House of the Dead 2 (Review)

House of the Dead 2

aka House of the Dead 2: Dead Aim

Emmanuelle Vaugier as Alex “Nightingale”
Ed Quinn as Ellis
Sticky Fingaz as Dalton
Victoria Pratt as Henson
James Parks as Bart
Dan Southworth as Nakagawa
Nadine Velazquez as Rodriguez
Sid Haig as Professor Curien
Directed by Michael Hurst

Dr. Uwe Boll shocked the world with his adaptation of Sega Games House of the Dead. Shocked as in people were shocked at how inept and mishandled a movie could be in this day and age. Despite being a bigger box office bomb than Hiroshima, House of the Dead made money, mostly through advanced DVD sales and television rights selling, combined with a German tax loophole that Boll is an expert in exploiting. Following the rules of Hollywood, if a movie even makes 1/2 a cent of profit, a sequel is instantly approved. Thus, we now are graced with House of the Dead 2. 95% of sequels are worse than their predecessors, but this is one of the rare 5% that is actually better than the film it’s related to. Does that make HOTD2 a good movie? Far from it, but it’s much more fun, and put together better. It’s still full of plot holes so large the planet earth could glide through with zero difficulty, and acting that’s outshone by posters on the wall. Dr. Boll was busy filming BloodRayne, so he was unable to make Cinematic Abortion 2: Abortion Boogaloo, so instead we get former kickboxing champion Michael Hurst. Michael Hurst may be familiar to you as the cowriter of Mansquito and Nature Unleashed: Fire, so he is versatile in the realm of schlock and crap. The two main stars are Ed Quinn from Starship Troopers 2, and Emmanuelle Vaugier, fresh off her starring role in Cerberus. Bonus stars who are actually much more famous than the leads include Sticky Fingaz as the leader of the Special forces group, who will become Blade in the TV series based on the movies. We also get Sid Haig, from House of 1000 Corpses, who must be trying to corner the market on House of…. movies, when he’s not starring with Pam Grier. There’s also a Power Ranger running around somewhere. Sure, it’s a dangerous film, fraught with the horrors of bad cinema, but it outshines it’s predecessor in several way. Is there any video game scenes as cuts? Is there 360 degree Matrix-style shots of every character? Is the small improvements enough to prevent damage to the minds of those who see this? Read on, read on…

We open with a bunch of fraternity loser prepping up like they are army troops, arming their Super Soakers full of beer for the upcoming panty raid. They head to the Sorority house of Zeta Iota Tau, yes, ZIT is displayed proudly by their door! This movie is already better than the first one! Tough job, that. One of the Sorostitutes leaves, walking right by one of the Fratboys crouched in the bushes, yet fails to notice him. One wonders how air headed you have to be to not notice a crouching guy mere inches from you, but it must be his camouflage doing it’s job. The attack begins, led by a pizza guy who whips out his unit, followed by charging beer guns. We get…BEER! BOOBS!!! SEX!!! Party time! Sex is provided by Sorority girl Tracy, who was about to get it on with her Frat Man when a pledge jumps in and takes pictures. It’s all part of Frat Man’s master plan, of something or other, that winds up with him having a picture of Tracy’s bare back, and a warning from her that she better not find those pictures on the internet. She makes no effort at all to get the camera as she storms off in a huff. Outside, she gets broadsided by a car the second she walks into the road, blind with rage. Professor Sig Haig gets out, whose current hairdo makes him look like he just Quantum Leaped here from 1863. Tracy is okay, until Professor Haig whacks her with a shovel, finishing the job, and shoving her into his trunk. He takes her back to his lab to begin his ghastly experiments. Not really ghastly, I just wanted to use a line from a 1950’s film there for a bit. His lame experiments where he fails to follow even the most basic of scientific procedures.

