The highly anticipated genre film Death House, from director Harrison Smith, is approaching its fall release and we’ve reviewed it.
Before we get into a review of the film, you should know about the story behind the movie. Originally, the script was penned by Texas Chainsaw Massacre Actor and genre icon Gunnar Hansen. Smith re-wrote the script, keeping Hansen’s vision intact. Smith also got the okay on the script from Hansen just before he passed away.
Death House was a big undertaking. No other film in the history of horror has had such an enormous and impressive cast of well known genre actors. The cast list reads like a who’s who of horror and includes stars like Danny Trejo (Machete Kills), Tony Todd (Candyman), Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes), Dee Wallace (Cujo), Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th), Bill Moseley (The Devil’s Rejects), Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects), Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog), Barbara Crampton (We Are Still Here), Cody Longo (Piranha 3D), Torsten Voges (31), Camille Keaton (I Spit on Your Grave), Sean Whalen (People Under the Stairs), Richard Speight Jr. (Supernatural), Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp), Lloyd Kaufman, Tiffany Shepis (Tales of Halloween), Gabrielle Stone (Rock Paper Dead), Vincent Ward (The Walking Dead), and Bill Oberst Jr. (The Chair). The two main characters, Agent Jae Novak and Agent Toria Boon are played by Cody Longo and Cortney Palm.
The film opens with a Tony Todd’s character, Farmer Asa, finding a young woman. After she is loaded into his truck the film cuts to a scene where Kane Hodder is being escorted into the nine level, underground prison known as “Death House”. Cut to a room filled with high tech machines, two doctors and another agent. The doctors explain how they reform prisoners using holograms, mists filled with drugs and manipulation of the prisoner’s minds and memories in hopes of eradicating evil. What the doctors fail to see is that they themselves are committing acts of terrible evil.
We next see the two agents showering together as they discuss the fact that neither one can remember the stories behind their tattoos and the fact that they both have gaps in their memories.
In the next scene, a team of doctors are working hard to save a guard’s life after he was attacked by an unknown assailant while walking the perimeter. What they are unaware of is that the man’s wound is hiding a dangerous secret.
As the two agents begin a virtual tour of the facility, guided by Dr. Fletcher (Dee Wallace), they enter several rooms where parts of studies or experiments are performed. We see Sieg strapped into a chair being.
While continuing the tour, the elevator they are in suddenly stops after an explosion inside the operating room, leaving them trapped. With battery power running low, the trio has no choice but to leave the safety of the elevator.
In the dark, the prisoners have escaped their cells and brutal chaos is unleashed on a large-scale level. At the same time it is revealed that Sieg (Hodder) is more than some mere man when rioting prisoners kill him, or at least they thought they did.
As the agents and the doctor emerge from the elevator they can hear the tortured screams of the men on the other side of the door, but they must proceed. As they fight their way through the bloodied hallways and demented criminals they see things you can only assume are straight from Hell. As the group head to the lower levels, Sieg leads a group of criminals down the same path. Once the agents have made their way to the decrepit hall of the 9th level, where the 5 most dangerous prisoners are held, to learn that nothing is as it seems. As the agents learn that more than one Death House exists, the film is also left wide open for sequel.
Death House is not simply a tale of survival and brutality. It explores the differences between right and wrong and how one can not exist without the other. While at first the film comes across as an action-horror film, in the end it is filled with surprising supernatural aspects. You will be glued to the screen waiting to find out what happens next.
It was amazing to watch so many iconic genre actors gather in one film. The cast played their parts well, especially Kane Hodder, it came across very natural for him. It is always great to see Hodder in roles where he steps from behind masks and makeup.
Both Cortney Palm and Cody Longo did well in their roles as the agents fighting for survival. While Palm’s role was more emotional and Longo’s more physical, the two characters complimented each other. Something tells me we will see them team up again sooner or later.
Keep an eye out for Harrison Smith’s way of including Gunnar Hansen in the film, a projection of Hansen’s face in one of the lab scenes. Smith told me a few months ago in an update interview for Death House that the film will also be dedicated to Hansen’s memory with a special In Memory card at the end of the film before the credits.
Death House was Gunner’s last movie and we’re proud to have gotten this far. The film is going to be dedicated to him.”
Death House has something for every horror fan, gore, action, and some serious twists. It’s a unique story (we desperately need unique movies) whose ending you will never see coming. It’s dark, action-filled bloody goodness that will have you thinking twice about entering a dark building or misbehaving.
So, the big question, would I recommend it? My answer is yes. Luckily, you won’t have to wait very long to see it for yourself. Death House is set to be released this fall.