Death House Premiere
Tennessee Horror News
Last Thursday, Middle Tennessee horror fans got a chance to watch the premiere of Death House, one of the most highly anticipated films to be released in the genre in years. Featuring a cast of horror legends, the movie has done for horror what The Expendables did for action films. Gathering at Full Moon Cineplex in Hermitage, a one of a kind venue catering to horror fans with classic B movies and special events every weekend, it marked to memorable events. First, it was the largest gathering of the Tennessee Horror News writing staff to date with owners JimJam and Jonny joining up with Yeti, Luce, Isaac, Danno and Kayla to take in a film that we’ve all been looking forward to for years. It also gave fans -and the TN Horror crew- a chance to hang out with legendary character actor and all around badass Kane Hodder.
Death House was initially written by another genre giant Gunnar Hansen whose untimely passing in 2015 left many fans and creators at a complete loss. Director and writer B. Harrison Smith took over the project and brought to life a truly unique vision of suspense and terror but, more importantly, did something that hasn’t really been tried in years. He brought to life a fun horror movie. During a brief live introduction of the film by Smith and star Kane Hodder he described Death House as “a ride through the fun house” complete with lots of blood, gore, a screams along the way. And damned if he didn’t deliver just that. From the opening scene until the gruesome end, Death House grabbed on tight and refused to let the audience go.
On top of being a star studded bloodbath of a film with a great story in a truly one of a kind B movie feel, getting to watch it with horror legend Kane Hodder himself was nothing but amazing. Attending with his two sons, Hodder spent the evening cracking jokes and talking with fans. Horror is unique in that the celebrities it creates are almost universally as devoted to their fans as their fans are to them and Hodder who has portrayed some of the most vicious killers in cinema including Jason Voorhees and Victor Crowley, made it a point to sign autographs, take pictures, and have fun with everyone in attendance. But I’ve rambled on long enough. Let’s see what the rest of the TN Horror Crew has to say about their trip to Death House.
Death House, at its core, is a grungy neon kaleidoscope of visual and audial terrors that both disturb and delight, as well as the proverbial love letter to dedicated horror fans. The world created within the titular Death House prison is intricate and well-rounded, bringing to mind a darker and more complex interpretation of the facility in Cabin in the Woods, with both literal and metaphorical levels of increasing chaos and fear. The gorgeously lurid visuals enhance the excellent performances of the legendary cast, led by the fierce and charismatic Kane Hodder.
The film is a bit experimental in nature, which can, at times, distort the storyline and create a chaotic and puzzling narrative; however—as it was explained during the premiere—the film is the first in a planned Death House saga, and allows room for mystery in terms of several hazy plot points. If given the opportunity, seeing this movie in the theater with the volume blasting will submerge the viewer into the vibrant, relentless sights and sounds of the film—especially when you start to hear the screams.
There’s an old adage in joke-telling: if you have to explain it, it ain’t funny. The same wise words hold true for world-building in storytelling. I very much want to like Death House. Not only because it’s Gunnar Hansen’s legacy, but also because so many people who contributed to my misspent horror movie viewing youth were involved in its making: Dee Wallace, Michael Berryman, Barbara Crampton, Lloyd Kaufman…so many names. Unfortunately, I can’t yet say that I like this movie because I’m not entirely sure I understand it.
Don’t get me wrong. The music and the visuals are fantastic. It was also wonderful seeing all those horror legends performing in the same story on the same screen. However, there is so much exposition on the front-end of the story that it becomes difficult to discern what or who I, as a viewer, am supposed to be following. The story might have been easier to follow if the names had been dialed back a bit and all the explanation trimmed down around them, so that the audience is learning along with the primary characters instead of getting an on-screen info dump. There are Death House sequels planned. Some of the horror legends involved in this project might have been better served by being saved for the follow-ups in The Expendables fashion. My hope is that all the exposition is out of the way now that the first film is out there. Perhaps the next effort will be easier to follow.
- Isaac Thorne
Saying that “Death House” was one hell of a ride is an understatement. It was more like a road trip through a psychedelic experience: there were great visuals, the music was killer, you get to see familiar faces in new roles, and when it’s all over you’re left with more questions than answers. This is a double edged sword for me; it would have been nice to see just where all the pieces fit at the end of the film but on the other hand, it’s fun to discuss the movie with friends and try to suss out what the hell is really going on. Much like a psychedelic road trip, I enjoyed the hell out of “Death House” and I’m pretty sure that if I revisit it a few times, I’ll gain a better understanding and finally get the answers I’m looking for.
That being said, attending the Nashville premiere of “Death House” turned a good movie into an unforgettable night. The venue was perfect for this movie; the décor, atmosphere, and the staff come together to make Full Moon Cineplex the coolest theater I’ve ever seen. I know it probably sounds corny but, in all seriousness, from the time you walk in the door you can feel the passion that Ben Dixon and company have for the genre. As advertised, Kane Hodder was in attendance. He sat in on the screening and hung out in the lobby until after the last of the stragglers had cleared out. I think most people got the feeling that they hung out with him as opposed to just meeting him. What wasn’t advertised was Harrison Smith introducing the movie via Skype on the big screen. We at the Nashville premiere really lucked out and no amount of confusing plots, unanswered questions, or unexplainable shooting in elevator shafts will change that. The stars and planets aligned, all the pieces fell into place, and for a few hours in that little theater we experienced magic.
Death House is making the rounds through select theaters right now with premiere events scheduled throughout the rest of March and April. The movie itself will hit streaming services and Netflix April 20th with a planned DVD/BluRay release towards the end of August. Death House is the first in a series of five planned films with the immediate sequel already written and heading for pre production. Follow them on Twitter @DeathHouseMovie and on the official website DeathHouse.us . And, of course, check out Tennessee Horror News for more updates and news.