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Gory 'House' should be condemned

They don't hold critics' screenings for movies like "House of the Dead." You have to pay your money at the gate and join the dedicated horror fans at the early afternoon show on opening day. Which is fine, because how else would I have heard the diehards screaming "Refund!" as the final credits rolled?

"House of the Dead" is based on -- actually, more like "ripped from the belly of" -- the successful arcade attraction of the same name. You know the game you walk past in the multiplex lobby, the one in which players blast away at attacking zombies who explode in bloody chunks? That one. In case you're unsure of the source, director Uwe Boll keeps cutting away to pixellated shots from the game throughout. I couldn't figure out why either.

The wisp of a plot that has been tacked onto this shoot-and-score framework is giggle-inducing for all the wrong reasons. A group of preening young things has left Seattle to attend "the rave of the year" on the San Juan Islands. For shorthand's sake, let's call them the Stud (Tyron Leitso), the Slut (Sonya Salomaa), the Idiot (Will Sanderson), the Smart Girl (Ona Grauer), and the Hero (Jonathan Cherry). They hitch a boat ride with crusty gun smuggler Captain Kirk (Jurgen Prochnow, keeping his eye on that paycheck dangling offscreen) and his Igor-like assistant (Clint Howard, far, far from brother Ron).

The rave of the year, when they reach it, consists of a couple of colored light bulbs, a volleyball net, and a pile of corpses. Zombies abound, the handiwork of a crazed undead Spaniard named Castillo (David Palffy). The rest of the short running time is given to chases, ammunition, and as many exploding blood squibs as can fit into a $12 million budget. There's no suspense whatsoever, but there are a lot of 360-degree slo-mo pans of the sort in "The Matrix," which only means the price for such effects has dropped drastically.

The best thing in the movie is Kira Clavell as a kickboxing Asian rave-babe; otherwise the cast barely rises to the challenge of the dialogue. There are a few stray cheap laughs to be had -- Hero to Smart Girl as they stand in a catacomb underneath the house: "This must be some kind of a catacomb underneath the house" -- but they don't come close to redeeming the enterprise as a whole. "House of the Dead," sadly, is so bad it's bad.

Ty Burr can be reached at

House of the Dead

Directed by: Uwe Boll. Screenplay by: Dave Parker and Mark A. Altman. Starring: Jonathan Cherry, Ona Grauer, Jurgen Prochnow, Clint Howard

At: Circle Cinemas, Boston Common, Fenway, and suburban theaters

Running time: 92 minutes

Rated: R (pervasive strong violence/gore, language, and some nudity)

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