When parents send their kids off to college, they certainly aren’t prepared to see them come home between semesters zombied out. Such is the case with “House of the Dead 2: Dead Aim”, the 2005 sequel to Uwe Boll’s universally despised 2003 “House of the Dead”. Could this direct-to-video sequel, soon to make its “world premiere” on the dread Sci Fi Channel (“We’re the Sci Fi Channel: Send us your clich’d and illogical crap!”), be better than the original? Or is the real question how could it possibly be any worst?
The storyline this time around finds a college professor (genre vet Sid Haig in a cameo) experimenting with eternal life, when he unwittingly unleashes a zombie plague. Soon, the college campus is infected and overrun (told in flashcard style during the credits, similar to the excellent opening of the recent “Dawn of the Dead” remake), and a unit of special forces soldiers are sent in with two scientists in tow to look for a “zero generation” zombie, from which they hope to make an antidote. Of course, things don’t go as planned, and scientists Ellis (Ed Quinn) and Alex (the gorgeous Emmanuelle Vaugier) find themselves trapped on zombie campus. Worst, their superiors plan to lob a couple of cruise missiles at the campus come daybreak, so our heroes must escape, or die.
If you were looking for a movie to show you how generic and formulaic horror movies in America have become lately, you needn’t look any further than “Dead Aim”. As expected, the members of the film’s Special Forces unit really are “special”. Which is to say, they are as believable as highly skilled professional warriors as Michael Moore is a 2-time Olympian. They talk too much, they have no concept of following orders, one is obese, another is obviously psychotic, and when have you ever seen not one, but two token women in a Special Forces unit? And of course the African American leader (played by Sticky Fingaz — no joke, that’s his real name) is all piss and vinegar. He also calls everyone “kiddo”, but I guess that’s “personality”. Or something.
It behooves critics of the genre not to bother dissecting the film’s many, many plot holes. Even knowing that movies like “House of the Dead 2” are inherently illogical and as believably plotted as your average daytime soap opera, one still can’t help but feel some disappointment that the storyline is barely an improvement over Uwe Boll’s atrocious original. No surprise that the writers can’t even remember if their Special Forces guys are Army or Marine, or even if they’ve fought zombies before or not. Sometimes they act like they have, sometimes they don’t have a clue. But make no mistake, “Dead Aim” is indeed an improvement over Boll’s original, no matter how slight. It may be stupid, but at least it wasn’t as stupid. Sort of.
Then again, I’m being overly negative. “Dead Aim” picks up tremendous steam once the zombies attack en masse and the script slices down the cast, leaving just the scientists and the last surviving member of the Special Forces unit. There’s even some comedy to be had, mostly thanks to James Parks, whose Bart character is as depraved as they come. The film’s standout comedy sequence has Bart cajoling superior officer Henson (Victoria Pratt) into taking his picture with a recently killed female zombie. Alas, Bart disappears after the 40-minute mark, leaving a semi-serious stab at a zombie movie.
The zombies themselves are a mess. Sometimes they run, sometimes they hobble, and other times they shuffle. And for some reason their primary attack mode is to flail their arms wildly at their would-be victims. Still, the make-up is generally well done, and there’s plenty of gore for those who likes such things. The film certainly earns its “R” rating, with a large helping of blood and nudity, the latter coming often in the beginning. One has to wonder how much of this 90-minute movie will be cut for broadcast TV consumption.
Truthfully, “Dead Aim” would have worked better had it stuck to camp and not taken the whole zombie thing too seriously. If the approach had been to go for laughs, then it would have been easier to accept the two main characters wading through a sea of zombies for about 10 minutes of continuous screentime and not being bitten once. It seems that in “Dead Aim”, unless you’re one of the two leads, you’ll get bitten automatically. Hell, even a cruise missile couldn’t kill one of the leads, even though it apparently killed every zombie on campus. How’s that for invincibility?
The only leftover cast member from the original is Ellie Cornell, who reprises her role of Jordan Casper, now a Colonel (and wheelchair bound!) in charge of the secret military unit designated to deal with the zombie problem. The career promotion for Casper is somewhat odd, as I always thought her character in the original was a security guard? In the leads, Emmanuelle Vaugier is pretty and believable, as is Ed Quinn. The less said about Sticky Fingaz and his troupe of fake movie soldiers the better. Seriously, have there been worst displays of “professional” soldering then movies that have “premiered” on the Sci Fi Channel?
And here’s a thought: the next time you find yourself stuck on a college campus overrun by zombies, and you need to call and tell your people to abort the planned bombing of said campus, and your radios just happen to have been destroyed, why not try a phone? It’s a college. Teeming with teenagers. Teenagers with cellphones. Hundreds and hundreds of cellphones. Everywhere. Try one. Morons.
Michael Hurst (director) / Mark A. Altman, Michael Roesch, Peter Scheerer (screenplay)
CAST: Emmanuelle Vaugier …. Alex
Ed Quinn …. Ellis
Sticky Fingaz …. Dalton
Victoria Pratt …. Henson
James Parks …. Bart
Dan Southworth …. Nakagawa
Johnny Nguyen …. Braxton
Sid Haig …. Professor Curien
Ellie Cornell …. Col. Jordan Casper