party, but its owner blatantly refuses to take them there. Apparently, everyone who lives near the island fears the place as there are many legends making reference to unspeakable acts taking place there.
Eventually, one of the boys manages to persuade the captain to take them to the island by offering him one thousand dollars (I guess they really wanted to go to that party.) So they set out to “Isla de la Muerte” (that’s Spanish for “Island of Dead.”) They all eventually make it to the enigmatic island and once there, the protagonists realize that everyone has mysteriously disappeared. Instead of going back and calling for help, they start partying and drinking (because why wouldn’t they?) Soon enough, the usual events start taking place: members of the group who like to hang out on their own disappear and zombies make a not-so-elegant entrance.
Of course, cell phones don’t get reception, radios pick up interference and boats conspicuously disappear. Then, one by one, the rest of the survivors start perishing, but as the audience never gets to know any of them or their main motivations, caring about their demise is downright impossible. Moreover, some really unsuitable techno tracks accompany these death scenes and there’s neither emotional resonance nor an actual celebration of death, so the audience doesn’t how to react to these awkward moments.
As in other movies in the sub-genre, there are multiple references to the games (for example, the rave party is officially sponsored by SEGA.) But even when subtle references to the House of the Dead games were kind of expected, the director took this to an absurd extreme. He accomplished this by including actual footage of the light gun games and inserted those in specific parts of the movie. As you can imagine, the result is absolutely detrimental to the experience and these very contrived-looking shots quickly become a common sight. At first, these scenes will probably have a laughable effect, but soon enough they become tiring as they are repeated ad nauseam.
In addition, there are some popular culture references to TV series (Scooby Doo) and films (Romero’s Trilogy of the Dead and Scarface) so House of the Dead gives the impression of being extremely self-aware, quite confident of what it is and what it wants to be. But these moments are so poorly executed that they are more likely to make the audience roll their eyes in annoyance.
Additionally, almost at the end of the film there’s an overly long action scene which is preposterously over-the-top. That occurs when, conveniently enough, the few survivors left find a stash of weapons in the boat that took them to the island. They obviously use these to kill zombies, but they behave as if they have been doing that all their lives.
Apart from taking gameplay footage of the House of the Dead titles, there’s another technique the director repeats over and over again: bullet time. The director can’t be relied upon to give you the best view of the action as during the aforementioned action scene the camera violently rotates, jitters and wobbles as if it was controlled by an inebriated film student. Not only is following the action quite difficult, but also visually tiring.
House of the Dead is a mess of a film. It’s poorly directed, dialogues are utterly ridiculous, characters are lifeless and the action is dull and overly repetitive. The inclusion of certain techniques (such as bullet time and footage taken from the games) definitely detracts from the experience, to say the least. In the end, House of the Dead is a film with no redeeming qualities whatsoever and it definitely leaves a lot to be desired. If you’re looking for advice let me sum it up for you in only one sentence: under no circumstances should anybody watch House of the Dead.