HOUSE OF THE DEAD II
Directed by Mike Hurst
Produced by Mark A. Altman, Mark Gottwald
Written by Mark A. Altman
Director of Photograpy Raymond Stella
Music by Joe Kraemer
Cast: Emmanuelle Vaugier, Ed Quinn, Vitoria Pratt & Sticky Fingaz
2005/95 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.78:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Lionsgate Home Entertainment DVD
I'm not here to re-open the much cited debate about the quality of sequels. Having said that, I think that most of us will agree that sequels are typically inferior products. (Wait for it...I do have a point...) But, what about those sequels which shouldn't exist? How do we rate the sequels that follow up a film which was awful to begin with? These films are the exception to the rule, as they actually have a strong fighting chance at being better than their predecessor. A case in point is HOUSE OF THE DEAD II. For many, if this film was simply in focus then it would be better than Uwe Boll's 2003 opus HOUSE OF THE DEAD.
Save for a small reference to the first film, HOUSE OF THE DEAD II is basically a stand-alone film. The film opens on the campus of Cuesta Verde University, where we learn that Professor Curien (Sid Haig) has been attempting to reanimate corpses. Much to his surprise, Curien is successful, but his reanimated corpses are bloodthirsty monsters. An organization called AMS learns of the zombie problem at the college and plans to send two of their agents, Ellis (Ed Quinn) and Alex (Emmanuelle Vaugier), in to handle the situation. The agents will be escorted by a military unit headed by Dalton (Sticky Fingaz). Ellis and Alex hope to find the zombie which started the plague, as the blood of this zombie can be used to make an antidote. The group only has a few hours to locate this specimen before the area is besieged by cruise missiles. Not surprisingly, once the group reaches the campus, they find themselves outnumbered and all hell breaks loose.
Allow me to quote the great Chas. Balun and say that comparing HOUSE OF THE DEAD and HOUSE OF THE DEAD II is like "comparing dog shit to goat shit." But, given the fact that HOUSE OF THE DEAD II isn't a very good movie, it is better than the original. If nothing else, the second film is more palatable due to the fact that it doesn't have the pretentious air which permeated HOUSE OF THE DEAD. HOUSE OF THE DEAD II doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is -- a gory zombie movie. Aside from the subplot concerning the blood of the original zombie creating an antidote (which is actually an interesting idea), the movie is short on plot and is basically a series of scenes where the soldiers fight the zombies. Despite the "R-rating", the movie is gory and features plenty of bloody zombie-inflicted injuries.
The movie may be a no-nonsense zombie movie, but compared to others in the genre, it's not a very good one, as the film is chock full of problems. Say what you will about HOUSE OF THE DEAD, but Boll was able to give the film a slick look. That is noticeably absent here, as HOUSE OF THE DEAD II simply looks cheap. There is a moment during Sid Haig's cameo where he simply stands still for a moment, seemingly unsure of what to do, and the words "Ed Wood" suddenly popped into my mind. The writing is sloppy with the most notable problem concerning zombie blood. At one point, Alex warns a soldier to not touch zombie blood, as the zombie virus can be transmitted that way. Subsequently, Ellis and Alex are constantly splattered with zombie blood and at one point, Ellis covers himself with it on purpose! Not to mention the fact that the AMS agents are supposedly experts in dealing with zombies and they seem surprised when the soldiers begin to die! A subplot concerning Ellis' dead brother goes nowhere and the characters are all one-dimensional. The acting is wooden and the cast is ultimately forgettable.
Once again, producer Mark A. Altman has sucker-punched fans of the "House of the Dead" video games by releasing a film which uses the video game name, but has nothing to do with the games. (And, as with the first film, there's not a significant house in HOUSE OF THE DEAD II.) I won't get on my soapbox here, but this is truly a shame as the games have a coherent storyline and a great assortment of monsters which could make for a good movie. Instead, we get the character Jordan Casper (Ellie Cornell) from the first film who has somehow gone from being a cop to a Colonel in the military. Does that make sense? Zombie completists may get a kick from HOUSE OF THE DEAD II, but just because it's better than the first movie doesn't mean that it's worth seeing.
HOUSE OF THE DEAD II shuffles onto DVD courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. I'm not sure of the films original aspect ratio or if HOUSE OF THE DEAD II was a victim of Lionsgate apparent insistence of making all films 1.78:1. I do know that the film was shot with a theatrical release in mind, but instead, it debuted on TV. The image looks OK, but it is marred by noticeable grain. Also, the image is incredibly flat and the colors are dull. They are never washed out looking, but they never have any pizazz. The picture is somewhat dark, but the action is always visible. Mild artifacing is evident on the image. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound effects are not bad, but they are often a bit too discreet. Subwoofer response is noticeable, but never more than average.
The HOUSE OF THE DEAD II DVD carries a few extras. We start with an Audio Commentary from director Michael Hurst and producer/writer Mark A. Altman. This is an OK talk, but the pair get off topic far too often and the commentary is never as scene specific as I would have liked. Altman does make some comments stating that HOUSE OF THE DEAD was a disappointment. The DVD contains four Deleted Scenes which run 4 1/2 minutes. This contains two complete scenes which are only hinted at in the opening credits montage. "Reinventing the House: Making a Bloody Sequel" is a 13-minute featurette which contains comments from cast and crew, as well as behind-the-scenes footage. Here, Altman states, "I wanted to make STARSHIP TROOPERS on a college campus." Did we see the same movie?
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©