House of 1000 Corpses
house of 1000 corpses | rob zombie | sid haig | karen black | bill moseley | united states | erin daniels | walton goggins | chris hardwick | jennifer jostyn | rainn wilson | sheri moon zombie | tom towles | matthew mcgrory | exploitation
Film: House of 1000 Corpses
Director: Rob Zombie
Writer: Rob Zombie
Starring: Sid Haig, Karen Black and Bill Moseley
This film I actually didn’t really care for the first time that I saw it. I was a bigger fan of the sequel, The Devil’s Rejects. I will admit I had only seen this film once and that was in the theater with my family. I did get the chance to give this a viewing when it came to the Gateway Film Center when it was showing it as a 15 year anniversary, so I decided to check it out to give it another chance. A third viewing has now been done as part of the Summer Challenge Series from the Podcast Under the Stairs for the 2000s. The official synopsis is two young couples traveling across the backwoods of Texas searching for urban legends of murder end up as prisoners of a bizarre and sadistic backwater family of serial killers.
Now I will admit, this synopsis is a little bit misleading. The group is Denise Willis (Erin Daniels), her boyfriend Jerry Goldsmith (Chris Hardwick), Mary Knowles (Jennifer Jostyn) and her boyfriend Bill Hudley (Rainn Wilson). They are traveling to write a book about the random roadside attractions that are out there. They end up at Captain Spaulding’s (Sid Haig) museum of the mystery of the strange and murder. There is actually a dark ride where they learn about a serial killer named Dr. Satan. Jerry really wants to go to the tree where he was hung and thinks it will add to their book.
It starts to rain pretty hard on their drive and they come upon a hitchhiker. She is Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie). She tells them that she knows where the tree is. As they near her house, someone shoots their tire out. It turns out to be Rufus (Robert Allen Mukes). Baby takes Bill to her house to get her brother to tow them and fix the tire.
Things take quite the turn for this group. There are a quite a few people in this Firefly family. They have their own bizarre way of having fun and they won’t let this group leave. We’ve been given news reports about a group of cheerleaders who have gone missing. They are also here, some of them with Otis (Bill Moseley). They’re not enjoying their stay though.
The question then becomes, is the story of Dr. Satan real or just a way to get people back here? Denise’s dad, Don (Harrison Young) is a former police officer and is expecting his daughter. When she doesn’t show, he starts to look for her with the local police. They’re in for much more than they bargained for though.
My views of this film definitely have come up since that first viewing. I wasn’t really used to more of the art house style horror films that I am a fan of now. I don’t necessarily consider this to be art house, but it does have some interesting editing and quite stylized. It is a lot like watching a Rob Zombie music video. There is lower quality home video footage that is interspersed in the film and after this viewing, I didn’t mind at times. It really makes it more surreal by giving us a look into this family, which the other characters do not get. I also think when they’re doing some attacks on people during it gives it more a grindhouse feel and makes it more real for me. The film does get a little bit boring for me during the day when Don and the police are searching. I felt some of the tension dies, but it does pick back up in the end. I did really like the ending of the film.
Something I have also noticed is that Rob Zombie is really wearing his heart on his sleeve for this movie. I’ve heard that he loves the Universal Horror films, which makes sense that we’re seeing a horror host like they used to get back in the day with a horror movie marathon where they would show those films. This is really paying homage to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with what we’re getting with some other exploitation/horror films mixed in. It does work here for me.
The acting of the film is really good as well. I do have to give it to Zombie, that he went out and got people that were underrated or were popular back in the day. Haig is wonderful and gritty in his role. He is hilarious and dirty, but I could literally see him running the attraction that he does. Black was solid as the mother of this family. Daniels, Jostyn, Hardwick and Wilson were also good. We get to see the fear and the uneasiness that their predicament has them in. Not necessarily sure the women would fight back like they do though. Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie and the rest of the Firefly family were good as well. It was also fun to see Tom Towles and Walton Goggins in this film as police officers. They are both solid actors.
As for the effects of the film, they were all done practical and looked amazing. The blood looks real. We see some of the damage that is done to characters, but it is edited in a way where it does cut away so we fill in to make it worse. The look of the characters as they are just tortured and beaten looks great. I thought the look of Otis was great too. He looks to be albino, but he is so dirty that is kind of hard to tell. Also the film is shot very well. I like the angles and gritty feel to it. It definitely makes it feel more real. This last viewing there was a few times where I think he’s cut to some things that do bog it down ever so slightly for me.
Something that I knew coming in was that Zombie would make sure that score was great. We get an odd mix of metal with oldies. The film actually takes place in the 1970’s, so it incorporates music from the era. I think that actually adds to the tension as cheery songs being played over people being tortured. It gives such an odd duality to it. Metal also just fits in with the genre as well. This is a strong part of the film for sure.
Now with that said, I’m definitely glad I revisted this film a couple of times. It is much stronger than I realized and I think my tastes had to grow for me to fully enjoy it. The story of the film is pretty basic. We have a group who gets taken by a family of maniacs where they start to be killed off one by one. The setting and how things play out, how they are toyed with makes it quite scary. It is well acted, there are just slight issues with some editing and some of the images we see. The effects were great as was the score of the film. Something I didn’t include earlier was there are so many references to film of the past as well as to horror films. Whether it is posters or films on the television, I thought it was a great touch. I would say this film is like a mix of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. This film won’t be for everyone as it is not traditional, but I do think if you haven’t seen it give it a chance. If you, but haven’t seen it in awhile, give it another viewing.
My Rating: 8 out of 10