Film Review: House of the Dead II - Dead Aim (2006)

Directed by Michael Hurst, written by Mark A. Altman and Mark Gottwald, and starring Emmanuelle Vaugier, Ed Quinn, Sticky Fingaz, Victoria Pratt, Nadine Velazquez, and Ellie Cornell.

"In Guesta Verde University, the deranged Professor Curien is trying to bring back the dead, killing students for the experiment. There is an outbreak of zombies in the campus, and the government sends a NSA medical research team, formed by Dr. Alexandra Morgan a.k.a. Nightingale and lieutenant Ellis, with a special force leaded by lieutenant Dalton, trying to get the zero sample from the first generation zombie. The team has a very short time to accomplish their mission and leave the place before missiles are sent to destroy the area. However, the place is crowded of hyper sapiens and the group has to fight to survive."

"Director Uwe Boll did not return to the sequel due to his commitment to BloodRayne (2005). When asked about the "Dead" sequel during its production, Boll himself wished the crew 'good luck.'" And with that we enter into the rare realm of a sequel surpassing the original, in almost every respect. Gone is the camp, and the terrible action filming, and here we have a more serious approach to horror, though in the end it falls a bit flat. Though the the original's successor is somewhat stale, one has to find it a bit noteworthy in the fact that one of the screenplay writers was present for both movies: Mark A. Altman. There is still some tacky dialog here and there, that could in all probability be blamed on him, but the sole fault of the original's mess seems to rest on Uwe Boll's shoulders.

Even though the title makes less sense this time around, with the movie centering around a college campus, the second in the series based off the Sega arcade games is superior in many respects. Even a few new ideas to the zombie sub-genre are thrown into the mix, namely infection being able to spread through mosquito bites. The acting is slightly improved, mainly by to two leads: Emmanuelle Vaugier and Ed Quinn, two AMS agents. There are ties to the original, but not too many to drag it down to its level. Even "Ellie Cornell returned as Colonel Jordan Casper even though, in House of the Dead, her character died. Casper was inserted during a script rewrite." There are a few laughs to be had, but overall, the movie is darker and more serious in tone. Here and there you'll see references to other films, such as Ghostbusters and even Boll's Alone in the Dark. With the success of its rival video game adaptation Resident Evil, one can see many similarities hoping to draw in more of its fans. It's not overly prominent, but enough for zombie fans to notice.
Aside from the better action sequences and more competent acting, I found myself enjoying quite a few scenes, specifically fighting the undead football players on the field and one great scene features a stand-off between two female special forces soldiers and the team asshole, who reminds me a little too much of Jeffery Combs, although the outcome leaves a little more to be desired. Without spoiling anything, if the situation had gone down differently, it could have made for an interesting twist in the final thirty or so minutes.

Regardless, I found this SciFi premiere, zombie sequel to be a better paced, more engaging film than its predecessor. No alcohol needed. Though most fans seem to be practically unanimous on this, critics have panned it almost across the board: "[It's] the cinematic equivalent of a rectal exam. Uncomfortable, embarrassing, painful, disconcerting, you just want it to end already, and when you're done you're bitter and sour. And you can't shake that feeling that you've been violated." I have a feeling that the reviewer spent more time coming up with something witty to say than the whole time he sat through the 95-minute movie. Also, look for the always awesome Sid Haig at the beginning as the college professor who started this whole epidemic.

Best quote: "Hey, zombies don't read. And they ain't hooked on phonics. So give it a rest."


Tower Farm said...

This site is a treasure! It is absolutely awesome.

I have been curious about HOUSE OF DEAD 2 for a long time, but not been brave enough to check it out. I am glad that Elie Cornell (Halloween's 4 and 5) is still working.


Ryan Coddington said...

Thanks, JM. I appreciate the compliments. I'd recommend a rental on this one. It's definitely a step up from its predecessor, at the very least.

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