The dead are walking the earth, well, zombies actually, but these aren’t the same slow moving creatures that we’ve seen in such genre classics as “Dawn of the Dead” and Night of the Living Dead, far from it. The makers of the new zombie epic “House of the Dead,” which is inspired by the hit SEGA video game series of the same name, have created a new breed of zombie flesh-eaters who are more bloodthirsty and energetic than their screen predecessors. Uwe (“Sanctimony”) Boll directs the $12 million film, which was written by David Parker and Mark A. Altman, who also produces the film through his burgeoning Mindfire Entertainment banner. Genre vets Jurgen (“The Seventh Sign”) Prochnow and Clint Howard headline an otherwise youth dominated cast that includes Jonathan (Final Destination 2) Cherry, Ellie (“Halloween 4″) Cornell and newcomer Ona Grauer who’s the film’s unofficial scream queen.

Making a zombie film would seem to be quite simple, until you realize that zombies are slow, don’t talk, and can be killed relatively easily, namely with a bullet to the head. So what’s left to do with zombies in a crowded marketplace that includes such CG driven epics as Resident Evil and 28 Days Later? It was that very challenge that inspired the makers of “House of the Dead” to try and put a new spin on the zombie movie genre. “I’ve always been drawn to zombie movies, especially the George Romero films, stuff like ‘Dawn of the Dead’ and one of my all-time favorites, Val Lewton’s ‘I Walked With a Zombie,’ films like that,” explains Altman who secured the big-screen rights after being approached by licensing maven and Final Fantasy producer Dan Kletzky who convinced Altman of “House of the Dead”’s big screen potential following a

torturous “development hell” phase during which Dreamworks had intended to make a $45 million film version of their own with Jesse Dylan attached to direct until the project was put into turnaround. “When I was told the project was available to be had, I was very skeptical at first,” admits Altman. “Video game movies are always bad and everyone knows it. I knew that the only way to do it was to pay respect both to the tone of the video game and the zombie movie genre and the fans of each. This film was made by zombie fans who know what a good zombie movie should look like and sound like.”

Director Boll, a German export, whose previous film work has been in the made for video thriller genre, echoes Altman’s enthusiasm for the project. “My vision for this film was to have it be a very dry, very atmospheric and Italian style zombie picture, very bloody,” says the director for whom “House of the Dead”’s $12 million price tag is the most money by far that he’s ever had with which to make a film. “I guess you can’t bring a video game to life exactly, it’s impossible, but we’ve really tried to do exactly that. In the game, you’re a shooter, blowing zombies away nonstop, all the time. In the film, we have ninety or a hundred minutes of good looking youngsters, who are being savagely attacked on an isolated island, near an abandoned rave. The action is very similar to the game. In fact, I think SEGA likes our approach so much that they might use the story for one of the future video game sequels.”

Unfortunately, as we all know, $12 million doesn’t go as far as it used to, especially given the intense competition amongst studios to excite and scare moviegoers at any budgetary cost. For an independent production like “House of the Dead,” the approach to competing with the likes of Resident Evil and 28 Days Later is quite simple: put the money where it belongs – up on the screen. “We’re going farther than Resident Evil, more over the top,” asserts Boll. “We’re going to show you what those guys were afraid to show or couldn’t show because of the MPAA. I promise fans that they’ll see fifteen or twenty exploding zombie heads in the film, characters fighting and killing each other with ripped off limbs. The set-ups with the zombies have been amazing, Matrix kind of stuff. We’ve got a ton of extras and they’re all zombies.”

The story continues in part two of “HOUSE OF THE DEAD”: THE DEAD EAT THE LIVING>>>

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