He firstly snips off all of Tracy’s clothes, thus giving us Full Frontal Nudity, part of HOTD2’s continual effort to be better than it’s predecessor. That makes up for the next bit, where Sid Haig injects her with a compound, and when it doesn’t instantaneously bring her back to life, he starts on a long lament about how he failed. Literally less than a second after injection, he gives up, never mind that she has no circulation because she’s dead. Sid Haig’s performance here is very sub-par, subterranean-par even. The skills of a bad director show, but he’s still acting better than Michael Madsen in BloodRayne. Professor Sid Haig reveals he has another zombie trapped in a room, that he’s using her to try to make a working version of “Bring People to Life” Juice. He also manages to work in “Alone in the Dark” in his speech as a meta-reference. Professor Haig turns around, still lamenting, when he notices the slab he had naked Tracy on is now empty, with a Naked Tracy loose on campus. Loose as in right behind him, where she takes a chomp out of his neck, making him Zombie number 2!

We jump to the opening credits, which strive to be a low-budget version of the Dawn of the Dead remake credits, complete with a low budget song. We see Naked Tracy Zombie biting her ex-boyfriend, followed by more biting as more and more people become zombies, including football players. It’s now, thanks to a handy graphic, 29 days later. Ha-Ha! At least they’re trying. We jump to character Alex, nicknamed Nightingale, played by Emmanuelle Vaugier, who is on a date with someone she met on the internet (is that EVER a good idea?) who claims to be a neurosurgeon, but as we find out in a bit is actually an assistant manager at Blockbuster. At the restaurant, the Cook who is French but probably named Cookie like all cooks, goes outside, and gets bit by Zombie Sid Haig. Nightingale finds out quickly from the waiter, and heads to the kitchen. She shoots the cook, and the waiter is bit in the process. Meanwhile, Col. Jordan Casper, who is from the first film but I think she died in it (great, now I have to rewatch it to find out. Thanks, HOTD2, you’ve proven how deadly you are!) heads up the agency AMS, and demands Nightingale. She orders Ellis to go get her, as he’s the other main character. Ellis wanders up to the restaurant just in time to ride in the ambulance with the bitten waiter and Nightingale. They chat a bit while you find out Ellis’s brother Tom just died of Zombie-bite-itis. I was expecting Tom to be from the original HOTD, but safely for us he’s not. So we now are in a world where zombie outbreaks are common enough to have a special international team set up to stop them, called AMS. They say it’s international, but it seems to be just Ellis, Nightingale, and American Military person Col. Casper. So it’s that new definition of “international” certain current presidents like to use. The waiter turns into a zombie and Ellis casually shoots him in the head, blood flying everywhere and all over both of them, yet they don’t care at all. Shouldn’t they be afraid of Zombie-goo infecting them? Guess not. Oh, by the way, they aren’t zombies, they are “hyper-Sapiens.” Yep, the PC term for zombies has been invented in this movie, making them sound like regular folks who drank too much Jolt Cola.

Back in AMS headquarters, they are having firing practice, with targets topped with Paris Hilton photos. They need Ellis and Nightingale to get blood samples of a first generation zombie, so they can develop a cure. This is at the college, where currently no one knows about the infection. Because in 29 days, no parent would call their child, nor no kid would be able to use his or her cell phone to call anyone and say “Hey, we’re getting eatin’ by zombies here, yo!” So, Ellis and Nightingale are to go in with some Special Forces, lead by Sticky Fingaz. Sticky and Ellis get into a territorial fight that always happens in these movies, until Col. Casper stops it, claiming the orders are “straight from the president, as explained to him by the vice-president!” Excellent dig, this movie gains one point. Next, we get introduced to the soldiers. We have: Tough Guy, Azn Guy, Horny/Sleazy Guy (named Bart), Fat Guy, Feisty Latina Girl (Rodriguez), and Hot Model Blonde in Lingerie (Lt. Henson). They have a co-ed locker room, but they don’t bother to show any nakedness. Ellis doesn’t like the soldiers, and Bart doesn’t like the scientists. Bart will be our “flavor character,” the one they give all the “good” lines to in an effort to make him lecherous or disgusting for our amusement, such as “they’ll be hiding behind our pantyhose!” Yep. He also says of Nightingale and Ellis “I’ll give them plenty of blood to analyze if they need it!” which makes no sense, especially since he says it with sexual overtones. There are a few other soldiers, but they don’t have any lines and they’ll be dead soon enough, anyway. You see, whenever a movie has two main characters, a guy and a girl, who are accompanied by lots of soldiers, every single one of the soldiers will die. We’ve seen it in Pterodactyl, for example. They head out all the way to the college, which is supposed to be far away or something. Which makes me wonder how Professor Haig wandered all the way to the city, into the heart of the city, and only bit one guy, yet none of the other college zombies did. The College Town is going to be Cruise Missiled to death in a few hours, so they need to get the blood samples ASAP. Sticky Fingaz’s team has never fought zombies before, so this is their baptism by fire. They get off to a great start in the swamps outside of town, as a zombie wanders by and Sticky shoots it a few times. Unfortunately, the blood sample shows it’s Third Generation, so no good. They also comment on the zombie having larger teeth, showing they are mutating. Or maybe this zombie didn’t have dental insurance and couldn’t afford braces, you ever think of that, AMS? Stop using your “Jump to Conclusions” Mat and get in gear!

