Make of that what you will.
For my "grand" return to Yon Blogge, I decided to watch a movie I figured I'd enjoy, even if it sucked- the 1978 anthology flick House of the Dead, aka Alien Zone. How sad, eh? Using one title, the film is mistaken for the Uwe Boll-helmed zombie crapfest, and using the other title is slightly misleading. By "slightly misleading", I mean it's a completely inexplicable title that has nothing to do with anything. No matter! My love for horror anthologies is like my love for mint chocolate chip ice cream- it can only lead to pain and suffering, but I can't control myself.
As it's a film from the late '70s, naturally House of the Dead opens with its own theme song, "The Sound of 'Goodbye'", wherein singer Steve March (sounding like a poor man's Dan Hill, which is really saying something) lets us know that the sound of goodbye is, in fact, the saddest melody of all. I enjoy these movie theme songs for their novelty value and the fact that they were such a big deal, but let's face it- they never set the right tone, do they? This is supposed to be a horror movie. I don't want to hear about sad melodies and goodbyes...save it for Love Story, ya wuss!
The wraparound story concerns a fellow named Talmudge (John Ericson) who gets lost in a strange town after an extramarital hump. He ends up seeking shelter from a rainstorm in a funeral home, where the "creepy" mortician (Ivor Francis) tells the stories of each of his dead "clients". An easy setup, no?
Segment the First
A cranky schoolteacher who seems to hate children goes home one afternoon in a particularly foul mood. Apparently we're supposed to be scared- the teacher, after all, seems scared and keeps looking out her window. She puts on an apron and begins to prepare her dinner, but she only gets as far as cutting a tomato in half before she has to take the apron off and hop in the shower. Yes, she's that freaked out. Lest you think this is simply a ploy for some gratuitous "Hot for Teacher" shower time, let me assure you that it most certainly is not.
One of the last people I ever wanted to see in the shower was the poor man's Karen Carpenter.
Thankfully, the scene doesn't last long as the teacher gets freaked out again and heads back to the kitchen. Finally there's some cause for her anxiety- her front door is open, the phone line is cut, and there's some strange noises. Out of nowhere comes a bunch of kids dressed in their finest Ben Cooper finery.
"Hey!" thought I, "That's pretty creepy! Maybe I'm in for some Brood-style nastiness." Sadly, the kids pull off their masks to reveal some truly awful candy-corn-esque teeth, which we can assume they use to bite the teacher to death. Yes, I said "assume", because the scene cuts back to the funeral home.
Segment the Second
A weird man who loves photography sets up a motion picture camera in his living room and films himself killing blind dates. The mortician tells us he was caught and executed a year or so later.
YES, THAT'S IT!
And don't go thinking this was some sort of interesting Peeping Tom-style story, either, because it was positively dreadful. DREADFUL. We see everything through the camera the dude sets up, which means one stationary shot for the entire segment. It made me feel like I was back in acting class, sitting through everyone's boring-ass scene studies. Let me tell you...that's not a feeling I enjoy.
Segment the Third
Meet America's Greatest Detective, the Master Criminal Investigator, as he goes against all basic crime scene procedures (wear some fucking gloves, man!) to expound his theories on a hanging victim. He's such a Master Criminal Investigator that he quickly manages to deduce not only that it's murder (not suicide), but also just who the murderer is from such paltry evidence as ashes on a nearby table. Yes, just by looking at the ashes, this guy can tell that they're from one particular kind of cigar - a brand smoked only by one person in the entire city- clearly, the smoker must be the murderer! Even Jessica Fletcher weeps in jealousy over these superior sleuthing skills.
One man who's not weeping in jealousy, however, is Britain's Number One Sleuth, a Scotland Yard bobby who's come to America to witness America's Greatest Detective in action. Veddy good.
According to Rolling Stone magazine, you see, the two men are in contention for the title of World's Greatest Criminologist.
YES, I SAID ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE. I WILL NOW ALSO SAY, ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE? WHAT THE FUCK?
As the two men have a pissing match over a
After three days spent looking through magnifying glasses and microscopes (eat your heart out, CSI), America's Greatest Detective has solved the case- the letter was sent by Britain's Number One Sleuth! Britain's Number One Sleuth agrees with this conclusion and shoots America's Greatest Detective. In a shocking twist, however, America's Greatest Detective reveals he's wearing a bullet-proof vest...then he kills Britain's Number One Sleuth via a boobytrapped chair. In yet another shocking twist, America's Greatest Detective opens his briefcase to reveal a bomb, which explodes.
There's really no way to describe this segment beyond calling it just plain stupid. Did I like it? Well, yes, I did- it had me laughing my head off. It totally reminded me of something I would have written in 7th grade for a mystery-writing assignment. 2 "great" detectives, the worst police procedurals ever, magnifying glasses, 3 twist endings, and Rolling Stone magazine. I would have called it World's Greatest Murder, and my "author's bio" would have consisted exclusively of "STACIE PONDER #1".
Segment the Fourth
A man working in an office just doesn't get along with people. When a co-worker invites him to a new restaurant featuring 23 different hamburgers, the man refuses and thinks to himself "23 different morons!". Later, when a store clerk tells the man that no, they don't have any gum, the man thinks "Slob!". Even later, a crazy-looking homeless person approaches the man, who yells "Why don't you get a job!"
I don't know why, but I was really into the idea of 23 different hamburgers. I mean, it sounds incredible, right? Hardly believable, even. In reality, though, we all know that "23 different hamburgers" simply means 23 different combinations of hamburger toppings...then it doesn't seem so incredible.
Cranky Office Man inexplicably enters an empty storefront and gets locked in. Then he inexplicably falls down an open elevator shaft.
You know, "inexplicably" is a word that entered my thoughts often whilst I was watching House of the Dead.
It seems that Cranky Office Man has fallen into a trap that's sort of a prototype of those found in the Saw movies- we assume, anyway. It's never really explained. At any rate, he can't get out. Walls begin to move and he almost gets impaled on some magically-appearing nails- they stop short of killing him, however, and this causes Cranky Office Man's brain to break- we assume anyway. It's never really explained. Whoa, deja vu!
Some bottles of wine then roll into the room (yes, I know this makes no fucking sense- see? "inexplicably"!), and I guess Cranky Office Man has no choice but to drink them all. I mean, yeah, he's not forced to or anything, but if six bottles of wine rolled into the room right now, wouldn't you simply drink them all straight away?
As Cranky Office Man lies sleeping it off, a wall raises and Cranky Office Man is free to go. However, now he's all dirty and drunk and crazy- and when he approaches a man in a suit, the man says...yes...wait for it...
"Why don't you get a job!"
That's some poetic fucking justice right there.
Lest you think that Cranky Office Man could just get over his wine hangover and go back to work in a day or two, however, back at the funeral home the mortician tells us "Eventually, he died."
EVENTUALLY, HE DIED. That has got to be the lamest fucking ending to anything EVARRR. Eventually, he died??! That's IT??
The wraparound story finishes up exactly as you'd expect- Talmudge's infidelity leads to him becoming the mortician's fifth "client". Sigh.
House of the Dead didn't disappoint. I mean, it did, because it sucked, and yet there I was , enjoying it and all its inexplicablies. Maybe when the suckage is restricted to 15-minute segments I become more forgiving. Still, though..."eventually, he died". That's just bad. It's a good thing I love horror anthologies so much, or I may have punched the DVD over that one. Instead, I make like I'm going to punch it, but at the last second I give it a hug. That doesn't mean, of course, that I can recommend this movie. I can only give it 4 out of 10 kinds of hamburgers.