Roesch, Michael & Scheerer, Peter (House of the Dead 2)
When it was officially announced that a sequel was being made to Uwe Boll's monumental disasterpiece, the general consensus seemed to a collective "Why?" Screenwriters Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer (seen here with Christian Slater and Uwe Boll) were given the unenviable task to pen the follow-up to the video game inspired zombie shoot ’em up. In addition the HOTD 2, the duo previously wrote at least one version of another Boll catastrophe, Alone in the Dark, as well as being involved in both the writing and producing side of several other Boll flicks. Aside from their ties to all things Boll, they’ve recently made the jump to the directing chair with the upcoming vampire opus Brotherhood of Blood (more info).
I recently got the opportunity to interview the screenwriting duo about House of the Dead 2, what went so horribly wrong with Alone in the Dark, BloodRayne’s theatrical failure, working with Uwe Boll, Brotherhood of Blood, and screenwriting in general. Enjoy!
The Foywonder: Did you feel any intimidation with the assignment of scripting a sequel to a movie widely regarded as one of the worst motion pictures in recent history?
Michael Roesch: At the point when we started to write the script for House of the Dead 2, the first movie hasn’t been released yet. But even back then, without any reaction of the public, neither director Uwe Boll nor producer Mark Altman, nor any of the other producers were happy with the first movie.
Peter Scheerer: It was clear that this was not the movie everybody had hoped it would be. So our plan for the sequel was easy: Avoid as much as possible what has been in the first movie. We wanted to create a darker story with more realistic brutality.
TF: Is House of the Dead 2 a direct sequel to the original or more of a in name-only sequel that deals with the same elements yet has no ties to the previous film?
PS: It is no direct sequel to the first one. In our original draft there was no tie between the first and the second movie.
MR: Mark Altman brought Ellie Cornell’s character back in the movie later, and he also wrote Rudy Curien’s father into the script, which is played by Sid Haig in a cameo role.
TF: Does the plot of House of the Dead 2 adhere more to the concepts of the video game than the previous film? Is there actually a house this time where everything takes place?
MR: We wanted to stay closer to the House of the Dead game story, so House of the Dead 2 focuses on the AMS anti zombie unit.
PS: We liked the idea of following the anti-zombie special forces into one of their missions and to have the story condensed at one place. The story takes place at a college campus – this location was set by the producers.
TF: For those that absolutely despised Uwe Boll's House of the Dead, what would you say to them to convince them that the sequel is worth going out of their way to see?
PS: House of the Dead is a great franchise, too good to not give it a second try.
MR: It's a fun zombie movie! It's definitely worth to check it out!
TF: You previously worked on the script for Alone in the Dark. Uh, how do I put this diplomatically? So like what the hell was that all about? How did that one go so horribly awry?
MR: When we came to the project, Uwe already had three different scripts from different writers – and neither Uwe nor the producers liked any of them. Now Uwe had the problem, that - for various reasons - he had to start shooting the movie in 8 weeks. So Uwe gave us a rough storyline and four weeks to write a script - not much time. So our first draft was certainly not perfect but it worked. Then development hell started...
PS: One of the producers hired another screenwriter to polish our script. But the writer delivered a whole new script with a complete different story. This was three weeks before shooting. Now, instead of staying with one of the drafts, they started to randomly blend the drafts. One scene from this draft, one from the other - it was amazing, and of course the result was horrible. They polished and changed this script several times. Every day there were new drafts until they started shooting.
TF: Your immediate reaction when you found out that Tara Reid had been cast in the role of the film's brilliant anthropologist?
PS: To be honest, at this point we have been more worried about the numerous changes in the script.
MR: But clearly she was not the perfect choice for a brilliant anthropologist.
TF: What's Uwe Boll like to work with from a writer's standpoint?
MR: Uwe is a great guy. He is very funny and entertaining, and the most loyal person I've ever met.
PS: As a writer he gives you a lot of freedom. But if you have finished the script he changes whatever he wants. As a writer you have to let go your script.
TF: You've also done the screenplays for Fear Effect and Far Cry. According to Boll, the Fear Effect movie is essentially dead but Far Cry will apparently begin filming within the next year. Any details on what we could have expected from Fear Effect and will see from Far Cry?
PS: With Far Cry we are staying close to the storyline of the game. We hope that it will be a fun movie, like Die Hard on a tropical island. Uwe is planning to shoot it spring 2007 in Thailand or India.
MR: Regarding Fear Effect, it seems that Uwe won’t do this movie any more. He has too many other movies like Postal and Far Cry on his schedule. But maybe another production company or director is picking up the movie. We’ll see.
TF: How did you guys first come about hooking up with Boll?
MR: We've met him a few years ago at the Berlin Film Fest. We were young students trying to break into the industry, and Uwe had just finished one of his first movies.
PS: So we became friends. Later, when he was an executive at a German studio, we sold him the script for an action movie called Zero Hour.
