CAPSULE: HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003)

Beware

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Erin Daniels, Chris Hardwick, , Jennifer Jostyn, , , , Robert Mukes, Dennis Fimple,

PLOT: Four college kids are abducted by a backwoods maniac family.



WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  Because the Texas Chainsaw Massacre ripoff plot was too tissue-thin to support a movie, heavy metal musician turned debutante director Rob Zombie’s fleshed the film out with stylistic excess.  Home movies from inside the serial killers’ psyches, purposeless solarizations, classic drive-in intertitles, and clips of vintage B&W cheesecake constantly interrupt what action there is.  The effect is not to make the film weird, but to draw attention to the director– “I’m Rob Zombie, trash horror aficionado, and I’m making a movie!”–and make him seem weird.  It ends on a highly surrealistic note, but this is actually the weakest part of the movie.

COMMENTS:  Make no bones about it: House of 1000 Corpses is bad.  This movie is what happens when you take The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, drain out all the scary, and replace it with annoying.  Still, if Zombie had to fail, at least he failed bombastically rather than meekly.  If you took away the directorial flourishes from the movie and left only the plot, played straight, then this movie really would have been a nightmare (see the weirdly praised sequel The Devil’s Rejects).

The presence of trash film icons Sid Haig (Spider Baby) as the memorable sideshow Captain Spaulding (pictured) and Karen Black as the redneck matriarch adds some interest.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“As Rob Zombie’s name twitched over the seizure-inducing opening credits sequence of ‘House of 1000 Corpses’, one highly eager dude in the 1/4 filled theatre gamely raised his fists and shouted, ‘Rob Zombie Rules!’ As the closing credits rolled an unbearably slow 88 minutes later, I’ll bet that same guy contemplated raising his fists again and announcing, ‘I apologize for rushing to judgment.'” -Todd Levin, Film Threat

2 thoughts on “CAPSULE: HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003)”

  1. I’ll have to disagree with this review. The plot of psychotic hillbilly family terrorizing college students is older and broader than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While House of 1000 Corpses plot comes from that background and revels in the some of the same cinematic sleaze characteristic of 70’s horror and grindhouse films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, calling it a knockoff is unfair and missing the point.

    Slasher or torture films always have an iconic villain, but House of 1000 Corpses actually has interesting villains. Baby is a psychotic Daisy Dukes, whose high-pitched voice can be alternately annoying and unsettling, depending on the situation. Otis is a kind of sick philosopher or preacher, delivering his ‘wisdom’ to a hapless, kidnapped cheerleader. Tiny, the perfunctorily mute, deformed inbred son, seems tragic, giving us a moment of hope when he releases Denise that there might be a shred of humanity in the Firefly clan. Sid Haig steals the show as a foul-mouthed, crude, greasy clown, Captain Spaulding. He’s as hilarious as he is inappropriate.

    Perhaps this is an overused, cop-out argument, but House of 1000 Corpses is a film not meant to be taken seriously. The instances of crude, black comedy, most notably with Captain Spaulding and the show the Firefly family puts on, and the homage to trashy horror films undermine any notion that this is a ‘serious’ horror film. I agree that the solarizations and interpolated clips of old films seem like an effort to make this film weird, but I never found them a distraction or calling attention to the director, since they just added a layer of strangeness that seemed to fit with the rest of the film, if not neatly. House of 1000 Corpses is entertaining and there are some genuinely creepy elements; I found the finale scary because the evil of the Firefly family expands its reach to the underground network of Dr. Satan’s lair, which seems to stretch for miles. However, it doesn’t belong on the weird list. It’s a good horror/exploitation film, but its eccentricities aren’t special and it certainly doesn’t belong with the art house cinema on the list. I’d readily recommend it to horror fans, but I’d probably recommend it only to the most charitable of non-horror fans, given the above responses to the movie.

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