Kane Hodder. Dee Wallace. Barbara Crampton. Tony Todd. Bill Moseley. Sig Haig. Michael Berryman. Lloyd Kaufman. Felissa Rose. Brinke Stevens. Camille Keaton. Tiffany Shepis. Debbie Rochon (under a mask). Adrienne Barbeau(‘s voice). Gunnar Hansen(‘s hologram). And I’m sure other names that I don’t recognize off of the top of my doggy head. The ultimate horror convention lineup, or the solitary redeeming factor of Death House? Hope for the former, loin gird for the latter.
Kane Hodder (and his pimple… come on dude, Stridex) plays a dirty wannabe Nazi Branch Davidian cult leader type whose capture by the gubmint lands him in a high tech prison called, you guessed it, “Death House”. In this colorfully named containment facility the occupants are studied with the ultimate goal of having the psychotic tendencies brainwashed right out of their gray matter. As one character so bluntly kicks any trace of subtlety in the taint, “it’s like Clockwork Orange“… Blaaaaaaart.
In another smashing of “look how witty we are!” into the collective face of their audience, this purgatory consists of 9 levels with the occupants being more monstrous with each floor you descend. As such, the bottom is for the evilest of evil-doers, called “The Five Evils”, who… turn out to be some of the weirdest deus ex bullshit I’ve ever seen. No spoilers, but… yeah.
We learn all of this via the audience’s avatars, Toria and Jay – two government agents that also happen to have personal connections to a pair of the place’s unwilling tenants. We tag along as they’re given the $10 tour by HBIC Dr. Fletcher, who shows them the processes by which her staff uses to plumb the depths of the demented denizens of this Area 51 for serial killers. This includes a heavy reliance on no-budget virtual reality tech that, rather than using anything even remotely resembling VR headsets, utilizes safety goggles with old circuit boards duct taped over the front of them! I fucking kid you not, I would’ve preferred Dollar Embargo sunglasses with Cthulhumas lights glued to them over these… these… ABOMINATIONS! Isis’s girdle, I’m not mentally equipped to scale a mountainous cornball garbage pile of this magnitude today. Fuck it.
Look, this is a terrible, wretched, “so bad it’s bad” movie. The only thing it does for anyone is pay a few bills for the who’s who of horror that were somehow convinced (possibly blackmailed) into signing up for it. NO ONE applies any discernible effort to their roles either, so at least they didn’t need to put any major work into what I presume were scanty paychecks. Their inclusion 100% makes up the composition of Death House‘s single ratings point, in what’s possibly the truest form of appreci-hate (thank my Evil Dead Bride for that one) a movie has received from me since Andrew Divoff was the lone redeeming factor of Night of the Living Dead 3D: Re-Animation was back in The Tomb’s first review. I could go over this steaming heap with a fine-toothed comb (or Spaceballs novelty-sized afro pick) for several more viewings and not manage to fish out anything else to recommend it on… with the possible exception of showing it to prisoners of war as a way around violating the anti-torture protocols of The Geneva Convention.
Sadly, Gunnar Hansen himself is credited as the originator of the idea the story was based upon, but a more accurate credit would be likely be “Guy who watched the Fortress and The Expendables movies and made the mistake of telling a friend of his who used it as the foundation for a terrible screenplay”. Now it will sadly be yet another stain on the rib bib-of-a-resume that belonged to the first Leatherface. May his hologram rest in peace.
Oh yeah, and WHAT THE FUCK WAS THE POINT OF TONY TODD’S CHARACTER!? I couldn’t find one with both hands and the thrice damned Staff of Ra, so I’m presuming it’s some horseshit metaphysical nonsense. You know what? If that is the case, don’t tell me. I don’t want anything else to do with this rancid fart excuse for a movie.
One VHS copy of Fortress out-of-Five
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