Monday, 11th December 2017. 1:59:54pm ET
Reviews Movie Reviews House of 1000 Corpses

 

Movie: House of 1000 Corpses
Company: Lions Gate Entertainment
Format: DVD
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Date: 9/13/03

House of 1000 Corpses, the infamous project from writer/director Rob Zombie that spent quite a bit of time in limbo before finally getting a theatrical release earlier this year, is a fairly difficult film to review. Not only is it difficult to fairly write about a film that has been hyped and anticipated for quite some time, but it's also hard to quantify something that is essentially an intentional mish-mash of elements from various 70s cult horror films (particularly Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Funhouse) that seems to be designed specifically for a cult fanbase rather than mainstream horror audiences.

The film, set on Halloween eve 1977, is essentially the story of two young couples travelling around while researching bizarre tourist destinations for a book. The terror begins when they stumble upon a strange little attraction while on their way home. After learning about the local legend of Dr. Satan, they set off to check out a few related sites and in the process are trapped in the title house and terrorized by a bizarre family (a la The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

The acting is rather good overall, as is the story and script. The characters are well written and fall nicely into the 70s horror frame Rob Zombie envisioned, with twisted, foul-mouthed, fairly uninhibited, and often morally ambiguous backwoods characters filling out the story. Zombie tries to give insight into the backgrounds and general moral framework of some of the characters using flashback cameos that use dialogue and ideas that are largely based on Manson family ideology. This is done fairly successfully and definitely adds a bit more dementia to the mix. The visuals are also often well done, with creepy character makeup and well-detailed settings (especially on some of the fairly impressive and effective sets at the end of the film). The soundtrack by Rob Zombie and Scott Humphrey is solid horror film fare, sticking largely to ambient/industrial material.

Rob Zombie seems to have something of a tendency toward the flashy editing and intentional kitsch that you'll find in most of the music videos released by his projects over the years. Film scenes are occasionally interspersed with neon scenes of topless dancers, excerpts from black and white horror films, random video bits, and peculiar gore. While it perhaps adds a bit to the film's quirky cult appeal, it also slightly detracts from the film's credibility and horror atmosphere (although I began to appreciate these little segments more after watching the film a few times). While Zombie may have captured some of the classic aspects he was going for, his editing pushed the movie slightly off-target of his desired recreation of the lo-fi atmosphere that made those classics frightening and disturbing (although the absence of CGI effects is a very refreshing plus here). Perhaps Zombie's distilled blend of 70s horror works against the movie in some ways, also. Much of the shock value will likely be lost on anyone familiar with the movies Zombie is imitating, and most of what you'll find in House of 1000 Corpses is actually far less shocking than what can be found in those 20-30 year old classics.

In the end, House of 1000 Corpses is something of a "concept" horror film that succeeds in some areas and fails in others. While you can tell that Zombie is definitely a horror fan and has the knowledge of, love for, and familiarity with horror films to create something interesting (in fact, the whole cast and crew deserve a hand for their effort and heart-felt desire to make a true horror film), it seems like budget problems, filming problems, and studio hassles may have taken a bit of a toll on the project. Still, the film is really quite good despite its flaws and probably has a strong potential to develop a cult following. It's also a movie that I seem to like better each time I watch it. Those looking for something as revolutionary as the classics that inspired it or looking for some kind of mainstream horror flick might be disappointed, but horror fans that are sick of the CGI-rendered, unimaginative, watered-down schlock that hollywood has been trying to pass off for the last decade will definitely want to check out House of 1000 Corpses.


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