HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES is a dark but extremely colorful mental disorder of a horror film and I mean that as a sincere complement. It's filmed like a really long Rob Zombie music video which makes sense since he filmed the dang thing. While it is one of the first of the new wave of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE homages it at least separates itself from the pack with Zombie's unique imagination and over the top characters and incredibly profane Kentucky fried dialogue. Best of all this is Zombie's only work (as of now) that doesn't contradict itself. What do I mean by that? Well all I can say is wait until my review of DEVIL'S REJECTS. Right now I want to be positive and heap a bunch of praise on this underrated classic.
HOUSE OF A 1000 CORPSES is about four young adults who while researching roadside attractions across America become victims of a family of crazies out in the country side on Halloween. Immediately the film opens with a t.v. show monster movie marathon hosted by Dr. Wolfenstein. As the movie goes on clips from several classic horror films cut into the movie adding a sense of horror culture that is lacking in almost all horror films nowadays. I love classic horror and mixing it with the modern even though the setting takes place in the 70s is brilliant. The old Universal films that mostly are played during October have become a tradition of American Halloween. Those films bring up memories of past childhood Halloweens and HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES gets that.
The cast is top notch with veteran actors like Sid Haig, Karen Black, and Bill Mosely providing crazy whacked out performances. I have no idea what Bill is saying in this movie. All I know is that he scares the crap out of me in this. In real life he is a real cool guy and he signed both my DVDs of HOUSE and DEVIL'S. Same thing with Sid Haig and his Captain Spaulding character. He is one intense clown. Spaulding is the kind of character that you kind of want to stay on his good side. The acting is perfect across the board. No complaints there.
This is a much darker film. It is WAAAAY(!) darker than the happy sunny good times hairy balls rockin n roll DEVIL'S REJECTS. There is a good amount of humor here but all of it has a sinister edge to it. Its not meant to be laugh out loud hilarious. Its there to keep the film from being a constant downer. Most horror makers keep the humor out because they believe that makes their films more "extreme". They don't realize that the tone of a story needs to go up and down and not just down where it becomes boring and bleak. HOUSE has those elements of torture porn and seventies style heroics where the people who come and save the day end up dead leaving no hope for the survivors which is all we have seen before. But then the movie gets a little more darker with the introduction of the Professor an axe wielding maniac and Dr. Satan who looks like a de-feathered vulture with a breathing mask. This film has monsters and crazy zombie people. These elements show a strong sense of imagination. HOUSE gives us a lot to look at and then it gives us a little more with these characters. They both are a couple of instant horror icons.
There is a mix of crazy images, psychedelic dream sequences and film negative photography that transitions the scenes of the movie. Most of the time scenes will have a bunch of crazy crap cut into the scene just for kicks. I think this is why American audiences tune out on this movie. It maybe a little too much madness for them. Maybe it is a little much. Maybe Zombie isn't confident with what is happening on screen to create interest so he puts a bunch of mindless stuff into the moments. I think it works. It is a little too much like a music video but I expect madness from a movie about madness. Zombie is best at showing death in his films. Every time you see a dead body in a movie of his it looks like a real dead body. He makes the image as uncomfortable as possible. He gets the message of the awfulness of death. But we are suppose to root for the bad guys?
The one thing I don't like about HOUSE is the ending. This a movie where the characters go through such extremes that one of them needs to make it out. At least that would make the beginning of DEVIL'S REJECTS make sense. How did those cops know about what was going on in that farmhouse to begin with? I am not a big believer in Zombie's idea of the monsters being the heroes. I am a firm believer that someone needs to survive otherwise everything that happens if fruitless. They all might as well have died at the beginning and save us all some time. I don't like the fact that the girl gets away only to end up back in the chair of Dr. Satan. That blows big time. I want to see the monsters get killed in gruesome monster deaths. Horror makers always forget that the best part of a classic monster movie is when the monster melts, burns, gets chopped up or whatever. Maybe it was a dream that she got away. She thinks she gets away with Spaulding showing up and giving her a ride only to have Otis in the back seat with a knife stabbing her in the back only to wake up in a real life nightmare. I wonder.