Directed by Rob Zombie [Other horror films: The Devil’s Rejects (2005), Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009), The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009), The Lords of Salem (2012), 31 (2016), 3 from Hell (2019)]
Rob Zombie’s debut horror film is a controversial one with very mixed views. I saw this three times without being impressed by it, but in recent years, I’ve come to find that it’s actually quite compelling, and the story here, while the basics aren’t that original, has a very harrowing and memorable route.
I don’t know if I’d call House of 1000 Corpses artsy, but I would say that the movie, in many ways, is an experience. I know some people don’t care for the utterly random cuts (the skunk ape who had lurid relations with a woman was the most striking, but who can forget the random black guy screaming ‘This is hell’ in front of a shack with a lot of religious ramblings on it?), old movie inserts, random ramblings of Firefly family members (both Otis and Baby), scenes in negative coloring, a portion in which a nude Baby is pleasuring herself with a skeleton, and the other random, psychedelic stuff thrown into the movie (such as the split screen portions, sometimes split into not just two, but three screens), but damn, I do think that all added a little something to this movie. Was it overkill? To each his own, but while I didn’t like it the first few times around, I’ve grown to appreciate it.
What’s equally as trippy as all of that are the final twenty or so minutes of the film, starting with the industrial metal funeral procession to the burial pit, followed by a tape recorder repeating ‘Bury me in a nameless grave,’ after having been lowered over the pit in a hanging coffin. From there, we have a harrowing encounter with zombies (?), Doctor Satan, his many experiments, and a cybernetic creation known as the Professor.
And though more conventional, the slow motion scene after a shed of dead bodies is found, leading to a tense shootout, all with Slim Whitman’s ‘I Remember You’ playing during the carnage is a lot of fun, and sticks out as a stand-out scene.
Honestly, the gore here isn’t really that heavy. I think the worst of it is a brief scalping, because the dismemberment scene was pretty quick, and while the razor blade scene wasn’t without gore, there wasn’t a whole lot of it. I liked the skinned flesh being used as a suit (courtesy of Otis), but again, it’s more disturbing than it is bloody. That said, while it’s not an all-out gorefest by any stretch of the imagination, House of 1000 Corpses is pretty damn freaky, as it possesses plenty of uneasy scenes, and throw in the trippy snippets throughout the film and the whole of the conclusion, I stand by my statement that the movie’s harrowing.
The four main characters are all okay, though none of them are near as striking as anyone in the Firefly family. Rainn Wilson (who is recognizable as a character from The Office, despite me never having seen a single episode of the show) was perhaps my favorite of the bunch, but I also sort of liked Jennifer Jostyn, despite a somewhat iffy attitude throughout. Chris Hardwick has an unbridled enthusiasm which I appreciated, and Erin Daniels is the forgettable one.
You won’t find too many forgettable members of the Firefly family, save for R.J. (Robert Allen Mukes), who was still threatening in his own right. I’d say Otis (Bill Moseley, who previously appeared in Texas Chainsaw Massacre II and the 1990 Night of the Living Dead remake) is the most memorable, as his pseudo-philosophical rants and sadistic nature really bring a lot to the film. Sheri Moon as Baby is really annoying at times, but it fits with her personality, and she lip-syncs with the best of them. As Mother Firefly, Karen Black (of Trilogy of Terror and Burnt Offerings) is enchanting in her own right, and feels like a more subdued version of Baby, which was definitely appreciated.
The other family members don’t matter near as much. Tiny (Matthew McGrory) was cool to look at, but due to the nature of his character, didn’t add a whole lot to the film, and Dennis Fimple was just here to tell lewd jokes and flip off Otis. It’s Sid Haig (who’s relationship with the family is never really made clear) who, despite his very little screen-time, really stands out as an amusing and somewhat likable guy (the opening to this film, on a side-note, is great). The only other cast member I wanted to mention was Tom Towles, who I thought did pretty good as a police officer.
Personally, I understand why some people don’t care much for the style of this movie, because, like I said, for quite some time, I was one of them. It’s somewhat artsy, at times a bit much, but I really think it feels like a unique experience, and at the moment, this is a movie I find myself enjoying again and again with each rewatch.
This was covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if interested, you can check out Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one below.