House of 1,000 Corpses
review by KJ Doughton, 18 April 2003

Say what you will about singer-cum-director Rob Zombie, but one thing is indisputable. This hairy, dread-locked, cartoon-scribbling metalmeister, a favorite with bikers, headbangers, and goths, definitely knows his horror movies. For House of 1,000 Corpses, Zombie pays homage to those beloved seventies drive-in shockers that peaked with Texas Chainsaw Massacre before they were later recycled, lampooned, and repackaged with slick marketing as Scream, Blair Witch Project, and other pretenders to the throne of gut-bucket, low brow horror.

A pet project that Zombie nurtured like a paternal overseer until its production wrapped in 2001 (it was then hurled between reluctant studios like a hot potato until Lion’s Gate Films released it), House of 1,000 Corpses is like one of the human skin-suits glimpsed in Silence of the Lambs. Taking an eyeball from this film, and a severed arm from that one, this all-too-familiar cinematic carcass is lovingly sewn from bits and pieces of nearly every grade-B gore classic ever to splatter the screen.

For instance, the movie opens as bubbly friends Jerry, Denise, Bill, and Mary pull into a seedy gas station helmed by Captain Spalding (Sid Haig). A grotesque, roadside carny, he decorates his macabre filling stop with mounted animal heads, freaks of nature (the fish-man, anyone?), and musty, dust-coated skeletons. Decked out in garish pancake makeup and a red, white, and blue vaudeville suit, Spalding looks like a political campaigner gone frighteningly round the bend. Oh – and did I mention that this clown-faced, pot-bellied Okie also markets a special blend of fried chicken? Right away, images of Motel Hell, Psycho, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Funhouse come to mind.

Later, when the four doomed travelers are abducted by a leering family of rotten-toothed, white-trash scuzzballs, things veer into serious Texas Chainsaw… territory. Or is this Deliverance? Or perhaps Mother’s Day? Uh, Last House on the Left?

What comes next is a nonstop smorgasbord of unpleasant torment and disturbing, decaying imagery. Zombie’s film is in a different world from the humor-heavy, effects-laden energies spurting from the minds of directors Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond), Sam Raimi (Evil Dead- and later, Spider Man) and Peter Jackson (whose pre-Lord of the Rings horror classics included Dead Alive and Bad Taste). House of 1,000 Corpses has its bloody scenes, but the imagery is more doomy than graphic. In this sense, its aesthetic is more in line with the early works of Wes Craven (Last House on the Left) and Tobe Hooper, whose Texas Chainsaw… set the standard. Looking back, Hooper’s milestone had very little blood. Its power was conjured forth by quick-cuts to a clucking chicken, a dilating pupil, or a demented old man trying to clutch a sledgehammer.

Meanwhile, the …Corpses cast is a casket-full of seventies icons. Karen Black, the busty, cross-eyed star of Capricorn One and In Praise of Older Women, appears as a slutty matriarch named Mother Firefly. In need of some serious dental work, you can almost smell the halitosis emanating from her vile mouth.

House of 1,000 Corpses is one of those genre films that seem impervious to reviews. If you’re into the particular types of dingy, dank depths that Zombie prefers to inhabit, this unashamed genre flick will probably satiate such cravings. If you’re of more delicate sensibilities – well, the title alone will probably be enough to scare you off.

Written and
Directed by:

Rob Zombi

Bill Moseley
Karen Black
Sheri Moon
Sid Haig
Michael J. Pollard

R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
parent or adult






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