• Death House (Cleopatra) DVD Review

    Released by: Cleopatra Entertainment
    Released on: December 11, 2018
    Director: B. Harrison Smith
    Cast: Kane Hodder, Cortney Palm, Cody Longo, Barbara Crampton,
    Kane Hodder, Bill Moseley, Dee Wallace, Sid Haig, Adrienne Barbeau, Michael Berryman
    Year: 2017
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    Death House - Movie Review

    On paper, it sounds like a horror nerd’s dream. A horror movie featuring Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Barbara Crampton, Adrienne Buarbeau, Michael Berryman, Lloyd Kaufman, and Sid Haig in a movie based on a story by Gunnar Hansen. Unfortunately, the whole does not equal the sum of its parts, and the movie collapses under the weight of its “wouldn’t it be cool if” conceits. It’s a fun view, but the movie doesn’t make total sense unless you watch with the director’s commentary on.

    Cortney Palm plays Toria Boon, an agent from an unnamed government agency fresh off an undercover assignment infiltrating a white supremacist compound. The compound is headed by Sieg (Kane Hodder). Boon’s assignment leads to Sieg’s arrest, and he is sent to the titular “Death House”. The Death House is a state of the art prison and medical, psychological, and para-psychological research facility. The prison/research center is comprised of nine levels. The main level is comprised of your garden variety criminals. The ninth level is used to house the “five evils”, a group of baddies that are not only pure evil, but also ageless. Boon and Jae Novack (played by Piranha 3-D’s Cody Longo), another agent, are visiting the compound.

    As happens with all maximum security prisons in all movies, things go pear shaped. Sieg escapes his cell and mayhem ensues. As things progress, both camps head down to level nine, home of the five evils. When revealed, the five evils are not all that intimidating. They reminded me of followers of Epsilon, the Scientology send-up from Grand Theft Auto V. The gist of the film is simple – it’s a chase movie. However, there are a lot of strange odds and ends (why is there a zombie kid in a dumpster? Why do the agents suffer memory loss? What’s the black goo coming out of the pipes?) that ultimately only make sense when described by the director in the commentary. These things aren’t a huge deal, but they do take you out of the movie.

    The performances are good all around, both veterans and newcomers. Kane Hodder, as always, is great (although even he has a tough time with clunky dialogue like “I will fuck you in hell”). Sid Haig is his good, creepy self as “the icicle killer” – a guy who stabs people with icicles and then lets the evidence melt into non-legality. Palm and Longo are fine as the agents. Barbara Crampton in particular is great as one of the prison’s medical staff. Despite the performances however, the movie has too many disparate ideas and does not do enough to corral them into a cohesive narrative whole.

    Death House DVD Review

    Video and audio presentations are not the main attraction here. The film is shot on video and transferred to DVD. It looks like something you would see on the SyFy network. Not that that’s a bad thing. It's framed at 1.78.1 and is presented in a clean and colorful anamorphic widescreen transfer. There is a single Dolby Audio 2.0 track in English. It's clean and properly balanced. There are no alternate language or subtitles here.

    The DVD includes a fairly decent array of special features. It has a slide show featuring various stills from the movie. It also has short interviews with various members of the cast and crew of varying length and interest. There is also a Director’s Commentary with B. Harrison Smith. Smith is a fan of the genre, and it shows both in his film and his commentary. The commentary does a great job in patching up the holes of the narrative, and when Smith geeks out about working with Dee Wallace and Sid Haig, you can’t help but geek out with him.

    Death House – The Final Word:

    Yes, it’s got all of your favorite horror movie stars in one film. Yes, they’re all still in fine form. If that’s all you’re after, then you’re gonna have a good time with this. I wish some of the weirder elements were better explained, but if you’re interested in that stuff the director’s commentary will sort it out for you. If you’re looking for a midnight movie, you could do much worse than this.