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No raves for 'House,' but cast is game for grisly fun

October 13, 2003|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

There's scarcely a whiff of originality in the zombie horror picture "House of the Dead," but Uwe Boll has directed it with enough energy and style that it adds up to passably mindless if grisly fun.

Dave Parker and Mark A. Altman's serviceable plot finds five University of Washington students missing a party boat for a spring break rave on a remote island in the strait of Juan de Fuca. They soon have reason to be sorry that they succeed in plying fishing boat captain Victor Kirk (Juergen Prochnow) and his goofy, jittery first mate (Clint Howard) with enough cash to transport them to the island --it's not called La Isla de Morte for nothing.

La Isla, it seems, was the refuge of a Spanish pirate (David Palffy) with a passion for eternal life and enough knowledge of alchemy to transform the native population into zombies. Inside the pirate's mansion the students find three people who are the only survivors of a zombie attack on the rave. The question swiftly becomes whether anyone will survive to tell the story of what has happened.

None of this is exactly riveting or even very scary, so predictable is the material. But the film's roster of young actors, headed by Jonathan Cherry and Ona Grauer, give this hokum all they've got, with the seasoned Prochnow, star of the classic "Das Boot," and the reliably colorful Howard providing ballast. Parker and Altman aren't bad at structure, but their dialogue includes such deathless lines as "There must be some scientific explanation for all this," and "We can't stay here for long, those creatures are everywhere!"

"House of the Dead," which surely benefits from David Richardson's dynamic editing, is no great shakes, but it does reveal a concern for decent craftsmanship.


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'House of the Dead'

MPAA rating: R for pervasive strong violence/gore, language and some nudity..

Times guidelines: Standard zombie horror film violence, some language, brief nudity.

Jonathan Cherry...Rudy

Tyron Leitso...Simon

Clint Howard...Salish

Ona Grauer...Alicia

Ellie Cornell...Casper

Juergen Prochnow... Kirk

An Artisan Entertainment release of a Doll KG Productions presentation in association with Mindfire Entertainment, Herold & Besser Studios and Brightlight Pictures. Director Uwe Boll. Producers Boll, Wolfgang Herold, Shawn Williamson. Executive producers Mark A. Altman, Dan Bates, Mark Gottwald, Daniel Kletzky. Screenplay Dave Parker and Mark A. Altman; based on the Sega videogame franchise. Cinematographer Mathias Neumann. Editor David Richardson. Music Reinhard Besser, Peter Ries. Costumes Lorraine Carson. Production designer Tink. Art director Peter Stratford. Set decorator Ida Foyle. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.

In general release.

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