In October 2002, as Uwe Boll was finishing off the feature film version of hit computer game House of the Dead, he kindly took the time to answer a few questions:
How did you get the job of directing the film of House of the Dead?
“Mindfire Entertainment bought the option from Dreamworks and they know a lawyer that I also know, so that was how we made contact. I am directing and producing the movie. The finance is coming from my investors in Germany and from France, from the producers of Lord of the Rings, Resident Evil and Brotherhood of the Wolf - Metropolitan”
Before you made this film, how familiar were you with computer games in general and House of the Dead in particular?
“I'm a great horror fan; I grew up with Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc.! I'm a fan of House of the Dead - but I'm not a fan of other computer games like sport simulations.”
‘Films based on computer games’ as a subgenre have a bad reputation (Tomb Raider was awful, Resident Evil was awful - right back to Super Mario Brothers and Street Fighter - they were all awful). You must think that House of the Dead will beat this curse - what does your film do right that other game-to-film adaptations have done wrong?
“We want to satisfy the horror fans and the computer game fans - we have a lot of suspense, violence, first person shooter sequences - and we are fast. We have around 6,000 cuts in this movie; a normal movie has 2,500 cuts.”
A related question: how do you make a film which is enough like the game for the game-fans to enjoy, but is still accessible to people (like me) who have never played the game?
“We are following the classical storytelling model, with a lot of creepy, dark scenes. Horror fans will like the movie - as will people who have never played the game.”
What was the controversy about a suggestion to include actual clips from the game in the movie?
“I think the fans of the game were upset because they thought I would use 20 minutes of animation stuff from the game in the movie. In reality I used 30 seconds for the opening credits and some shots as optical effects to jump from scene to scene.”
Among a largely unknown cast, Jurgen Prochnow stands out. How did he become involved, and what does he bring to the film?
“He plays a captain like the U-boat commander in Das Boot. I know him very well - so I convinced him to play this part as homage to Das Boot. But the other actors are also not unknown: Clint Howard is the brother of Ron Howard, Jonathan Cherry starred in Final Destination 2, Tyron Leitso starred in Dinotopia and Elisabeth Rosen starred in Atom Egoyan’s Babyface.”
With all the special effects and zombie make-up, this is very different from your other horror movies, Sanctimony and Amok Lauf. How are you coping with all the extra work that a big effects movie like this involves?
“We had a great crew. Great prosthetics by Bill Terizakis WCT Productions (they also worked on Final Destination, etc.). Our stunt guy was also the stunt co-ordinator on Romeo Must Die; the camera crew worked on Insomnia with Al Pacino and we got a lot of people from X-Men. We shot with three camera units the whole time - every night. Every morning at 5.30am, after the sun came up, my DP Mathias Neumann and I drank a beer and drove home. We were so excited about what we were doing: so many effects, explosions, shots, etc. - it was unbelievable.
“In one shot, a bullet smashed a camera lens and ended up actually in the middle of the camera! Five thousand dollars of damage - but we saved the shot and it looks perfect. It was very hard to do the movie but also enormous fun. The hardest stuff was the night-time underwater sequences in the ocean - the water was only three degrees Celsius!”
From what you have seen so far, is the movie turning out how you envisaged it?
“I'm sceptical that we will get an R rating with my director’s cut - but we will see. If not, we must cut stuff out for the R and then later I’ll do a directors cut for the DVD. The movie is a fast action horror movie and it’s looking great, real creepy. It's the first zombie movie of the 21st century.”
How closely are you working with the writers, Dave Parker and Mark Altman?
“I got the script and we changed a few things. The story was good but I made everything harder, faster, more creepy.”
How much more work do you have to do on the film?
We will be in post-production until the end of January 2003. Around 25 minutes will be CGI effects footage. We will do some great sound design and add some great music, mixing a symphony orchestra with hard rock.”
When will we get to see the film?
“All the major companies are interested, so we will screen the movie at the beginning of February in LA. Whoever picks it up - whether it’s New Line, Sony, Dimension or MGM - I would think that it will be a Halloween release next year.”
Read my first interview with Uwe Boll from 2000 where he discusses his first English language film, Sanctimony.