Zombie number 2 attacks, heading for a Special Forces guy who was a Power Ranger, Dan Southworth from Power Rangers Time Force. Dan loses his gun, but just wrestles the zombie for a while, even after he has plenty of time to pick his gun up again. His idiocy comes at a heavy price, for he is bitten. No, no, Power Ranger! Instead of letting Nightingale and Ellis shoot him, Sticky says “We take care of our own,” and they chop off the Ranger’s bitten arm. This fails to stop the turning, and Power Ranger bites the Medic, who’s name is not important, as Ellis shoots both of them. Meanwhile, the Fat Guy troop who we’ll just call Flounder, but is probably named O’Conner, starts freaking out. He’s Flounder because this movie’s college location probably attracted all the Bluto wanna-bes who are really Flounders, and he’s the one who got the part. Give him ten thousand marbles. The team splits up, because they always do stuff like that in these movies. On campus, Bart steals a ring and a cell phone from a dead guy, even answering the phone, telling the caller the recipient is dead. Hey, way to keep this zombie outbreak on the down low! I mean, the “hyper-sapien” outbreak. Bart’s with the two ladies, Lt. Henson and Rodriquez. Group two contains everyone else, so it’s not an even split (also, guys at the truck waiting behind, but they don’t count.) Group two heads to the library, where Black Guy and Flounder find a guy reading a book with headphones on. Because, as Black Guy reasons, “Zombies don’t read,” he heads over to him, but it turns out it’s a Zombie Geek, who it turns out was reading! Black Guy is saved by Ellis again, as Flounder does nothing but panic. We also get a “Shhhhh”ing Librarian Zombie, who’s also capped by Ellis. These Special Forces Guys ARE useless.

To prove my last point, Bart and his team stumble across a topless zombie, who is shot up, then Bart takes his picture with the dead zombie, and makes other disgusting comments, to his teammates despair. Way to bring up modern day Iraq scandals! Rodriquez figures out that the topless zombie doesn’t have any bite marks and was trapped in a room, wondering how she was infected. Less than a second later, Bart is bitten by a mosquito. So Zombie-itis (or Hyper-Sapiens-itis) is like malaria now. Bart tries to bribe his way to freedom, offering half a million each, that would be given to him by pharmaceutical companies for the blood samples. He gets knocked out and chained to a radiator. Meanwhile, with the big group, several more zombies are gunned down in an arcade. Nightingale tells Sticky to be careful when handling the Zombie blood, because he might get infected. Why they are suddenly so worried about being infected when they have been covered with blood for most of the previous parts of the movie is a mystery. An Unsolved Mystery. Also, in about three seconds, they’ll never care about being infected by blood again. Someone call Robert Stack! What? He’s dead? Then call Elliot Ness! Or Ultra Magnus! What? You’re kidding me. well, I guess we’ll never know. The whole team heads downstairs in the library, where Black Guy (named Griffon) promptly wanders off, chasing after a girl who is 99.44% chance a zombie. Well, 100% a zombie, and he manages to lock her in a closet after a long fight. Instead of shooting her and the closet, he backs out of the room, where a big big zombie from behind eats him dead. Or undead.

