Following the success of action-star amalgamation The Expendables and its two sequels, the horror genre is set to unite some of its most notable names over the last five decades in a film entitled Death House.
Directed by Harrison Smith and with a script by Gunnar Hansen (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), who passed away in 2015, the film is structured around an underground government facility that houses the worst criminals in the nation over nine deepening levels, with the most evil on the bottom level. During a routine tour by two agents, a security device explodes and kills the power, which also releases the prisoners from their virtual cells, where they had been contained and restrained using hallucinogenic drugs. Think Thir13een Ghosts meets Resident Evil meets Escape Plan.
Horror is a fickle genre to break free from once an actor achieves fame for a certain role or archetype: for every Jamie Lee Curtis, there is Linda Blair or Robert Englund whom audiences largely associate with an onscreen character. Some horror icons, such as Englund, have embraced the genre that brought them fame and continued to play their beloved role over multiple films, and many travel the convention circuit that keeps them connected to their most devoted fans. Others have steadily built a cult following within the genre itself, playing dozens of characters in slasher, splatter, supernatural, or other subgenres of films that earn wide release, run the festival circuit, or are released direct-to-video or online.
What excites me about the ensemble casting of Englund, Dee Wallace (The Howling), Bill Moseley (The Devil’s Rejects, Army of Darkness), Danny Trejo (From Dusk ’til Dawn), Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead, The Lords of Salem), and others is that hopefully these horror stars will inject their scenes with as much joyous release as the action icons did in The Expendables, which balanced self-aware dialogue with as many tropes of the genre that would fit on screen.
I don’t believe The Expendables was a straight-up satire of action films, but rather an appreciation for the physical requirements of the genre, the larger-than-life personas of its biggest stars, and a go-for-broke dedication to the loud, explosive, meaty spectacle of it all. Death House should be no different: an undoubtedly visceral buffet of blood and body parts complemented by a cavalcade of faces, some more familiar than others, that assures us of the surreal believability of their characters simply by the actors’ renown. It is set for release in 2017.