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House Of 1000 Corpses (2003)
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Review Date: April 07, 2003
Director: Rob Zombie
Writer: Rob Zombie
Producers: Andy Gould
Actors:
Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding
Bill Moseley as Otis
Karen Black as Mother Firefly
Plot:
Four kids get caught by the side of the road on a dark, rainy, creepy night and must take refuge in a nearby home jam-packed with a family of weirdos. As the night progresses, it becomes obvious to everyone that these folks aren't just a little "kooky" a la Addams Family, but actually quite sadistic and demented. A ghoulish Halloween horror show ensues.
Critique:
If Rob Zombie's goal with this pic was to create a cinematic equivalent of what a freaky-ass Haunted House ride on Halloween's eve would be like, I am happy to report that HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES slaps together just the right amount of creepy atmosphere, nervous laughter, cheap scares, fun rides and blood and guts to satisfy any major fan of the macabre. No one is going to pretend like this movie is re-inventing the wheel, but props go out to Mr. Zed for bringing back some of the real horror "feel" from the 70s, arranging a groovy soundtrack with plenty of rock and mild tunes to support its visuals, casting enough really odd, yet believable, characters to feature as the most F'd up family in the world and for jacking it all up with plenty of camera goodies for everyone. Slow-motion, split-screens, grainy B&W flashbacks...all the tricks of the trade are here and pretty much everything is incorporated into the film in order to jazz up its continuous small-town horror ride. If you're sick and tired of the latest WB star showing up in a classic remake or yet another "rock soundtrack" disguising itself as a "teen horror flick", check into this ratty motel and enjoy the unpleasantries. This film's opening sequence reminded me of FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and plenty of other horror nods joined along the way with a little bit of ALICE IN WONDERLAND tossed in right near the end. A maze of freaks, karo syrup, T&A, violence and fun is essentially what this movie is all about...and therein lies its rub as well.

As much as I enjoyed my 88-minute ride through this horror-fest, I can't say that much of it resonated with me when the lights switched back on...kinda like a real campy Haunted House ride actually. Looking back, it even felt a tad redundant at times, especially after its first half hour "set-up", after which there was a stronger emphasis on just the violence, killings, nuttiness and blood. Not that there's anything wrong with that...I mean, this IS the ultimate Halloween movie if I ever saw one, but if you're looking for something a little more "substantial"...Zombie didn't really bring that to the table in this go-around. The four lead characters were also bland parodies of your typical "geeky kids caught by the side of the road", while the family of killers, who were fun as heck, didn't really present us with any juice other than the fact that they were basically all "nuts". I did like most of the family members though including the foul-mouthed grandpa, the ass-kicking Bill Moseley as Otis, the extremely creepy "Tiny" (listed in Guiness as the man with the world's largest feet?), the over-the-top tart known as Karen Black and most especially...the lovely assed, Zombie-wife and fun-time killer honey-bunny aka Sheri Moon! Sid Haig was also a blast as Captain Spaulding, and spit out many of the film's funnier dialogue moments. As mentioned earlier, the movie also goes out of its way to play with the camera and sound, and I especially loved the "I Remember You" slow-motion sequence as the cops made an "interesting" discovery in the back of the house. Very cool. Another fun scene featured the lovely bare-assed Moon walking into the Pussy Liquors store and ordering up a storm of drinks, and how about that wicked super-close-up of that girl's eye as "someone" is nearing her from the back? Once more...very, very cool.

In the end, the film doesn't really bring enough originality to the plate, and along with some odd editing choices and an ending that didn't really do much for me, doesn't overwhelm, but it certainly managed to ghoulishly entertain me for an hour and a half, and I guess that's something in itself these days. Another commendable aspect of the film was its ability to balance the comedy and gore well overall, with the picture's first half playing a little less serious than its much darker second round. That was also one of its problems though, since it was hard to take its more serious elements as "seriously" since a lot of the stuff alongside it, felt like parody. All in all, if watching a movie on Hallo's Eve is what you're looking for, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES is an incredible freak sideshow with just the right amount of horror, fun, gore, music and mindlessness to fill your pallet. It also "looks" and "feels" as horrific as any such film should. If, on the other hand, you want to be truly "terrified", challenged creatively or engrossed within an entrancing tale of well-developed characters...well, this Haunted House is likely not for you. This flick is having fun and if you're hip to that vibe, you're likely to enjoy its homage-driven ass as well. And get this...no shitty CGI anywhere in sight!! Jan DeBont...take note.
(c) 2015 Berge Garabedian
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