It comes as no surprise, given that “House of the Dead” took more than three years to make it to the big screen, that the film’s script and story went through many revisions, moving it away from the military-genetic-research-gone-awry storyline, which was the premise of the video game, and more into the “teen scary movie” plot territory, which is more accessible in today’s marketplace. “House of the Dead” follows a group of college coeds who decide to take a wild trip during Spring Break over to a Halloween-style rave on a dark and desolate island. They charter a boat run by the creepy Captain Kirk (Prochnow). Unfortunately for the kids, when they reach their destination, they find both the island and the rave completely deserted and the thrills are about to begin as they search for the missing people from the rave and discover an army of slime dripping, flesh devouring zombie creatures who ruthlessly begin attacking them. The college students take refuge in the form of a creepy looking house, but it provides little safe haven as the creatures begin to close in, causing the students to become increasingly desperate and paranoid as they discover that they’ll have to kill the zombies, and maybe each other, to survive.

“We had to revamp the story quite a bit, have it take place in one central location,” admits Altman who brought co-screenwriter Dave Parker onboard after being suitably impressed with Parker’s directorial debut, a low budget zombie film entitled “The Dead Hate the Living,” which Parker made for Charles Band’s fledgling Full Moon banner. “Obviously, given the budget, we couldn’t have thousands of zombies roaming the streets or a big military action show, so I felt like the best thing to do was to create a setting where the characters are all isolated, which has always made for the best horror films anyway, like the “Dead” trilogy films. It’s quite different, the film and the game. In the video game, the player was an AMF agent sent to a genetics lab to investigate a missing persons case and the existence of zombies in the research lab. You blow the brains out of zombies, that’s it. It’s not much of a story, but it’s a great game to play with all of these great monsters that you get to kill, especially the head villain, Dr. Kyrian. It’s one of those video games you get hooked on and play over and over, spending lots of quarters.”

While “House of the Dead” is set at a fictional location, somewhere near the Florida Keys (although Washington State had been discussed as another possible fictional setting), the actual shooting location for the film itself was the Seymour Demonstration Forest, a dark and creepy piece of land located in North Vancouver. This is where almost all of the film was shot, serving as both the rave and the titular house. Normally a quiet area, the forest was alive during the endless nights of filming with the screams and ghastly wails of zombie creatures, dozens and dozens of them, painted in white face with peeling skin. The makers of “House of the Dead” used upwards of eighty extras for some of the action scenes, some of them members of the media, as the production decided to hold an open door press junket during the middle of filming, basically one big zombie house party. The man responsible for all of the mayhem is special makeup effects expert Bill Terezakis and his company WTC Productions, who are currently at work on the upcoming “Freddy Vs. Jason.” For Terezakis and his crew, making so many zombies was anything but an exact science. “We had to do them real quick and do a lot of them, obviously,” explains Terezakis. “We had to make the molds so people could put them on and take them off easily because there were so many extras. We basically sprayed acrylic paint around their eyes with an airbrush and painted the eyes. Then we glue the eyebrows on and attach a latex mask. We attached latex bones onto some of them to show a zombie who might’ve been wasted to bits. We have lots of gory effects in this film, a lot more than Resident Evil had. We’re really going over the top with the gore effects. It’ll be very interesting to see how much makes it into the final film.”

One problem with many zombie and creature films is that, inevitably, the human characters take a backseat to the mayhem, or are ignored completely. That’s where good actors come in, especially those with prior genre experience. “I play the Captain of the boat that takes the kids to the island, Captain Kirk,” says Jurgen Prochnow, with a rising laugh, of the sinister looking captain who ends up getting more than he bargained for when the zombies come after him, forcing him to take brutal action. “I’ve got a great scene in the film where a zombie comes after me. We’re fighting each other and I grab him, put him in a headlock, and just blow his brains out. That was fun.” Prochnow also has a sidekick in fellow genre vet Clint Howard who plays Salish, the captain’s assistant. “I’ve made a ton of B-movies in my long and not so illustrious career,” laughs Howard. “This one really pays homage to the old zombie classics in screen history. I play Jurgen’s right hand man so to speak. I get turned into a zombie, but I don’t see much combat. Obviously, we’re still on the boat while the kids are discovering what’s on the island. They try to run back and all hell breaks loose. The zombies get me. I don’t get to have much fun.”

Get the rest of the story in part three of “HOUSE OF THE DEAD”: THE DEAD EAT THE LIVING>>>

Posted on May 2, 2003 in Interviews by

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