Thursday, May 27, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #42, House of the Dead

The Prince of Persia opens tomorrow and one of my friends asked me if I thought it would be any good. Lucky for them, I had done some research into the matter of movies based on video games when I watched a previous movie on this list. That research showed that the video game movie agreed upon by most people as the best is Mortal Kombat, hardly a classic. The realistic high end of hopes on The Prince of Persia is probably somewhere around the level of The Mummy. But what, pray tell, are the odds of a film breaking out of its genre to even that extreme?

So, there's my review of a movie I won't see as preface to my review of the great Uwe Boll's first video game movie, House of the Dead. That game was a first-person zombie shooter with little plot to speak of, so Boll made his movie as a prequel to the game. I'm glad I read the Wikipedia entry on what the game was so that the end of the movie made any kind of dramatic sense to me, but plot doesn't matter in a Boll film; it's all about the violence and the bad acting. There's plenty of both in this one. Various limbs getting chopped off, a bunch of actors we'd never see again, Clint Howard cheesing it up and eventually becoming a zombie, Jurgen Prochnow acting all Jurgen Prochnow-y.

Since this was an early Boll movie, he seems to have actually cared about what he was doing, evidenced by the artistic shooting style. That's not quite right. "Artistic." There you go. Boll's dearth of talent means that his attempt at art falls just a bit short. As in he tries to intersperse scenes from the video game (mind you that this game is not new, so the graphics are not that good) with the movie. He uses clips as cuts between scenes and, in the grand ten-minute long battle sequence, he actually has the people shooting the zombies and the images of exploding zombies melting in and out with similar shots from the game. Flawless editing. He also uses slow-motion excessively, including shots during the big battle sequence where the camera pans around each combatant like in that crappy video that Van Halen shot with Gary Cherone. (Holy crap, that song was awful.) My favorite scene in the movie, the one I watched three times, is when the main character is watching his friend be killed by zombies. As she screams, the camera zooms on his face and he looks pensive and then begins to have memories of their time together. Those memories come in the form of a montage of various shots from earlier in the movie, set to techno music. As the beat speeds up, the images fly by faster and faster. Unfortunately, it didn't give me a seizure and knock me out for the rest of the movie, but I thought and hoped that it might. You can actually see that sequence at the 3:53 mark of this amusing video (with an amusing spelling error in the title) that also features some of the other "artistic techniques" I discussed.

Unlike The Prince of Persia, House of the Dead was made on a low budget. Low budget, like Boll emptied out his pocket and made the movie for $2.17, lint, a button, and a buy-one-get-one-free coupon from Rita's. With a bigger budget, the newest video game movie may be bad on an even grander scale! Maybe someday, someone will make an Oscar-caliber Crash Bandicoot film or Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo will each take home awards when they reprise their famous roles in Super Mario Galaxy: The Movie. Until then, we'll have Mortal Kombat and multiple Street Fighter movies and Uwe Boll. Thank heaven for small favors.

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