Further in the library basement, the team finds some zombies trapped in a cage, with dead security guards nearby, who lead them there. You might wonder why the library has cages in it, but I’ve been in two university libraries that have had cages in them, so I’m guessing it’s more common than you’d think. Also, one of the dead security guards isn’t quite dead, and he takes a chomp out of Sticky’s shoulder. This means Sticky has to be shot as well, but he shoots holes in the cage while he’s going down. Flounder starts freaking out, “Oh, man, they got the Sarge! Not the Sarge!” The zombies start getting out of the cage, just as a second group of zombies wander down to the entrance of the room they are in, trapping them. Flounder gets himself bit, and the zombie rips out his heart. Said Zombie, who also killed Black Guy Griffon, heads to Nightingale, who manages to wiggle away as the zombie bites her body armor, and the zombie is shot dead. Ellis postulates: “So that’s why they’re evolving, to chew through our armor!” Yeah…

Now the movie gets terminally dumb (like it wasn’t before…) where Ellis and Nightingale run into the hall, zombies on both sides, trapping them. Nightingale and Ellis jump onto some pipes on the ceiling, where Nightingale sets off the sprinklers, then shoots one of those boxes full of electric wires that fries all the zombies but somehow doesn’t effect Ellis or Nightingale despite their hanging on metal pipes, with water dousing all over them in a continual stream to the ground. Why bother pointing out errors in a movie where the dead come back to life? Because they’re there. Rodriguez and Lt. Henson make it back to the truck, where everyone there is infected and Rodriguez gets bit. So now only Lt. Henson is alive from the Special Forces group.

Ellis and Nightingale are trapped, so we get some back story for Nightingale, who was working in Africa when people got Ebola, who were injected by the new Zombie drug Zombrecia, and all became zombies, so she machine guns them all down. After the character development, it’s time to leave, and they wander into the lab of Professor Haig. They get shot at, but it’s by two survivors. Lonny and Sarah, who were locked away in the lab for weeks. They were TAs for Professor Haig, so know a lot about his experiments, including that he was grave robbing. They mention that Professor Haig’s son is Rudy, one of the guys from the previous film. He’s dead. We jump to a flashback involving survivor Alicia, who you might remember was injected with zombie juice in the previous film. The juice succeeded in turning her into a different actress, who is being interrogated by one of the worst actors to play an FBI agent ever. He’s also the producer! Mark A. Altman, who even helped write this and the previous film. His line is a dig on the plot of the previous film, which means he’s really insulting himself, as he wrote it. At least he produced The Specials, an actual good film, despite the budget of $3. It shows that good films can be made for cheap if they have solid scripts, i.e. scripts Mark A. Altman didn’t touch. His next horror will be Room 6, starring himself and a chunk of the cast of this movie. Back to the movie, the zombie Dr. Haig had locked in a room is Alicia. Now Nightingale and Ellis have a ready example of Zero Generation zombie blood. To get into the room, they need the handprint of one of the grad students, and they’re in, knock the zombie around a bit, grab the sample, and get ready to leave the room. Lonny and Sarah head to unlock the door, flashing a V-sign, but failing to notice or hear the herd of zombies behind them that quickly devour them like they were made of potato chips. They’re trapped inside, while Zombie Alicia goes nuts, and gets shotgun blasted to the face. Now her blood is all over Ellis’s face, who wipes some of it down, over his mouth, making it impossible for him to have not gotten some in his mouth. But the movie no longer cares about infection by blood, so no one notices or cares. Too bad they are trapped inside, until the door just randomly opens. Outside, they see that the hand of one of the students was on the scanner, detached from their bodies. Zombies (Hyper-sapiens) are devouring the two students, too busy to worry about the two live humans who just wandered out of the room. One hisses at them, until scared off by a flashlight. The previous film has some thing about zombies not liking light, if I recall correctly, but I could be wrong. If so, I’ll fix this part of the review when I get around to that one. Lonny is still alive, begging for help (like a quick death) but the heroes let him die slowly and painfully.

