HIVE EXCLUSIVE: Mindfire Entertainment and Sega Scare Up 'House of the Dead' Movie and Game19 Sep, 2001 By: John Gaudiosi
Mindfire Entertainment has begun casting up-and-coming actors with some established Hollywood talent for its first film based on Sega's popular House of the Dead horror video games. A director will be chosen within the next few weeks.
Mindfire's Dan Bates, Mark A. Altman and Dan Kletzky will serve as producers for the R-rated film, which will have a budget of $15 to $20 million. Principal photography is set to begin shooting in mid-January, possibly overseas.
The film, which will serve as a prequel to Sega's three Mature-rated video games, is expected to bow as early as Halloween 2002 or as late as February 2003.
Based on a script by Altman (Free Enterprise, Abducted) and Dave Parker, the movie will take place on an island off the coast of Florida that is inhabited by zombies, monsters and creatures that wreak havoc on land, in the air and in the water. A rave attracts a diverse group of people to the island, including a multi-ethnic group of college coeds and a Coast Guard officer and some others, where they must battle for their lives against an evil entity that resides in The House of the Dead. Towards the end of the film, the international government agency that eradicates zombies is introduced. (In the video games, players assume the role of these agents and kill zombies with various weapons using video game light guns.)
“The House of the Dead games are very cinematic,” said Altman. “The games are divided into chapters and use film-like camera angles to keep the action flowing. They provide a great template for us to work with in the film. The film will take place within the game's universe and include villains and zombies that game players will know, but will introduce a new villain, essentially a Freddy Krueger, Michael or Jason type of evil character, and will explain the origin of the zombie manifestation that occurs in the games.”
Altman said the film will remain faithful to the horror genre, serving up intense situations and scares, rather than the hokey B-movie humor that permeate the games. The film will incorporate some CGI effects, but rely heavily on prosthetics and make-up to serve up the violence and gore that made the game series so popular.
Mindfire has a working relationship with Sega that will allow the company to expand the franchise from feature film sequels to a TV series, should the first film succeed.
“We have the film trilogy roughly mapped out, so that the first battle with the zombies is just the first campaign of a larger war, which will grow in scope,” said Altman. “Potental sequels will blend elements from the established video game universe and introduce new elements. The TV show concept is an X-Files meets The Night Stalker take on the franchise.”
In addition to taking the video game franchise to linear entertainment, Mindfire is working closely with Sega's WOW Entertainment, which developed The House of the Dead games, to develop an original game based on the movie.
“This is an experiment in which a new game and a new movie based on a game franchise are being developed concurrently with collaboration between the game creators and the film makers,” said Altman. “We had members of WOW to our offices and shared ideas for the new game and the film. While we're filming, WOW will fly to our island and film cut scenes for the game on our sets, as well as hopefully use our actors' voices and likenesses in the game. The game and the movie will play into each other, since we're sharing ideas and they're working on ideas based on our script.”
The movie-based House of the Dead game is expected to ship for next-generation consoles in conjunction with the film's theatrical release. The game is expected to once again incorporate light guns and shooting action.
“We want to make a game that compliments the film, but that's not a straight port of the action that's on-screen,” said Richard Briggs, product manager at Sega. “We want to create a complimentary experience that takes the game in new directions.”
“Unlike other video game-based movies, The House of the Dead will be in a unique position to exploit the cross-marketing and promotional opportunities between the successful game franchise and the movie as they will share a common storyline and aesthetic,” said Dan Bates, c.e.o. of Mindfire Entertainment. “We are delighted to be working with video game industry veteran Sega to bring The House of the Dead to the big screen.”
Altman said Sega will remain active in promoting its games and the feature film. In addition, Sega will ship The House of the Dead 3 for Microsoft's Xbox video game system in early 2002. This console exclusive game will progress the story line that WOW created in the original two arcade games, which were also ported to Sega's Dreamcast video game system.
“At the end of the day, the film will be a roller coaster ride of action that we hope will re-invent the zombie movie, a genre that hasn't been visited in a while,” said Altman.