The financing for Zero Hour collapsed, and the movie never got made. But Uwe remembered this later, and hired us to write a script for him.
TF: What do you find to be the most difficult aspect of writing a screenplay for a movie based on a video game?
PS: Most games don’t have a storyline which you can use for a movie. Especially games which already look like a movie are difficult. At the end of the day games and movies are two different media, maybe even more different than literature and film. So you need to expand the storyline and the characters, or even change the complete story, but often the loyal fans of the game are upset about these changes.
MR: So it is difficult to expand the story carefully, to make it work for a movie, but not to upset the game fans.
TF: Are you guys big video game players in real life?
MR: I'm not the big player, but Peter is.
PS: I’m not playing every new game, but a lot.
TF: Having also served as producers on several Boll films, any info on what went wrong with the distribution of BloodRayne since so many stories have been making the rounds in recent weeks?
PS: Uwe had hired a relatively new distribution company for the BloodRayne release, Romar Distribution. All the Romar executives are very experienced in their fields, but they had never done a wide release with their own company before.
MR: They simply underestimated the power of the market. There were strong holdovers from the holiday season, which the theatres wanted to play longer, and Lionsgate and Fox were pushing their releases, Hostel and Grandma’s Boy. Romar simply didn’t have enough power to book the 2000 theatres, for which the release was planned. To work with independent distribution was worth trying, but didn’t work in the end.
TF: You've recently added directing to your credits with the vampire flick Brotherhood of Blood. You've been quoted as saying this will be "a vampire story told through a different angle." That’s actually seems a bit of a rather bold statement given the sheer number of vampire movies out there. What can you tell us about Brotherhood of Blood and this different angle?
MR: We're working with several time layers to tell the story and to structure the movie in chapters. Many agents and actors said the structure reminded them of movies like City of God, Memento, or Reservoir Dogs.
PS: So we're not giving everything away in the beginning, like in a puzzle the audience discovers piece by piece through the movie what is the secret behind the Brotherhood of Blood. We didn't want to invent new types of vampires or give the hunters fancy weapons but were more interested in the relationship between vampires and hunters.
TF: Any time frame as to when we can expect to see Brotherhood of Blood? Theatrical release? Direct-to-DVD? Sci-Fi Channel premiere?
PS: When we started the project, we planned to have a very small movie with maybe one or two good actors. But then a lot of people read the script and agents and actors loved the story and it was surprisingly easy to get a great cast - even on this size of budget. So we're now aiming for a limited theatrical release, and later for a release on DVD.
MR: Sid Haig and Ken Foree from The Devil’s Rejects are in the movie as well as Victoria Pratt. We look forward to seeing the movie in theatres sometime this fall or winter. But first Brotherhood of Blood will be in post production the next six to seven months.
TF: Has directing your first feature given you an entirely new perspective on writing process, or was it not that big a change since you were directing a movie you wrote yourselves?
PS: It was the first time that one of our scripts hasn’t been changed completely! So it was a great experience!
Like most screenwriters, we made the experience that all producers and directors say in the beginning that it is the perfect script. Then they start to change here and there, and in the final movie there is not a single line left from our original script.
MR: It didn’t give us a completely new perspective on writing, but it got us hooked to directing: We have started to work on some ideas for our second film as directors.
TF: Any advice you'd give any other would be screenwriters looking to break into the business?
PS: Leave it. It's impossible. Hollywood isn't waiting for you. But on the other hand: We did it, so it must be possible. So be inventive, make your own movie, with friends, low budget, whatever.
MR: Write. Write. Write. When you have finished a screenplay, start the next one immediately. Most of screenwriting is really hard work, countless hours. And never give up.
TF: Last question, as I always like to do, a little word association time.
* Sid Haig
MR:: A horror legend, a great actor and a really nice guy.
PS: Very well prepared actor.
TF: * Paul WS Anderson
MR: I liked Event Horizon and Resident Evil!
PS: After working on so many video game adaptations, it would be fun to meet him.
TF: * The Sci-Fi Channel
MR: Great network, especially for a genre fan like me.
PS: Great invention.
TF: * Victoria Pratt
MR: Beautiful woman, talented actress.
PS: She is a very good lead in our movie!
TF: * Vancouver
MR: One of the nicest cities in the world, but personally I prefer Southern California.
PS: We were shooting in Vancouver at night in a forest for three weeks and it was raining every single night.
TF: * In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
MR: Uwe's best movie yet!
PS: And we will see what happens.
TF: * Mark Altman
MR: Talented upcoming producer and writer. We share the love for horror movies, and I hope to see more of his movies soon.
PS: And he hosts good parties.
The Sci-Fi Channel will premiere the Uwe Boll-less House of the Dead 2 on Saturday, February 11th, to be followed up by a DVD release on March 21st.
Discuss House of the Dead 2 in our forums!