House of Blood

“Mercy, showeth thee not.”

Tis how I feltith while I watcheth this messeth. In the mid 2000s, 2003-2009 or so, there was a return of sorts to the gore film. Low budget films were splattering blood and body parts all over the place again and folks were dying in awful ways. 2005 was right around the time when the boom of Hostel, the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, and the Euro-horror Extreme movement was coming into full blossom. Olaf Ittenbach was making the likes of Dard Divorce and Permutos right around this time, a German gore auteur, staking his own claim in the land of grue, offering his own meat train of zombie mayhem with “House of Blood” (also known as Chain Reaction), from 2006. It involves a doctor with a run of inexplicable bad luck, never unable to escape a series of Dept of Corrections prisoner van wrecks which involve him in one way or another. The first, he’s just driving and the van collides head on with him thanks in part to a dead bird and rock. The second, he’s a prisoner and the van wrecks into a woman, out of her car when a dead dear flies into the hood (!), causing her to pull over. The third, he has escaped from a house seemingly accursed with demons always thirsty for blood and hungry for human flesh, with a girl who lived there also fleeing, meeting the wrong end of the DOC van! With each incident the doc’s fate increased in its inevitable chances towards certain demise. Through it all, the doc always winds up at the House of Blood, a cabin located in the middle of a wilderness, as if from another time, with those living there speaking with plenty of thus and thee in their speech.

Trekking the doc (Christopher Kriesa) through repetitive scenes of abuse, both verbal and menacing, by two sets of inmates, returning him to the same damned location twice, having the poor guy endure rampant fanged demon onslaughts, somehow surviving those encounters, only to go splat when a *third* DOC van comes around the curve without a sense of potential danger ahead, Olaf Ittenbach pretty much condemns his most likable, dignified character after suffering almost the entire film. I don’t mind a grim ending, truth be told, but sometimes dragging a hero through endless peril and not let the guy have some sort of relief at the end was a real drag. And to further bang home that no one was making it out of Olaf’s movie alive in one piece, the member of the cabin clan most integral in doc getting out of that damned house of hell intact (Martina Ittenbach) suffers the final blow with a direct gunshot wound to the forehead!

Nothing about the two trips to the cabin with the two sets of inmates, having escaped the DOC van without too serious an injury (well one has his arm severed due to potential gangrene, while another had a through-and-through in his scrotum!) much changes; in fact, it is almost a retread with less energy and pop in the gory attacks. Prisoners getting ripped apart out of the picture are perhaps the most disappointing kills of the film, while there are eye-popping body mangling accompanied by a family of farmers proposing bible verse before emerging with fangs, growling, pallid eyes, and additional face prosthetics to give them that demonic design enhancing their ferocious, forward-charging carnage. A head taken off, bullets (taken from guns off of DOC security guards) riddling torsos, ax body chopping, disemboweling, flesh-eating, and body part munching are what Olaf specializes in; this is the stuff Olaf is most confident in and produces with a sledgehammer blunt force. It is the handling of actors and what comes out of their mouths that Olaf has the most trouble. And the dialogue tries to get by a lot on accusations, illogic, profanity, arguing, toxic back-and-forth exchanges, yelling, and insidious behavior. Doc spends his time negotiating with leaders of each band of inmates, Arthur (Simon Newby; never without a scowl or bark) and Paul (Dan van Husen; with a soft voice and even-tempered speech, his polite, articulate banter is just a disguise to hide the creep he really is) in the hopes of getting them out without violent escalation. Doc fails.

Jürgen Prochnow’s name in the credits shouldn’t encourage any enthusiasm as he doesn’t lift the needle past autopilot. He’s a police interrogator wanting details about the first disaster the doc survived with inmates massacred despite heavy arsenal. That is all he does. Interrogate. And even that doesn’t seem to require inspiration. He peddles his acting wares without much reason for fanfare.