Death House (1987) 1 brain1 brain

Alternate Titles:

Zombie Death House

I wasn't sure what to make of this movie. It was just on the verge of being a good, solid film. I think the makers of the movie had a great idea for a story, and they knew what they were doing in the middle of the movie, but they weren't quite as sure of themselves in the setup and in the ending. The beginning isn't too bad. We meet Derek Keillor (Dennis Cole), a Vietnam vet who knows how to kill with his bare hands. He's fallen on hard times, and now is a chauffer for mob boss Vic Moretti (Anthony Franciosa). Derek falls for Moretti's mistress (Dana Lis Mason), and when Moretti discovers their affair, he arranges to have Derek jailed for murder. The bulk of the story happens in the jail, and it seemed like the beginning of the story was written mostly just to get Derek inside in a believable way. That's not to say that there weren't some good, creative scenes, but most of the initial plot seemed cranked out.

Once Derek gets in the jail, though, things start to pick up. The prison doctor (Newell Tarrant) is cooperating with the military in experiments on the convicts. Volunteers are given a virus in return for special prison priveleges. The colonel assigned to the experiment (John Saxon, who also helps direct with Nick Marino) forces the doctor to try a new strain of the virus, with disastrous results.

Watching how the virus initially spreads and the reactions of the various people involved is the best part of the movie. The initial sign that you've caught the virus is a nosebleed. This leads to an interesting scene when the prison priest is preparing the wine for communion, bringing a heretical twist to the idea of "everlasting life."

Derek and some others manage to avoid getting infected, but the colonel, seeing that things have gone awry, has quarantined the entire prison, so the people who are still OK can't get out. This is where things start to slip again. Some of the plot lines become muddled, and the things some characters do seem more contrived, or make less sense. It has enough momentum from the middle part to carry through to the end, though, so all in all, the movie wraps up nicely.