I first saw this movie years ago, when I was in college. I decided to re-watch it for Halloween 2012 and, upon re-watching it, I absolutely can’t remember why I thought that it was so great. My theory is that I’d seen way less scary movies then so I didn’t have as much of a basis for comparison.
Is this movie brutal? I’d say mildly but it’s not nearly as gut-wrenching as Last House on the Left. Does it try to violate taboos? Sure, but it seems mild now, compared to The Human Centipede or A Serbian Film. I’d say the one thing that keeps me from disliking this movie is that it’s obvious that Rob Zombie loves scary movies as much as I do and that this is supposed to be a loving tribute. That being said, if you’re going to make a tribute why not try to do it better? This movie isn’t better than its inspiration. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes do crazy families better. The House by the Cemetery is my least favorite Fulci film but that does demonic doctors better than House of 1,000 Corpses. Why contribute to the canon if you’re not going to improve upon it?
The movie opens with an introduction from Dr. Wolfenstein (Greg Gibbs), a horror movie emcee in the vein of Vampira.
It’s a framing device referred to multiple times throughout the movie. It’s October 30, 1977 and multiple characters are watching scary movies on t.v.
Not Mary (Jennifer Jostyn), Bill (Rainn Wilson), Denise (Erin Daniels), and Jerry (Chris Hardwick.)
They’re driving around the country looking for strange roadside attractions. They get their wish when they stop at Captain Spaulding’s gas station/friend chicken store/Museum of Monsters and Madmen.
Captain Spaulding (horror veteran Sid Haig) tells the group about Dr. Satan, a doctor at a notorious local mental institution who performed brutal experiments on patients. The group goes off in search of the tree where he was hanged.
On the way, they pick up a hitchhiker, Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie.) A mysterious man shoots out their tire but the group think it’s a blow-out. Luckily, Baby’s brother owns a tow-truck, he can fix their car. So Baby bring the group to her home and introduces them to her mother, Gloria (Karen effin Black.)
They sit through the most awkward dinner ever and Grandpa’s filthy comedy act until Baby starts her cabaret act to the song “I Wanna be Loved by You.”
Things go too far when Baby openly flirts with Bill and Mary attacks her. The group tries to leave but the family destroys their car. One by one, they become the victims of Baby or Otis (Another horror icon, Bill Moseley.)
The rest of the movie is basically the family dispatching the group and the police who come looking for the missing people. Bill’s body is turned into a fish boy.
Denise is dressed up like a doll, then a bunny, and eventually becomes the movie’s final girl.
That’s about it, really. The movie leaves you rooting for the family by making the missing group so utterly unlikable. The guys are mostly clueless doofuses and the girls aren’t fun and spend the time until they’re attacked being incredibly rude to the family. They don’t even try to hide their disdain. I think this is Zombie’s indictment of the city versus rural attitude that can exist in this country. It’s an argument that has merit but it’s very heavy-handed in this movie. That being said, Sid Haig, Karen Black, Sheri Moon Zombie, and Bill Moseley’s delightfully deranged performances pretty much guaranteed that the characters would gain a cult following.
Zombie can compose good shots, like this one, which is pretty much my favorite of the whole movie. I like the cool blue against the warm orange, it’s nice and symmetrical, and the bones remind me of the Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic.
Actually, a quick look on Wikipedia confirms that this was the inspiration for Dr. Satan’s lair.
Unfortunately, much of the movie is filmed in music video vision that is whiplash-inducing. Mostly, it feels like the movie thinks it’s more transgressive than it is. There are some gory moments but nothing really shocking. It doesn’t help that Rob Zombie writes dialogue the way that no one in the history of ever has spoken, although he’s not as bad as Diablo Cody.
The great performances by the cult horror actors really save this movie from being mediocre, along with Zombie’s undeniable ability to score the movie. I liked some of the music more than I liked the actual movie. At an hour and twenty minutes this movie is short enough to keep it from being annoying, so it might make for a fun night. But, if you really want to be scared, you should go to the original source material that inspired Zombie.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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