February 20, 2018 Death House (Movie Review)
Unethical experimentation has long been practiced by various sectors of the American government and typically with grave consequences. Take, for example, the CIA’s interrogation and mind-control program MKULTRA; or the U.S. Public Health Service’s 40-year study of the progression of syphilis with their 1932 “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” project which left 600 unaware, misled, impoverished, infected African-American men to suffer the horrors of their poorly-treated diseases; and how about Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD), which involved the U.S. Army spraying several U.S. Navy ships with a multitude of biological and chemical warfare agents while thousands of military personnel were still aboard. Keeping that in mind, Death House explores the terrifying and potentially catastrophic ramifications of conducting such risky, unprincipled, government-sanctioned experiments.
Death House is the much anticipated, action-packed American Indie Horror film that will be released in theaters on Friday, March 2nd, 2018 via Hannover House. It was directed by B. Harrison Smith (as Harrison Smith) – Camp Dread 2014, ZK: Elephant’s Graveyard 2015 – and written by famed Horror star Gunnar Hansen, who is most recognized for his role as the iconic Leatherface from the original 1974 classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This film would also not have been possible if not for Entertainment Factory and Capital Alliance Productions.
Speaking of making this movie possible, had it not been for the incredible cast comprised of some rather noteworthy names in Horror, from the ’80s to today, then this movie would have lost a lot of its redeeming ’80s quintessence. It stars Kane Hodder – best known for his roles as Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th franchise and Victor Crowley in the Hatchet franchise – as the brutal Sieg; Dee Wallace (E.T. the Extraterrestrial 1982, Critters 1986) as Dr. Eileen Fletcher; Sid Haig (House of 1000 Corpses 2003, The Devil’s Rejects 2005) as the Icicle Killer; Tony Todd (Candyman 1992, The Crow 1994) as The Farmer Asa; Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes 1977, The Devil’s Rejects 2005) as Crau; Bill Moseley (House of 1000 Corpses 2003, The Devil’s Rejects 2005) as Giger; and Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator 1985, From Beyond 1986) as Dr. Karen Redmane.
It also includes Lindsay Hartley (Passions series, All My Children series) as Balthoria; Richard Speight Jr. (Independence Day 1996, Supernatural series) as Bennett; Courtney Palm (Silent Night 2012, The Dark Tapes 2016) as Agent Toria Boon; and Cody Longo (Fame 2009, Piranha 3D 2010) as Agent Jae Novak, in addition to a slew of other surprising Horror stars featured in smaller roles and even making cameo appearances throughout. Cast aside though, the film’s concept was also just as interesting.
With history often doomed to repeat itself, it only makes sense that a technologically sophisticated, top secret subterranean research facility – which has been constructed to house and study some of the most vile and violent criminals imaginable – has failed to properly prepare for something as seemingly simple as a power outage. While two agents are being given a special tour of the prison referred to as the Death House, a blackout leaves all those stuck inside vulnerable to the captive evils once confined and kept at bay.
Now the young agents must make their way through the daunting levels of this wicked warren, meanwhile confronting the many monsters now free to menacingly roam and riot. As if this is not bad enough already, they are also forced to race against the clock because, as most people know, the irreproachable government’s fail-safe for amoral activities such as this typically involves a self-destruct button.
Cinematic perfection is a unicorn within the world of Horror, which can mostly be attributed to the fact that it is such a complex, multifaceted genre with an excess of elements utilized to appeal to its vastly diversified demographic. While that sounds like an advantage, it can just as easily cause the film’s downfall. With that being said, Death House has so many elements working in its favor: stellar casting and proper performances; loads of fun gore and brutality; Horror references and characters paying homage to those whom inspired them; an action-packed, entertaining storyline; that nostalgic ’80s vibe with complementary special effects, just with a more modernized realism; and a body count and kill sequences that will keep viewers cringing throughout.
Unfortunately, it also has a few shortcomings as well. One example was the pacing being a little inconsistent at times; which really did little in taking anything major away from the film, but it did get slightly frustrating. Another drawback was the dragging on of menial moments which came off as more time-killers than the potentially intended throwbacks to cheesier times. As far as cheesy goes, it was also a little unbalanced as well: there were moments that seemed just shy of the proper servings of cheesiness, while others were unnecessarily bubbling over with it.
Death House was basically the cinematic viewing experience equivalent of the infamous tunnel scene in the 1971 Fantasy Musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It was exciting and unnerving, delightful and disturbing, and just an overall wild ride with trippy visuals and a hell of a creepy build-up, which is why CrypticRock gives Death House 3.5 out of 5 stars.