Let’s…. let’s just get this over with.
Death House is about a couple of government agents trapped inside a prison modeled after Dante’s Inferno and stars just about every horror star you know and love. You’d think this would be a recipe for success, but you’d be very very wrong.
The prison (called Death House) purports to cure psychopaths by making them reenact their killings while being fed a steady stream of drugs. Despite the dubiousness of the situation, it seems to work. We get a lot of different killers and are fed a bunch of pseudo-scientific gibberish—fine, whatever. We all watch this sort of movie to see Candyman, Leatherface, Captain Spaulding, and others interact. And they don’t.
Most of the stars have a single scene cameo (often completely removed from the plot or point). I suppose it is kind of fun to see who is who in each of these scenes, but it also reminds you of better horror movies.
Our idiot agents offer no personality or depth to their characters. Don’t get me wrong, their acting isn’t much worse than anyone else’s, but the film thinks it is so damn clever with the twists (that are painfully obvious) that it decided to forego any sort of development.
I think the most important question is how did this movie manage to shit the bed so intensely? The basic premise could at least be fun, but the way everything is framed in tight, cramped corridors with little to no lighting and poor visuals makes every scene a chore. The herky-jerky writing leaves you wondering who the hell most of these people are (did that person matter? Or is it another cameo?)
Budgetary constraints are (probably) a large issue here. A lot of the first half of the film is in virtual reality, but we have to have dumbass screen glitching and obvious green screen effects because this film thinks you are too stupid to be able to tell when it is a simulation and it isn’t. Despite the low quality of the green screen, I can’t assume that was cheaper than simply filming inside an apartment. The film seems to pour resources into stupid techy effects (boy those screens sure look techy!!!) and didn’t bother paying for lighting.
Something went off the rails with this one. I can’t imagine the original screenplay (by Gunnar Hansen) had this much unneeded crap attached to it. These ensemble films always seem to have a problem with narrative overload—and I am not sure why. Is it something about having this many stars we need to have them all have a unique moment? Maybe. I think this one suffered from too much “this scene would be cool” and not enough “this cool scene will add to the narrative.”
In my notes I started four of five paragraphs with the word “stupid,” so I suppose I have a theme here. What annoys me the most is the genuinely cool idea of a prison based on hell that abandons that concept other than lower=badder. I’m not expecting a scholar to have been on board in the writing room, but maybe read a bit more into the narrative you’re stealing other than the wiki.
While there are some cool scenes here, they simply don’t make the entire experience worth watching. The movie blew it. This is easily one of the worst horror films that wasn’t shot on home video in a few years. Boring and stupid garbage.