Horror. Worldview. Faith.

House of 1000 Corpses – Review

House of 1000 Corpses – Review

Apr 11, 2010

reviewed by hallo
directed by Rob Zombie, 2003

My appreciation for the talent of Rob Zombie goes way back to the early 90’s when I first heard the White Zombie song “Black Sunshine.” I was hooked on the song, the band, and the horror-dominated fantasy style of Rob’s music. So it was with great interest and excitement that I learned of his 2003 directorial debut entitled House of 1000 Corpses. Upon my first viewing, I labeled it as an instant classic and made the bold statement that Zombie might very well become the next great horror director of our time. I was right on the first one, wrong on the second.

Not that there is anything original or even fresh in House of 1000 Corpses. On the contrary, it is a well used (overly used?) backwoods story of a group of teenagers who get lost and wind up at the wrong house. Go ahead and insert the list of 300 movies you have seen that have the same plot right here. But who cares? We don’t watch horror in order to always see the next original, new thing. We watch horror to see it done well. And Rob Zombie does this one well.

The opening scene is incredibly important for the rest of film as it establishes a good many things about the direction Zombie is going. First, the film will be dealing with vulgar characters and subject matter. Second, thanks to Zombie’s directing, we find ourselves weirdly attached to these awful characters and find them likable. Third, Zombie draws heavily on his own appreciation of both the real world of horror and the fantasy world, creating an interesting mix of the two. For example, after the two couples experience “Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen” and the “Murder Ride”, we see a blending of real life killers such as Ed Gein and Albert Fish and the fictional character “Dr. Satan” who will be the ending focus of the movie.

After the two couples visit this roadside attraction, they are determined to find the stomping ground of Dr. Satan. After picking up a hitchhiker whose name is “Baby” (Sheri Moon Zombie), they of course blow a tire in the middle of a rainstorm and must wait for Baby and one of the unfortunate guys (Rainn Wilson from The Office) to visit Baby’s house and get her brother with a tow truck. Well, from this point things seem to be strangely out of place and the carnage begins. Once the group gets back to the house they experience a disturbing dinner with the family followed by a whacked out dinner show. Finally, the car is fixed. The group gets about 20 feet down the driveway when they are attacked by the family, the car is destroyed, and they are locked in the house. Which, of course, begs the question: Why fix the car in the first place if you are going to just destroy 15 seconds later? And why let the group get 20 feet down the driveway? Oh well, who cares? It made for a cool scene.

From this point on we begin to learn more about the creative carnage of Otis (Bill Moseley). He takes his killing very seriously. Zombie will do quick cuts to black and white footage he filmed using an ordinary camcorder, then back to the film. Several times throughout a single scene, Zombie will use different lighting and colors just to keep adding confusion to what is happening.

I must admit, the final scene is just a complete question mark. They are lowering the 2 surviving members of the group down into a grave which turns out to be a series of tunnels. But why put that tape recorder playing the super-strange sounds on top of the two victims? Who knows? Finally, after running through tunnels being chased by weird looking dudes, our remaining survivor encounters Dr. Satan. She does manage to get away, but not before being picked up by Captain Spalding, who we know learn is in-cahoots with Otis and the family.

So, House of 1000 Corpses is somewhat predictable, a bit cliched, and very animated. But Zombie does a great job with the camera, the scenes keep your interest, and he uses just the right amount of gore to keep you flinching, but not make you walk out the door. The DVD is worth its price just to listen to the directors commentary which is by far the best I have ever listened to. It gives great insight into Zombie’s approach and his vision for the movie. If you are a fan of Tobe Hooper and the like, then House of 1000 Corpses is for you. I wish I could say the same thing for Zombies subsequent films. But this one is a keeper.

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