People were wondering what Uwe Boll would do as a follow-up to his infamous House of the Dead. The answer, not surprisingly, was another video game adaptation; but the real question, asked with a mixture of dread and hope, was "Will it be as awful as House of the Dead?"
Christian Slater plays Edward Carnby, a "paranormal investigator" who is doing the Indiana Jones thing to research the Akbani, a prehistoric tribe of super-advanced Indians who somehow held the key to both ultimate occult knowledge and a mysterious event in Carnby's childhood; he is aided in this by more professional archeologist Aline Cedrac (Tara Reid).
And there you have most of the points the movie has in common with the source material.
Carnby is now a former member of a secret government organization called Bureau 713, which is (conveniently enough) charged with fighting the exact same thing Carnby faces: a light-sensitive breed of monster called the Zeno. The story attempts to be complex, but is really only a patchwork of many movies which have come before, and one grows to suspect that this is simply a litany of movies Boll wishes he had directed, in particular Aliens, Starship Troopers, Aliens vs. Predator, and even The Relic (which Boll goes so far as to mention in his commentary track).
Aside from the wincingly familiar tropes on parade, this means that, quality-wise, this movie has a more professional sheen than House of the Dead... but that doesn't mean it's necessarily good. Aside from what I've come to think of as Boll Moments - some literal bullet-time (add Ringo Lam's Full Contact to my earlier list) and an arty stroboscopic gunfight in the dark - this feels like a derivative Sc-Fi Channel movie with a larger budget and name actors.
A very nice transfer with solid blacks (and there are plenty) and good flesh tones. The menu system is of the flashy play-scenes-under-the-type style, and its music seems to be at a higher level than that in the movie , so watch out, late night viewers.
Boll recorded an audio track for House with two other people, resulting in a scattered wreck of a director's commentary. He goes it alone this time with far better results.
The extras seem bizarrely sparse, but that's because they concentrate on material that do not expand upon our appreciation for the movie (if, indeed, the word "appreciation" may be used in this context). There is the Theatrical Trailer, and two featurettes, Into the Dark: Behind the Scenes and Shedding a Light: The Visual Effects, which somehow manage to entirely avoid talking about the Zenoes, the main threat of the movie (admittedly, it may be because they are entirely too reminiscent of the Giger Alien, a resemblance the Giger-inspired cover does nothing to allay). It is also worth noting that a featurette that begins with a mispelling of the director's name does not inspire confidence.
There is a storyboard/finished scene comparison for two sequences, and the computer animatic for the bullet-time scene.
And then there are six music videos - six - and a "Trailer Gallery" featuring House of the Dead, Stephen King's Riding the Bullet, and The Final Cut.
Sure, there's a Trivia Track that plays in the subtitle channel, but while it's nicely informative about H.P. Lovecraft (there is the merest echo of Lovecraft in the movie), I long ago found that "trivia" is a subjective term.
So. Derivative plot, wincingly bad exposition, a third act that's supposed to be tense and scary but merely kills time (and characters we've never seen before), an inexplicable ending that violates everything that's come before - yeah, it's bad. But not as enjoyably awful as House of the Dead. Enter at your own risk.
Dr. Freex, 6/20/2005