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Zombie Death House
Zombie Death House
Actors: Bill Brinsfield, Dennis Cole, Macka Foley, Anthony Franciosa, Jim Golff
Director: John Saxon
Genres: Action & Adventure, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
UR     2004     1hr 30min

Flesh-eating zombies go on a blood-mad rampage when mad scientist John Saxon (Enter the Dragon) uses prison inmates as unwilling test subjects for his new experimental drug. TV stalwart Dennis Cole must fight the mob (head...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Bill Brinsfield, Dennis Cole, Macka Foley, Anthony Franciosa, Jim Golff
Director: John Saxon
Genres: Action & Adventure, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Image Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 09/14/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 10
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Enjoyable B movie silliness
B-Movie Nightmares | Sparks, NV United States | 11/20/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I wish Amazon would give reviewers the ability to give half stars--Zombie Death House ranks a solid 3 1/2: nothing groundbreaking, but worth it for zombie completists and horror fans with some free time on their hands.

Zombie Death House was originally a 1988 release directed by and co-starring John Saxon (Enter the Dragon, Nightmare on Elm Street, Cannibal Apocalypse). Now it can be yours on a no-frills DVD that offers very little in the way of extras other than an original trailer for the film. Not a bad little movie though, just don't expect the level of blood n' guts featured in the Romero or Fulci zombiefests.

The movie starts out with Vietnam vet Derek Keelor (Dennis Cole) taking a job as a chauffeur for Mob boss Vic Moretti (Anthony Franciosa). He gets involved with Moretti's girlfriend, so the Mafioso gets revenge by killing the girlfriend and framing Derek for the crime. This earns Derek a ticket to death row in the Townsend State Penitentiary. Prison guard: "Don't worry warden, if he gives us any problems, we'll just tear him a new a**hole!"

Prior to this point, the movie is filled with B-movie Mafia cliches like characters who say "fuhgettaboutit." The prison setting brings about all the usual stereotypes: Moretti's brother Franco, a mafioso with an effeminate prison b**** girlfriend; a Mexican gang who all wear red headbands; and a wise dreadlocked Rastafarian named Adams who occupies the cell across from Derek. Adams has some good lines, like "Got no bananas here, monkey a**." (said of course in heavy Jamaican accent).

It turns out the prisoners are having some strange experiments conducted upon them, under the guidance of Col. Gordon Burgess (Saxon) who works for the CIA. They involve a genetically altered version of a virus called HV8B. When administered, HV8B causes "personality modification through viral intervention." Col. Burgess is still in contact with the person who developed this virus, blonde bombshell Tanya Kerrington (Tane McClure), who affectionately goes by the nickname TK. She opposes the Colonel's use of prisoners as guinea pigs, and seeing as she's now an investigative reporter, she goes to the prison to get the scoop, cameraman in tow.

Up to this point, the prisoners were volunteering for the experiment and given doses of the virus to drink, which apparently made them more "stupid." Col. Burgess steps the project up a notch by injecting two convicts against their will with a stronger version of the virus, one being the Jamaican prisoner Adams. When it comes time for Adams to die in the electric chair, the experiment backfires as Adams bursts his restraints and terrorizes the prison as a disfigured zombie. Amidst the confusion, Derek manages to get a hold of a guard's keys and releases the other prisoners, becoming the leader of a full-scale prison riot. The convicts take the warden and his family hostage, who are visiting the prison in honor of the Christmas season.

The rules governing the zombies in Zombie Death House are quite different than in most other films of this type. They're on the slow side, but have no problem using simple weapons. They also go down quite easily compared to other zombies: no bullet to the brain is necessary, bullets to the body will kill them as easily as normal humans. At first the zombies simply kill their victims; by the end of the film they have developed a taste for human flesh, which is never really explained.

This was an entertaining, cheesy movie that moved along at a good pace. My main complaint was that the zombie/horror aspects of the movie are overshadowed by the prison riot/Mafia elements of the plot. It's more of a prison movie than a horror movie until the last 20-30 minutes or so. There also could have been a little more gore and flesh eating, but there was enough blood to keep me from getting bored. Fans of blaxploitation icon Ron O'Neal (Superfly) will be disappointed: he is high billed but has a couple brief scenes that don't add up to much more than a cameo appearance. I did like the fact that the end credits featured the song "Chemical Warfare" by the Dead Kennedys, haha nice touch. If you're a fan of low budget horror and don't expect anything earth-shattering, Zombie Death House just might be a pleasant surprise."
A disaster
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 05/26/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)

"John Saxon is a name instantly recognizable to the cult film fanatic. It's easy to see why when you take a stroll through his filmography. He's doing television work nowadays, acting in shows like "CSI" and Showtime's "Masters of Horror" series, but you must look back to the 1970s and 1980s to understand his real claim to fame. Saxon starred, or co-starred, in many of the most memorable drive in movies of all time. Most folks recognize him from "Enter the Dragon," the picture that turned Bruce Lee into a huge cult star. That's only the beginning for the discerning exploitation fan, however. Saxon also turned in a memorable performance in Wes Craven's "A Nightmare on Elm Street," where he played the police officer father of hapless Heather Langenkamp. I can go on and on. He starred in Antonio Margheriti's cannibal classic "Cannibal Apocalypse," Bob Clark's seminal 1974 slasher flick "Black Christmas," and Dario Argento's "Tenebre". He even appeared in a fair amount of pure schlock, stuff like Roger Corman's Star Wars knockoff "Battle Beyond the Stars" and Umberto Lenzi's tepid giallo "Nightmare Beach". Only once did he step behind the camera to assume directorial duties, in a little film called "Zombie Death House".

