House of the Dead 2: Dead Aim (2005)

Starring Emmanuelle Vaugier, Ed Quinn, Victoria Pratt, Sticky Fingaz

Directed by Michael Hurst

The first thing that comes to mind is: why? Why make a sequel to what is arguably one of the worst films ever made? Well, you couldn’t do any worse, right? The good news is that House of the Dead 2 is a lot better than the first film. The bad news is that that really isn’t saying much.

The film starts out like an 80’s T & A flick, filled with the potential to be a lot of fun. Toss in a little Sid Haig and an ultra-hot naked zombie babe in the style of the original Re-Animator, and I was ready for a wild ride full of blood and boobs, two things I have a soft spot for.

The focus, however, then shifts to a team of government agents working alongside soldiers who go to a college campus to try and locate the first zombie that started an outbreak and get a sample of its blood to potentially make an antidote. This changes the tone of the film, and from then on it takes itself a bit too seriously. There is a confusing misbalance of what is played as serious drama and obvious camp that doesn’t work well together. I’m not sure if this is the fault of director Michael Hurst, the writer, the performances, or a combination of all three; but it feels like someone could never fully commit to which direction they wanted this film to go in.

The film’s two lead roles of Alex (Saw 2 star Emmanuelle Vaugier) and Ellis (played by the poor man’s Scott Bakula, Ed Quinn) come off very straight and serious with little to no humor at all, which tends to slow down what could have been a real fun film had they stuck to the style of the opening, which was more akin to films like Dead Alive.

The man who steals the show, however, is James Parks, who plays Bart. He’s a rude and crude soldier who doesn’t give a damn about political correctness and has some great dialogue, which he delivers very naturally. One scene in particular, in which he tries to convince a female soldier to take his picture with a recently killed naked zombie babe, is flat-out hilarious. His scenes worked so well, it’s a shame the filmmakers didn’t realize it and continue down that path. I should also mention rapper turned actor Sticky Fingaz (seriously, that’s his name), who also gave a solid performance as military leader Dalton.

One positive aspect of the sequel was the make-up and zombie effects, which were handled by Robert Hall and Almost Human F/X. They were top-notch even though you could tell they were working on a shoestring budget. Bad zombie make-up effects could have just killed this film, as it did the first, so it’s a big plus that they had brought Robert and his team onboard to do their thing.

The good people at Mindfire Entertainment are headed in the right direction. They’re making low budget horror films that don’t look like low budget horror films, and I think this is due in part to the great directors of photography they use, like the legendary Ray Stella who worked alongside Dean Cundey and John Carpenter from Halloween up until They Live. His list of credits after that is even more impressive. They’re also making a real effort to hire solid actors; I  just think they could use some improvement in their choice of director.

House of the Dead 2 suffered from a lack of flow and a plethora of continuity errors that personally drove me nuts. I also don’t think that Hurst knows how to deliver scares. Rarely did I feel that the zombies were a palpable threat. The one scene in the film that should have had everyone on the edge of their seats was near the end, when Alex and Ellis are surrounded in a crowd of what looks like a hundred zombies. This scene was edited so poorly that it ended up looking just plain silly. On a positive note, at least it didn’t have a thousand freeze frame shots spinning around the characters or moments from the video game edited in with no explanation at all like its predecessor.

At times House of the Dead 2: Dead Aim showed a lot of promise as an intentional horror comedy, but ultimately it just turned into a bad action film. What it wasn’t delivering in scares, it tried to make up for in action, and that’s where it failed for me. If you go into it with this knowledge, you might enjoy it more, and I would recommend giving the sequel a chance beccause it’s worth a look. And like I said, you can’t do much worse than the original, right?

3 out of 5

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