House of the Dead II (2005)
By: J.R. McNamara on May 9, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Lions Gate (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. English, Spanish Subtitles. 95 minutes
The Movie
Director: Michael Hurst
Starring: Emmanuelle Vaugier, Ed Quinn, Victoria Pratt, Sticky Fingaz, Nadine Velazquez, Steve Monroe
Screenplay: Mark A. Altman
Country: USA
I always love to get care packages in the mail: little boxes of joy that contain DVDs or toys or whatever. Today, one turned up and one of the things that was in it was the non Uwe Boll directed House of the Dead 2. A movie based on one of my FAVOURITE arcade games of all time, House of the Dead, a game made by SEGA, where the player is armed with a handgun, and is facing off against a mall-load of the undead. This was to be a grand sequel that isn't directed by dodgy director yet apparent nice guy, Uwe Boll, who was directing another video game property, Bloodrayne. This was to be a new, fresh zombie movie, where highly trained soldiers battle the undead in a gore-fest for all ages…well all ages over the age of 18 or accompanied by an adult anyway. Now, here I sit, 95 odd minutes later, awash with disappointment, not just in the fact that the movie was substandard, but also in the fact that I have to watch it again with the director's commentary on. The tale of House of the Dead 2 goes like this: during a collegiate hazing, a young girl falls afoul of the villainous Professor Curien (Sid Haig), who is trying to bring the dead back to life, until one of his experiments escapes, causing a virus to be released on a campus, infecting the students. 29 days later, two experts in the field of zombie hunting, Alex (Emmanuelle Vaugier) and Ellis (Ed Quinn) accompany a crack team of soldiers onto the campus to collect blood from the source of the virus, the original zombie, so they can create a vaccine to protect the world against the spreading menace. Unfortunately, even though the Special Forces team is made up of experts in the field of war, a campus overrun by zombies isn't their field, and things fall apart…

Let's start off with one aspect of this film that was also a problem with the first one: where is the freaking house? The movie is called House of the Dead, the game on which this film is based featured a damned BIG house, so where is the house? The first film had a house whose exterior was so small it should have been called "Shed of the Dead', and this one takes place on an 'isolated college campus' (who isolates a college, wouldn't it be smarter to put it in a town so the local community would benefit from the kids as a part of their social and financial infrastructure?), so shouldn't it be called 'Isolated College Campus of the Dead'? Continuity faults abound in this film, so much so that it becomes annoyingly ridiculous. Almost every character gets covered in a blood splatters which move around from shot to shot, that is not just sloppy editing, it is plain out bad filmmaking. The solders in this film are described as 'Special Forces', I think they mean 'special' as in 'retarded' as these soldiers were such a bunch of badly organized clowns, they wouldn't have even gotten a job at a school fete. Don't get me wrong, I don't expect a film about zombies to be 'realistic' or the situations to be 'sensible', but for Uwe's sake, I expect the soldiers to at least act like soldiers. I am no military expert, but these guys weren't even following basic HUMAN instinct, let alone those of a highly trained soldier. Funnily enough, the first House of the Dead was criticized for having college kids acting like army trained professionals, and this one has army trained professional who act like college kids. AT some points the movie tries to be deadly serious, but the acting isn't the greatest, so it comes off as forced, and some of the horror homage's (one character refers to being left 'Alone in the Dark', and most of the action takes place '29 Days Later' after the prologue) are so obviously placed, that I kept expecting someone to elbow me and say 'Geddit? Geddit?'. The zombie fan will find a hell of a lot of the set pieces in this film reminiscent of other zombie genre pics.

I don't normally like to be this critical of a film, but while watching it, I felt like I was having my intelligence insulted: attention moviemakers, just because we like horror movies, that doesn't mean we are idiots. No, if you want to pander to the idiots, make romantic comedies instead. Another thing I found a bit dumb about this film is in the liner notes, which is a four page booklet…ok, it is a piece of glossy paper folded in half, writer/ producer Mark A. Altman hangs a bit of well deserved rubbish on the first movie (which HE wrote as well) and on the 'teen horror' genre as well, while praising this film, which he describes as 'The Wrath of Khan of zombie movie'…Mark, this isn't even the 'Spock's Brain' of zombie movies.
A bit of artifact interference occasionally on this movie, but basically a good picture with a clear image…which is probably a bad thing.
I wasn't really impressed with the sound on this picture. It did utilize the 5.1 to some effect, but not wholly. It lacked atmosphere!
Extra Features
There is a director's commentary, which has input from director Mike Hurst and writer Mark A. Altman. They talk a lot about the genesis of this film, and how Altman wanted to make Starship Troopers on a college campus. It is also mentioned that this is a part of a trilogy, the final part being about the destruction of mankind…. please help us. I think that these gentlemen think they have a new 'zombie trilogy' on their hands. I pray for them that the legions of Romero fans don't get their hands on their mobile numbers.

There are 4 deleted scenes titled Panty Raid (51 seconds), Football Practice (1 minute 17 seconds), Library Scene (50 seconds) and Exterior Dorm (1 minute 34 seconds). These scenes neither add nor take anything away from the film, although it is disappointing to see that there was more sorority girl tom-foolery that was edited from the final cut.

Re-inventing the House: Making a Bloody Sequel (13 minutes 22 seconds) is a basic making of with interviews with various cast and crew members.

There are trailers on this disc for Lion's Gate Films' House of the Dead 2, Alone in the Dark, Attack of the Sabretooth, The Triangle and Fierce People.
The Verdict
There is no doubt this film is better than the first House of the Dead, but that is like saying you like your Mum better than your Dad coz' when she cuts you, she doesn't make you roll in salt. There are some positives about this film though: nudity, some decent zombie make up, and Sid Haig…and that's about it.
Movie Score
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