"Zombie Death House," or "Death House," is actually two movies in one. The first story arc concerns an unfortunate wretch called Derek Keillor (Dennis Cole) and his experiences with a Los Angeles mafia family headed up by the treacherous Vic Moretti (Anthony Franciosa). Keillor, a decorated war veteran, spends a lot of time driving around town in his cool car. He looks bored, oddly enough, and so do I as the movie quickly falls into a rut. Derek drives, and drives, and drives some more. Apparently he doesn't have much to do. In an effort to make a few bucks, he quickly (well, not as quick as we'd like) hooks up with Moretti. The mob boss offers our hero a position as his chauffeur. It's not a great job, but it does have its perks. For example, Keillor soon falls into a relationship with Vic's main squeeze, Genelle Davis (Dana Lis), and the two covertly consummate the affair in an out of the way motel. Not smart, not smart at all. Mob bosses are notoriously overprotective of their women, and Vic Moretti soon learns what's going on. Instead of whacking Keillor, the crime lord kills his woman and frames Derek for the crime. Oh dear. Off to prison our man goes, and here's where the movie shifts gears entirely.

While awaiting execution in the electric chair (since when does California carry out executions in the chair?), Keillor runs afoul of Franco (Michael Pataki), Moretti's brother and a sadistic jerk. Further complicating the situation is an experimental drug research program conducted by Burgess (Saxon), a CIA agent and all-around bad guy. Inmates agree to participate in the experiment in exchange for small favors, but there is a catch. The CIA actually switches the injections without the prisoners' knowledge, substituting a far more dangerous compound that eventually turns the criminals into mindless, crazed lunatics who think nothing of tearing other folks to shreds. In no time at all Keillor and a few of the unaffected inmates stage a rebellion inside the penitentiary's walls, largely to save their own lives. Obviously, they want the experiments to stop, but they also request medical assistance to deal with all these zombies. Burgess throws up a cordon around the prison and sends in the scientist who developed the deadly drug, Tanya Karrington (Tane McClure), to help calm the situation. Vic Moretti also appears on the scene to throw the movie into an even more confusing state. What's going on here?

Beats me. "Zombie Death House" is a mess of a film, a movie that tries to do far too much with a confusing script and cheap set pieces. I wonder what went wrong. Saxon receives a directing credit, but so does some guy named Nick Marino. I'm thinking someone shot part of the film and then the producers fired him and brought in Saxon (or vice versa). That might explain the schizophrenic feel of the movie. The movie is--at one time or another--a mafia flick, an action movie, a horror picture, and a prison film. Try keeping track of such nonsense! Worse, the movie looks cheap. I suspect that someone ran out of money during the process and they tried to do the best they could with what was left. They failed. Throw in banal pacing, REALLY lazy editing, and cheap gore effects and you've all the trimmings for a terribly lousy viewing experience. I hate to say it, but "Zombie Death House" tanks. Big time. If this picture is any indication, it should come as no surprise that Saxon never stepped behind the camera again. His performance, along with the always reliable Franciosa, helps move the film along--but not enough to save this clunker.

It's strictly amateur hour over at the company that released this crudfest to DVD. Retromedia (run by b-movie monarch Fred Olen Ray) gives "Zombie Death House" a lackluster treatment, giving us a single trailer for the film as the only supplement. Worse, they provide the viewer with a fullscreen version of the film. Not that a widescreen presentation would have helped the viewer digest this mess any better, mind you, but they could have given us something with which to work. The picture quality looks awful, and the audio isn't much better although it is adequate enough considering the budget we're dealing with here. I can't in good conscience give "Death House" more than one star. It's trite filmmaking at its worst. If you have a craving for zombie pictures, I can recommend a dozen better films than this one. Rent something from Romero or Fulci before diving into this train wreck. Avoid at all costs."
Get me out of this prison!
Spencer Wendleton | Independence, MO United States | 04/20/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This came off as a made-for-tv-movie despite it having nudity and brief moments of gore (very brief, nothing nose-turning).

ZDH was more cheesy than anything, but for John Saxon, it was worth a gander...the nosebleeds in this movie were amusing.

Not much of a zombie movie, just dead guys walking after you, no gut-muching qualities about it...sorry.

It's okay, a good addition to any zombie collection."