The House of the Dead (aKa Alien Zone, Last Stop on 13th St., Five Faces of Terror, & Zone of the Dead) is a 1986 horror anthology directed by Sharron Miller (This Is the Life, Cagney & Lacey, L.A. Law, & Little Girl Lost). Talmudge (played by: John Ericson from The Money Jungle, The Destructors, Heads or Tails, & The Dirty Half Dozen) is having a secret affair with Marie (played by: Leslie Paxton from The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice & American Playhouse). Both are married, just not to each other. Talmudge leaves early to avoid getting caught. He gets dropped off at the wrong street after trying to get back to his hotel. Stuck in the rain, he takes an invite to take shelter for awhile from a mysterious old man who turns out to be a mortician (played by: Ivor Francis from Dusty’s Trail, Room 222, & Dark Shadows). He tells him 4 different stories about his current clients. Miss Sibiler (played by: Judith Novgrod from Nightwing & Bare Knuckles) is a teacher that didn’t like children.
She was a very unhappy person & treated the people around her bad. Karma finally catches up to her when she gets 3 unlikely visors under creepy Halloween masks. Growski (played by: Burr DeBenning from Freddy’s Nightmares, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, The Game, & The Incredible Melting Man) is a serial killer who likes to videotape his victims & his murderous experience with them. Two of the the world’s best criminologists Detective Malcolm Toliver (played by: Charles Aidman from Countdown, Uncommon Valor, & The Twilight Zone) & Inspector McDowal (played by: Bernard Fox from Titanic, The Mummy, & Yellowbeard) are investigating the same murder. It’s a battle of the wits when both find out some unexpected information about each other. Cantwell (played by: Richard Gates from The Kentucky Fried Movie, Hang ‘Em High, & The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Chinese Junk) is a egoistical office worker who hates society & isolates himself from everyone. He gets trapped in an abandoned location full of dangerous games. Talmudge finds out more about himself & what he’s done after The Mortician is done with 4 tales of terror!!!!
I thought I’ve seen every 80s horror anthology until Vinegar Syndrome announced this! Somehow this one slipped by me back in the day & I have a strong feeling that I wasn’t the only one. That’s why I love this label so much! They resurrect forgotten or barely known features to the public. I’ve discovered so many cool flicks through them & I appreciate their top notch restoration work. The House of the Dead actually has some pretty creative stories & concepts for it’s time. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Saw creators watched this & got inspired by the 4th tale here when writing their own film. It’s put together very nicely & most of the segments were pretty good to be honest. Tale # 2 had the most potential & it could have been amazing based off the idea alone but it fell flat on it’s face here. It’s the weakest link out of the whole thing & that’s a real shame. That was the only one I was really disappointed in, I enjoyed Tale # 1 & # 3 the most out of the production. Those two could have been easily turned into full length features. It had a nice variety to it & it featured a little bit of everything in it. Hopefully, it gets a brand new audience & following after this release. I thought it had solid characters & great replay value to it, definitely RECOMMENDED!!!!
Let’s talk about the high definition presentation & special features from Vinegar Syndrome! This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer is taken from a 2K scan of the original 35mm camera negatives. It blows away the previous VHS & cheap Mill Creek releases. There’s no question that this is the best that The House of the Dead is ever going to look on home video & I was very impressed by Vinegar Syndrome’s work on this. For a basically forgotten late 80s flick it got some amazing treatment here. The English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track is very clean & it’s also a major upgrade from anything released before! It also includes English SDH subtitles. It has an almost 22 minute “Audio Interview” with director Sharron Miller. She talks about originally getting The House of the Dead after a failed pitch of another project. She goes into detail about the origins of the feature. She chats about casting & the actors used in the production. She wasn’t a big fan of the horror genre but took the gig regardless to work. After that, you get an almost 26 minute “Audio Interview” with screenwriter David O’Malley. He says he worked with Rod Serling on a project & this was his attempt at a Twilight Zone style film. He talks about being in the film & his experience working with the director. He mentions that the film was recut & changed by the distributor. Last but not least, you get a little over a minute “Still Gallery”. It also reversible artwork & a DVD copy of the release. A limited edition version with a slipcover is available at the Vinegar Syndrome store.