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House of 1000 Corpses

House of 1000 Corpses Movie Poster

Lions Gate Films, 2003, Rated R, 1 hr. 28 min.

It's unusual that the Hauntmistress and I watch a movie and come out of it so far apart in opinion. She loved it and I nearly fell asleep. So with that in mind we decided we would each write separate comments on the movie and let the reader decide on their own who to believe.

The Hauntmistress' comments:

The best way to describe this movie is that it's like one terrific, giant haunted house - weird, creepy, campy, funny, scary, and gory.

Captain Spaulding from House of 1000 CorpsesRob Zombie wrote, directed and scored this film set in 1977, about two young couples driving across country to collect information for a book they are writing about American roadside oddities.  With their journey nearly complete, they stop for gas on a stormy Halloween night and discover Captain Spaulding's Museum of Monsters and Madmen. Here they learn the legend of Dr. Satan, a mad doctor who was hung for performing bizarre operations on mental patients at the local sanatorium in an effort to create a race of super humans.  They are told the tree where he was hung is nearby but his body disappeared after the hanging and there is no grave.  Some say that Dr. Satan survived and continues his maniacal experiments.

Otis from House of 1000 CorpsesThe couples set out to find the tree where Dr. Satan was hanged, but they get a flat tire on a desolate country road.  They are soon beset upon a beautiful girl who offers help in the form of her brother's tow truck.  The couples end up back at the girl's house, where her and her beyond psychotic family proceed to terrorize the couples in a most gruesome way. 

Featuring, murder, cannibalism, and satanic rituals, this is a wild romp through the sadistic (in a good way) mind of Rob Zombie.  This film was bounced from Universal Studios to Lions Gate when Universal thought the movie would get an NC-17 rating (why make the damn NC-17 rating if studios are afraid to use it?!).  An unrated version will be released on DVD, and I can't wait.  

This film is incredibly well cast.  The actors look bizarre without make-up or costumes! But when make-up and special effects are used, they're top-notch.

Adding to the haunted house feel of the movie is the camera work, which at times is skewed and slips into 8mm-type scenes with discoloration.  Add to that the low-budget feel, and it left me with the impression of stepping through different rooms of a haunted house. 

The soundtrack is blasting, at times weird, and fits perfectly into the madcap world of the psychotic family, adding an urgency and craziness to the scenes.

The movie has an overall disturbing quality about it; while at times campy, it stops short of being over-the-top by the acting and the plot.  

I really enjoyed this movie and was scared and creeped out - what more can you ask for in a horror movie?

Comments from the Hauntmaster:

What more could you ask for, you say? Well, quite a bit actually. House of 1000 Corpses is at best fair. Certainly not the end all, be all, defining horror movie of our generation as was the buzz from many sources. Rob Zombie borrows heavily from the top horror movies of the past. References to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, Hellraiser, Natural Born Killers, and Last House on Dead End Street, among others abound. We are even treated to a very nice reference to the Fiji Mermaid that is quite amusing.

This isn't to say it is necessarily bad to borrow characters and concepts and use them in interesting and new ways. Quite the contrary in fact, take the X-Files for example. Very little original material is in that series but they've taken our culture's tales of the supernatural, the bizarre, and the horrifying and put a fresh spin on them. It is, however, much less interesting to see what is in essence a regurgitation of what has been done before. For the most part that's all House of 1000 Corpses is, a regurgitation of what has already been done.

Other elements that didn't work for me included the copious amount of what I would call art house effects. Jump cutting, split screens, blurred color negatives, non-linear shots, etc. While I believe these were put into the movie to emphasize the bizarre, almost surreal qualities of the film, they go on for far too long and destroy the flow of the film. At more than one point I found myself zoning out and looking for the TV remote only to realize I'm at the theater. A more judicious use of these scenes might have positively contributed to the movie.

Perhaps what bothers me the most is the complete lack of logic in the story. I know there is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief involved, after all, it's a movie, but come on. It's hard to explain the lack of logic without totally spoiling the film but let's just say that the Dr. Satan story has been around for awhile (decades), the psychotic family isn't exactly inexperienced (if you know what I mean), it's a rural area where everybody knows everybody, and this is the first time the sheriff has heard of  anything creepy going on?

Baby from House of 1000 CorpsesI don't want to give the impression that the movie is entirely bad because it isn't. The characters, even if we've seen most of them before are interesting. They are played by a series of well-known and talented actors of the genre. Dr. Spaulding (Sid Haig) in particular adds great comic relief and nails every line given to him. I think the movie that should have been made would have focused solely around his character and his roadside attraction, as this is where my interest really was. Baby (Sheri Moon), the slutty psycho, was wonderfully disturbing to say the least. I think she could have played up the sexuality a bit more. I wonder if that was held back because she is married to Rob Zombie? 

The overall evil, f**ked up funhouse atmosphere of the movie was very nice. It reminded me of some of the rural funhouses I went to as a kid and was never really sure what part of the demented characters was an act and which part was real.

Even if it is a largely clichéd regurgitation, it is at least interesting to watch the movie and try to name from which movie each scene and character was inspired. I also particularly enjoyed that it didn't have the typical Hollywood happy ending. I won't say who lives and who dies but I was pleased with the choices made.

To conclude, perhaps I expected far too much from House of 1000 Corpses. I certainly bought into the hype. If it was released on time without the two-plus years of accumulated speculation that nearly always arises with delayed releases, I think I might have enjoyed it much more. Like I said in the beginning though, it's a fair movie. Would I recommend this for theater viewing? Probably not, at least not unless you absolutely had to see a movie. This will be a fun rental though, and by the time it is available for rental the much anticipated directors cut will be available. Are we setting ourselves up again?

 


Do you think we got this movie totally wrong? Agree with us? Or just want everyone to know your thoughts? Then start a discussion of this movie in our forums!

 

QUICK FACTS

Studio

Lions Gate Films

Genre

Horror

Rating

R

Length

88 Minutes

Color

Yes

Sound

Yes

 

CAST

Actor / Actress

Character

Sid Haig

Captain Spaulding

Bill Moseley 

Otis

Sheri Moon 

Baby

Karen Black

Mother Firefly

Jerry Goldsmith

Chris Hardwick

Denise Willis

Erin Daniels

Mary Knowles

Jennifer Jostyn

Bill Hudley

Rainn Wilson

Steve Naish

Walton Goggins

George Wydell

Tom Towles

Grampa Hugo

Dennis Fimple

 

CREW

Rob Zombie

Director

Rob Zombie

Screenwriter

Andy Gould

Producer

Tom Fraser

Cinematographer

Rob Zombie

Composer

http://www.houseof1000corpses.com/

Reviewed by: Hauntmistress and Hauntmaster 4/18/2003

 
   

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