DEATH HOUSE (2017) Reviews and overview

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‘Hell isn’t a word. It’s a sentence…’

Death House – aka DeathHouse – is a 2017 American horror feature film written and directed by Harrison Smith (The Special; Camp Dread) and was based on an original story by the late Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre).

The film was touted as “The Expendables of horror” and has a cast that includes Adrienne Barbeau, Michael Berryman, Barbara Crampton, Sid Haig, Kane Hodder, Lloyd Kaufman, Camille Keaton, R.A. Mihailoff, Bill Moseley, Bill Oberst Jr., Debbie Rochon, Felissa Rose, Tiffany Shepis, Brinke Stevens, Tony Todd, Dee Wallace, Vincent M. Ward, and Vernon Wells.


During an exclusive tour, a power breakdown inside a secret prison known as the Death House sends two agents fighting through a labyrinth of horrors while being pursued by a ruthless army of roaming inmates.

As they fight to escape, the agents push toward the lowest depths of the facility where they learn a supernatural group of evil beings are their only chance for survival…

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

“[Smith] aims for something slightly ambitious, trying to bring a John Carpenter sensibility to what eventually becomes a prison riot feature, but Smith doesn’t work the material into a frenzy, potentially disappointing those expecting more of a free-for-all bloodbath, not just a series of pseudoscience monologues.”

Death House was basically the cinematic viewing experience equivalent of the infamous tunnel scene in the 1971 Fantasy Musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It was exciting and unnerving, delightful and disturbing, and just an overall wild ride with trippy visuals and a hell of a creepy build-up…” Cryptic Rock

“Maybe a capable cinematographer would have lit the warehouse set so viewers could actually see the action, or suggested not staging 70% of scenes in front of a green screen with poorly rendered CGI backdrops. And maybe a responsible producer would have stopped cutting checks for horror celebs to stand still in the background for novelty value and apply that cash in a narratively beneficial manner instead.” Culture Crypt

“Not all of the performances are standout, but the bloody pandemonium and creative writing make this a damn good movie worthy of becoming a cult favorite. Death House is much more than just another slasher film and makes some profound statements about the universal balance of good and evil and the revelation of self. ” Dread Central

“Derivative and uninspired, Death House may have its moments but it has far too little in between to justify the 95-minute running time. It has been billed as ‘the Expendables of horror.’ It’s too bad that comparison applies not to the stars, most of whom we see only briefly, but to the quality of the script.” Eye for Film

Death House, unfortunately, doesn’t deliver. Its many references and horror icons don’t contribute much to a story that is far too caught up in itself to be any fun. Its graphic and lewd nature don’t much help either, and as a result, the film has few earned scares. Basically, come for the stars, but don’t expect to take anything away with you.” Film Inquiry

” …a monumental mess […] How can so many psychopaths make for such dull lockdown paranoia? […] Fun for a brief few minutes as 1,001 maniacs like Balthoria, Crau, and Thile are introduced, abandoned by the remaining 90-ish minutes that do absolutely nothing with each icon.” Flickering Myth

“For what its worth, Cortney Palm and Cody Longo are reliably bland as Boon and Novak. This film just craters so thoroughly, not even Hodder can save it. It is all just rather messy and eh. Not recommended…” J.B. Spins

“Overall, Death House is an exciting and fun ride that twists and turns…and drops you off at the end miles from where you began. The last 20 minutes gave me goosebumps, and Bill Moseley is just perfect as one of the 5 Evils. Yeah, I didn’t even touch on the 5 Evils here. You’ll want more of them. I was thrilled and relieved to love this movie.” Morbidly Beautiful

“Director Harrison Smith knows what the horror fans want from Death House and caters for the intended audience. Practical gore effects, memorable one-liners, and some outrageous action stunts fulfil the expectations which have you sitting there either laughing or with a fixed grin across your face. ” Nerdly

“It may be jam-packed with stars […] but hey, so does the filmography of Uwe Boll. And – yes, I’m gonna go there – I daresay Boll would have done a better job with this material than B Harrison Smith has done here. Many old school horror fans will doubtless be lured in by the cast, but let me urge you not to take the bait on this one.” Warped Perspective

” …a movie with some obvious problems — the CGI effects are terrible and the final act loses a LOT of steam — but at the end of the day it’s still a fairly fun, nostalgia-baiting B-tier genre offering that isn’t afraid to wallow in the red stuff and white meat.” Wicked Horror

“Filmed to accommodate the shooting schedules of its large cast, Death House is an almost incoherent script of cameos. The backstories of how the prisoners got into Death House penitentiary are told via glitchy, virtual reality green screens that attempt to excuse numerous cameos that serve no purpose in the later story when the prisoners are released.” Without Your Head

Choice dialogue:

“I can’t see anything!”

Filming locations:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Los Angeles, California

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Death House was released on VOD on November 6, 2018, and DVD on December 11, 2018.

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