Agents Toria Boon (Cortney Palm) and Jae Novak (Cody Longo) partake in a virtual tour of a high tech prison named the Death House; an underground facility where prisoners are reformed via the use of holograms that let prisoners experience their past crimes again and again (using homeless folks for victims) for scientific study. Before long an EMP device detonates, and cuts power to the prison…and releases all of the homicidal maniacs within who follow the orders of Satanic Neo-Nazi Sieg (Kane Hodder)…who isn’t so fond of Boon. The agents flee ever further into the dark depths of that hellish prison where they must appeal for a boon from The Five Evils; the meanest supernatural son of a bitches to ever stride upon the Earth!
The very first thing you will notice about Death House is the absolutely bat-shit insane amount of horror biz luminaries who appear on screen. along with the aforementioned Hodder (who really gets into his role as Seig and delivers a powerhouse performance of physical menace and cold conniving), you get roles played by Tony Todd, Barbara Crampton, Bill Mosley, Dee Wallace, Sid Haig, Michael Berryman, Lloyd Kaufman…and literally dozens more! This is an astonishing casting feat; and I doubt the horror biz will see such an impressive list of top tier talent assembled again in one place any time soon! Along with that you get stylish Direction courtesy of Co-Writer (along with Leatherface himself Gunnar Hansen…who appears posthumously in the film as a hologram), and a story that moves at a rather good clip. Speaking of story Death House contains some disparate elements that work quite well together with the brunt of the film being a gore soaked action pic (featuring plenty of good ol’ practical effects work), and the later half featuring some fantastic supernatural elements.
On the downside; this film has a ton of “high concept” material going on with the technologically advanced prison and it’s staff’s scientific studies, as well as the nature of the fiends incarcerated there which tends to make the affair a tad heavy on the exposition in the first half of the runtime. Along with that, there are a few groan inducing moments, in particular in the aforementioned scene in which Hansen appears, as he’s the father of a female flesh mask wearing, chainsaw wielding maniac named “Leatherlace”…seriously, just fucking knock it off movie…also for a Nazi (like straight up World War II version) ol’ Mosley speaks damn good, unaccented English…
As for extras on this DVD, they are pretty damn solid. First up is an audio commentary with Director B. Harrison Smith. This is a lively and non-stop conversation where Smith reveals not only his passion for the project (along with anecdotes of production and the mythology of the film’s universe), but his enthusiasm for our entire beloved horror biz as well! Next up we get interviews with Gunnar Hansen (well not with him per-se, but Smith describes his role in the film’s genesis), Dee Wallace, Courtney Palm. Kane Hodder, Barbara Crampton, Smith, Cody Longo, Director of Photography Matt klammer, and Producers Rick Finklestein and Steven Chase. Also included is a 10 second clip of a stunt, a still gallery, and the film’s trailer.
With it’s off-kilter storyline, bloodshed, and fantastic cast; Death House is a can’t miss for horror hounds, and any over-explanation is soon forgotten once the carnage starts in earnest!
For another take on Death House, read my Boss’ take on the flick here, and be sure to check out her inter view with Harrison Smith right here!