House of 1,000 Corpses

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.
This is the actual ossuary, in the Czech Republic.
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.


About scarina

I like scary movies a little too much. I thought I'd share my obsession with you.
This entry was posted in 21st century, halloween 2012, serial killers, slasher and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to House of 1,000 Corpses

  1. Crypticpsych says:

    I actually just watched this again recently myself (and Devil’s Rejects…twas a double feature night). It’s weird, the first time or two I tried to watch it, it quite literally put me to sleep. When I finally sat through it, like you, I remember liking it more than I do now. I’d forgotten the music video editing style he did until I just recently watched it…drove me nuts. You’re absolutely right, the Firefly clan, shot composition, and music are the best parts of the film. They aren’t perfect though…Baby can get REALLY grating a few times.

    And you’re right, Zombie is nowhere near as bad as Diablo Cody at writing dialogue, but he does have his cringeworthy moments.

    I honestly think you’re right about its self-percieved transgressiveness in two ways. For one, as you said, so much more shocking cinema has come out in the ten years (yes, 2013 is 10th anniversary year) since this movie…hell, Devil’s Rejects isn’t that shocking in and of itself but it’s moreso than this is. For it’s time, yes, maybe it felt more shocking because we were still in the death throws of the PG-13 Teen slasher boom of the 90s (which, for the record, I still think produced more good films than some like to admit…they just weren’t ultra popular at the box office).

    I also think that it built a cult around it by a combination of Zombie’s musical following and the whole backstory of Universal shelving the movie and refusing to release it until LionsGate bought it off them. I mean, when the MPAA rates your movie R for (and I’m quoting here) “Strong Sadistic Violence/Gore, Sexuality, and Language”, it’s going to get a bit of clout solely from that.

    • scarina says:

      I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I loved it so much & now it’s just mortifying.
      Sherri Moon Zombie is nice to look at & has a unique voice–she should really do voice-over–but, good gravy, that laugh!
      Now there’s a fight I couldn’t choose a side in–Zombie vs. Cody? There are no winners!
      I tried so hard to like “The Devil’s Rejects” but it just didn’t do anything for me. I prolly won’t review it unless I trip over a copy in the gutter or something.
      It’s so funny how much of a battle it was for that movie when it’s not that bad! It doesn’t have any ass-to-mouth or anything like “A Serbian Film.”

  2. Pingback: The Lords of Salem | Scarina's Scary Vault of Scariness

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