Combustible Celluloid
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With: Cortney Palm, Cody Longo, Dee Wallace, Kane Hodder, Barbara Crampton, Bill Moseley, Camille Keaton, Michael Berryman, Tony Todd, Sid Haig, Adrienne Barbeau (narrator), Felissa Rose, Lindsay Hartley, Richard Speight Jr., Yan Birch, Gabrielle Stone, Erik Audé, Sean Whalen, Vernon Wells, R. A. Mihailoff, Joseph Ferrante, Beverly Randolph, Gregory Blair, Lauren Compton, Brinke Stevens, Vincent Ward, Debbie Rochon, Tony Moran
Written by: B. Harrison Smith, based on a story by Gunnar Hansen
Directed by: B. Harrison Smith
MPAA Rating: R for strong horror violence and gore throughout, language, sexual references and nudity
Running Time: 88
Date: 03/01/2018

Death House (2018)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Little Slop of Horrors

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This very strange, ambitious genre movie is notable for its huge cast of horror icons of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s; it's more horrifying than scary, and not always good, but certainly interesting.

In Death House, agents Toria Boon (Cortney Palm) and Jae Novak (Cody Longo) get an exclusive tour of the "Death House," a kind of psychiatric hospital/prison designed to recondition society's most dangerous and vile villains. Unfortunately, someone has smuggled an EMP inside the facility and it knocks out the power.

The agents, accompanied by Dr. Eileen Fletcher (Dee Wallace), find themselves in a fight for their lives as the inmates escape and run rampant, led by the vicious Sieg (Kane Hodder). Their only hope is to descend to the ninth level of the facility, toward the realm of "The Five Evils," the most insidious of all the inmates. Can agents Boon and Novak find the help they need? And what is the mysterious reason they were chosen in the first place?

Death House was originally written by Gunnar Hansen — who played Leatherface in the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and passed away in 2015 — and then taken up by lesser-known filmmaker B. Harrison Smith. Smith gives the movie a smeary, smudgy-grayish video look, perhaps as a tribute to the experience of watching horror classics on VHS, but perhaps also as a way of making things disconcerting.

The storytelling is so strange as to be almost nightmarish, and this appears to be on purpose, as Smith incorporates sequences of virtual reality that set up a sense of "all bets are off." Yet Smith relies more on shock and gore than he does on creepiness or suspense, and it's not always fun.

The two younger leads are appealing, and of the horror legends, Dee Wallace (E.T., Cujo, The House of the Devil) and Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees in four of the Friday the 13th movies) get the most screen time. Tony Todd (Candyman), Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator), and many more also appear. Fans that already know these names will probably be on board with Death House, but casual horror fans should beware.

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