Tuesday, August 4, 2015

House of Blood (Chain Reaction) (2006)

House of Blood (Chain Reaction) (2006) is an English-language horror film made by Germans, filmed in Germany and Austria as a setting for the Pacific Northwest in the United States.  House of Blood was directed by the notable (or notorious) Olaf Ittenbach, written by Ittenbach and Thomas Reitmar, and the special effects were created by Ittenbach.
Dr. Douglas Madsen (veteran American character actor, Christopher Kriesa who appeared previously in Ittenbach’s Legion of the Dead (2001)) awakens the morning of the anniversary of his parents’ tragic death.  Along his route to work, his vehicle collides with a prisoner transport bus.  This collision causes an accident which allows the prisoners to free themselves.  The four convicts have a shootout with the guards and are victorious.  They assume the garb of the guards but during the battle, one of the prisoners, Spence (Luca Maric), gets a bullet wound to his arm.  The convicts drag Madsen out of his vehicle, and the de facto leader of the group, Arthur (Simon Newby), forces Madsen to tend to the wounds of Spence (who is Arthur’s younger brother).  Madsen argues that he needs better facilities to help the man, and the group suggest hiking north towards Canada (away from their prison in Seattle).  They move through a dense forest and encounter a thick fog bank.  They enter and exiting the fog, the group encounters an antique cottage (seemingly older than the American Colonial period).  A beautiful young woman (named Alice, portrayed by Martina Ittenbach) is letting blood from a sheep outside.  The convicts decide to siege upon the cottage’s inhabitants (of whom there are quite a few) and allow Madsen to attend to Spence.  The inhabitants of the cottage insist that the convicts leave, but the convicts persist in staying.  The group appears extraordinarily religious (Christian) and passive, initially, until they transform into vampire-like demons and whip some serious convict ass.  Madsen is the only survivor and escapes into the arms of a patrolling SWAT team…
The screenplay for House of Blood is interesting conceptually.  Ittenbach and Reitmar introduce the governing theme as reincarnation and structure the narrative in an elliptical fashion.  However, its execution is woefully done.  Ittenbach does not use his exposition in the first act effectively.  Most of the characters’ dialogue and action are devoted to bickering and repeating the same things.  How many times can the group of convicts decide to go north? A lot.  How many times can Arthur bitch at Madsen to heal his brother?  Too many.  The most detracting flaw is the dialogue of the cottage inhabitants-cum-demons:  they all suffer from Yoda-its, where they all begin their sentences with verbs with the additional annoyance of adding –eth to the end of them.  For example, “Knoweth, I do.  Leaveth, you now.”  This shit gets on your nerves pretty quickly.  Finally, the dialogue pads the length of the narrative which in turn kills the pacing of the film.  Kriesa and Martina Ittenbach give competent performances.  Wonderful actor, Jürgen Prochnow, is sorely underused as a police inspector who appears in few scenes in the same setting (an interrogation room).  The best performance is given by veteran character actor, Dan van Husen.  [There is an essential interview with him discussing his career on the Wild East DVD of Alive or Preferably Dead/Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.]  Van Husen plays Paul Anderson, another convict leader with a penchant for quoting literature and philosophy.  It is too much, here, to describe his role in the narrative.  By the time van Husen and crew appear in House of Blood, you either have to roll with this bit or shut the film off.
Most would probably think that I am wasting my breath critiquing the screenplay (or acting or direction) of House of Blood.  Olaf Ittenbach currently holds a Tom Savini-like reverence by fans for his ability in crafting detailed, practical, and gory special effects.  In fact, like Savini, fans will see films solely armed with the knowledge that Ittenbach provided the special effects, regardless of the film’s director or actors.  The make-up upon the vampiric demons is particularly good.  The typical splatter effects, like shotgun head blasts and intestinal work, are present; however, the edits of such shots are quick, unlike some of his previous efforts, like in The Burning Moon and Premutos (both 1997).  It was either an artistic choice or a commercial edit.  [I watched House of Blood via the Region-one Lionsgate DVD.]  While the special effects are well done, House of Blood is not entertaining enough on the whole to merit seeing it for their inclusion.  Ittenbach- and German Splatter-fans will end up seeking this one out.  All others should avoid.

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