It’s really sad when a horror movie has some wonderful ideas but surrounds them with cliches.
House of the Dead 2 is a great idea for an adaptation of a video game: It doesn’t dump a bunch of kids or average joes into a zombie apocalypse and expects them to survive. No. It uses soldiers, and the reasoning for “invading” is valid and realistic. It even explores some interesting concepts like a mosquito’s role with the undead. Hell, even the finale is an interesting twist.
However, there’s a bit of bad here (and, not to mention, House of the Dead was an awful piece of film making). It’s cliched, and tries to unsuccessfully pull some ideas from other films and use them as its own. The actors are beautiful (for the most part), but they spend a majority of their talents trying to prop up the poorly written dialogue. The film itself just ends up coming off weak as there are so many prongs to the story that it just feels disjointed at best.
House of the Dead 2 begins by introducing us to Professor Curien (the always creepy Sid Haig). Professor Curien runs a co-ed down with his car, and finishes her off with a crowbar. He takes her back to his lab and injects her with something extracted from a zombie he has locked up. Thinking he has failed, he ignores the body (???!!!!) and is surprised when she starts nibbling on his neck. We are then treated to multiple zombie attacks on campus as the virus spreads. These scenes are reminiscent of the opening credits of Zombieland (which came out 4 years later!).
It then fast forwards a few weeks later and the beautiful Alexandra Morgan (Emmanuelle Vaugier) is on a blind date. After being informed that the cook was bitten by a homeless man, we find out that she is a super soldier that deals with “hyper-sapiens” (zombies). After returning to base, she and a team are dispatched to the campus.
The team is in search of a “first generation hyper-sapien” (i.e. the zombie that started all this), and recon teams have assessed that it is somewhere on the campus. Not only do the soldiers have to rid the campus of the undead, but they have to extract a certain one (GENIUS!).
While Morgan and her co-star Ed Quinn search for this elusive beast, House of the Dead 2 tosses a few side stories at us. The soldiers’ characters are fleshed out, but none are particularly exciting. Nadine Velazquez (Cataline from My Name is Earl) is interesting as (1) I recognized her, and awaited a moment I could say “karma”, and (2) is involved in one of the most intriguing moments of the film. Her team finds a room with zombies, but no bite marks/busted entry points. They soon discover that mosquitoes can carry the virus, and that is something I can barely recall being explored before (possibly the closest is in the Resident Evil: Code Veronica X (PS2 game) where it is implied that rats have carried the T-Virus to the surface). (Again…genius move.)
Alas, this is never really explored. While it serves as a minor plot point, it’s never really fleshed out. This story line just kind of dies, and it’s sad.
That seems to be the theme of this film, though, as every good idea just kind of fizzles. (Minor Spoiler) The same thing happens with the finale. Morgan finds hyper-sapien number 1, extracts some blood intended to cultivate a cure, and makes it back to their rendezvous with a nearby van. However, during their escape, the blood sample is destroyed. Instead of ending the film on a sour note or having some miracle “not all of it is destroyed” moment, they have to battle their way back in! While I herald the decision to do this, the execution is lackluster at best. It’s like they wanted to combine the disjointed groups together for one last hurrah.
Obviously based off a video game, this film does manage to feel like a video game. It has a ton of action sequences, and the missions play out like a mission you’d find in the game. The zombies time themselves to only show up when it is conveniently inconvenient to the characters, and everybody is armed to the neck and knows how to handle a gun. It’s a fun watch because of this (just don’t try to think too hard about how a mosquito can spread the virus yet our characters can be drenched in zombie blood and not turn). It tries to pull the Dawn of the Dead “zombies are continuing on their daily rituals” routine, and it even has the zombies evolving (which is just plain stupid).
It’s sad that The House of the Dead was so awful as this film paid for it. It is light years better than that turd (and the even worse Dorm of the Dead), but it was tossed low expectations and a small budget with a Syfy premier. It really could have been a way worse watch, but I did enjoy myself. You can do far worse on Netflix. It’s worth a look.