They make it outside, where there is a zombie horde looking for them, that they have to fight their way through. Nightingale gives Ellis the vial for safekeeping, and they fight their way through. The AMS van shows up, driven by Lt. Henson, and the heroes make it to the van, but a zombie grabs the fannypack, ripping it off, and breaking the vial on the ground as the van drives off. For something so important, they sure took a small amount of blood, and kept it all in one place. So now they need to go back! It’s like the movie realized it was only an hour long, and needed to add some more plot. They also forget Ellis still has a lot of the sample blood smeared all over his face and clothes. So should you! They head for round 2, yet somehow get to the football stadium instead of the lab. Good going there! It does allow them to reinact the opening scene of The Last Boy Scout against the zombie football team. The heroes rush into the locker room (again, not the lab) where more zombies are hanging out (one was even stuffed in a locker by a Zombie Bully.) They get holed up in a room, where Ellis makes a plan for their escape on the blackboard. It involves him running outside, getting to a grate, and opening it. They only way he can do that, it what is logically the dumbest part of the movie yet. He slices open a dead zombie, and rubs zombie blood and intestines all over himself (yep, no one cares at all that he’s rubbing infectious zombie goo all over himself) so he’ll smell like a zombie, thus they’ll leave him alone. Why do they suddenly know zombies smell? No zombie has sniffed at all this entire movie, yet now they’re sniffing Ellis like he’s made of cocaine as he wanders toward the grate opening. He rescues the girls, and by this point you’re wondering when Lt. Henson is going to die. Well, next scene!

They get back to the lab, where zombie Lonny attacks Henson, who gets away, but is bitten by Zombie Sarah. Lonny and Sarah both seem to be pretty complete, despite being mostly eaten in their previous scenes. They must have some sort of body-regrowing powers. They get another sample of Zero Generation blood (again, only one single sample.) They then get the goodbye speech from Lt. Henson: “Make me promise!” “Yeah, of course.” replies Ellis, in the tone you’d use if you were distracted by something interesting and not paying attention to the conversation. Ellis and Nightingale are low on ammo, so low they are completely out. A conveniently placed axe helps Ellis, while Nightingale grabs a knife. They slice their way through zombies, while Nightingale is trapped under a table. Ellis is told to leave her, and he does, getting outside the building just in time as a cruise missile hits it. The building is the only thing hit by missiles, and it the only thing destroyed by the missile. They navy must by on lazy mode or something, sending one missile every hour or something.

Ellis heads back to the swamps, where he runs into Bart, who is still alive but missing his hand, after he cut it off. He’s
starting to go loco, and demands the sample by gunpoint. Ellis actually gives it to him after a bit, which is odd. Bart is going to kill him anyway, but he’s shot in the back by Nightingale, who is somehow alive. She doesn’t know if she’s been bitten, though. Also, Bart pulls out a grenade, blowing himself, the van, and the sample up in a big explosion. Thus, they either have to go back again and get killed by cruise missiles that may or may not come and are very ineffective, or just drive home. Yes, they could get the sample from the blood still on Ellis’s face and clothes, but why think about any of this? They head to the city, which is now in ruins and full of fires, as the radio talks about the vice-president giving orders from his secret bunker. Way to rip off the ending of Resident Evil. Wait, homage then ending, as well as all the other dystopian zombie endings, except the desolate city at the very end is far too much Resident Evil to be anything else.

Oh, that’s it. It’s over! Yeah!! The legacy of HOTD lives on, but is improved. No 360 degree shots, no video game clips, acting slightly better. Where does this movie end up? If you say “Sci-Fi Channel premiere!” you win 100 Fonzie points of coolness! Yep, joining the ranks of a dozen or so of the movies on here, we got another Sci-Fi Channel branded cool film. Dr. Uwe Boll’s absence is neat, but the film is still a mess. It would be cool if they actually made a House of the Dead film based on the actual video games, but that must be too much to ask. Maybe House of the Dead 3: House Harder will be based on something real. If this makes money, it can be assured. By showing up on Sci-Fi Channel, that may be so, especially if it gets some ratings points. It’s related to a cult director, got video game roots, and it full of zombies. It should make money, even though it’s not something that should be rewarded in the slightest. Never fear, HOTD3 will get taken down a peg as well, for HOTD2 is the zenith of the series, I would stake my life on it. Well, not my life. Your life. So you better hope the next one is bad, if it’s made, or bad things will be happening.

Rated 2/10 (ZIT, Mutant Teeth!)

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Written by Tars Tarkas

Tars Tarkas

Runs this joint!