House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

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.

8.5/10

This was covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if interested, you can check out Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one below.

Monster Man (2003)

Directed by Michael Davis [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a movie that I saw once or twice back when I was a kid, quite early in my horror viewing, and so there’s a slight nostalgic value to the film, which is probably a good thing, as without it, I suspect I’d like this even less than I do now.

It’s not a bad film, necessarily, if the comedy within is your type of thing, but the somewhat immature humor here didn’t really wow me. That’s not even one of my biggest issues with Monster Man, though it certainly didn’t help (especially the stupid fight scenes and somewhat whimsical music used throughout the film).

One of the two main issues I had with the movie was that I felt it ran on way too long. The movie has an average running time of an hour and a half, but I struggled during a lot of it, especially after the introduction of Aimee Brooks’ character. Cue the other problem – maybe it’s because I’ve seen this before (many, many years back), but the red herring behind her character seemed extraordinarily obvious, and that sort of lessened much of the impact of what happened toward the end.

I do think Monster Man has great gore at times, and the special effects overall are decent. That chili certainly stood out positively as gut-wrenchingly sickening. Also, I liked how everything sort of tied in well at the end, though I really hated the more comedic portions of the conclusion (such as Joe Goodrich’s character).

Worth mentioning, I think there are even some solidly suspenseful sequences in the film, such as the monster truck chase near the beginning, along with the restroom sequence. Even the design of the Monster Man is really solid, from his mask to the way he walks. A lot of this movie felt like a cheap comedic rip-off of both Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Jeepers Creepers, and they definitely loved their inspirations, I felt.

If Monster Man had been played in a more serious manner, I tend to think I would have liked it quite a bit more, because the humor here really turned me off. Quite likely, Monster Man would have been a lot more forgettable, but even now, I don’t know if the movie’s overly memorable, despite the solid gore toward the second half.

Aimee Brooks was hot, so kudos there, but neither of the main actors (Eric Jungmann and Justin Urich) positively stood out. Playing the Monster Man, I thought Michael Bailey Smith was appropriately creepy despite the comedic feel of the film.

Overall, if you’re more into comedy-horror, I’d recommend giving Monster Man a go, and I certainly like some elements, but it’s not one I think I’d watch that often, and I definitely wouldn’t say the film’s even able to reach average. Might be worth a watch, still.

5.5/10

This was covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if at all intrigued, you can listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this film.

Goo chak sam fong fong (2003)

Directed by Soi Cheang [Other horror films: Hung bou yit sin ji Dai tao gwai ying (2001), Hyn huet ching nin (2002), Gwai muk (2005)]

Known as The Death Curse in English, Goo chak sam fong fong is a somewhat forgettable horror/comedy experience from Hong Kong. The movie isn’t completely without merit, but it’s certainly not an Asian film that I’d count anywhere near among the best they have to offer.

There’s a few issues when talking about this one. Plot-wise, children of a recently-dead man come together for a reunion of sorts (in order to get their inheritance), which is all good and well, but the problem is that there’s eight of them. Well, seven, because one couldn’t be located (as soon as this was mentioned, I logged it in mind as something that was likely to come up later), but even so, it got a bit confusing trying to remember who’s who, especially when most of the children were similar-looking men.

Another issue, unavoidable in some circumstances when watching foreign films, was the captions here. The translations were, at times, rather iffy, and I somewhat suspect the version I saw wasn’t necessarily an official English release of the movie. I definitely prefer subtitles over dubbing, and I followed most of the conversations fine (despite the really odd syntax throughout), but I thought it was worth mentioning regardless.

Only two cast-members made that much an impression on me, three if I’m stretching it. Charlene Choi played Nancy, a somewhat annoying and bratty young woman, though she had some funny lines at times, and got better as the movie went on. Alex Fong played the family’s lawyer, and I loved this guy for his very lawyery, serious demeanor. He just had a style to him which I very much appreciated. The stretch addition is Lawrence Chou. His character starts out rather pathetically, but he sort of grows into an impressive individual.

The comedy here is about what you would expect. A lot of it doesn’t really work that well, and it somewhat made the finale here (which was actually somewhat decent) quite a bit more difficult to take seriously. A lot of the ideas here were interesting, but the comedy didn’t really add that much in my view, but I don’t think it overall ruined the film or anything so extreme.

Goo chak sam fong fong (I have to admit, that’s fun to write, for some reason) isn’t an Asian film that’s all that great, or even good. It’s competent, and it gets the job done, but as much as I enjoyed aspects of the finale, ultimately, The Death Curse was unremarkable, maybe good for one go, but not much more.

6/10

Darkness Falls (2003)

Darkness Falls

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman [Other horror films: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006), The Killing Room (2009)]

This strikes me as an utterly fruitless and unenjoyable film to watch, and only if one has nostalgic connections to this one could I see Darkness Falls being a movie one would willingly go back to.

The story behind Matilda Dixon is sort of cool (and reminds me, though it came out many years later, of Dead Silence), but everything else seemed very, very hollow, and honestly, I felt like little happened despite the film being eighty minutes or so long. At times, I was reminded of better movies such as Fear of the Dark (also from 2003), and some worse movies, like Alone in the Dark (2005), or They (2002) but the point is that this story, while possessing potential, felt utterly wasted.

Almost all of the performances here weren’t up to par for what I’d hope to see. Chaney Kley was terribly weak as the star, which could probably be explained by the fact that he didn’t really do that much before taking this role. It doesn’t help that his character didn’t seem fleshed out at all (which is true for most of these characters). Kley died at 34 years old back in 2007, which is a shame, as maybe he had improved past this point. I know that Lee Cormie was just a kid here, but his acting too is rather pitiful. Grant Piro’s character seemed good for nothing but extraordinarily weak comedic relief, and while not bad, Emma Caulfield didn’t much shine in this one either.

It’s somewhat hard to pinpoint exactly why not only I just don’t like this, but rather hate it. It felt far too tepid, too tame, and too shallow, with bad, Hollywood scares and a very bad story. The movie’s made worse by the fact that other movies from around the same time were so much better (Jeepers Creepers in 2001, which had a much better police headquarters take-down, or the aforementioned Fear of the Dark).

I don’t remember particularly caring for this one when I first saw it, but I also don’t remember disliking it as much as I do now. If you’ve a nostalgic connection to this shallow film, then perhaps it works out for you, but as for me, I found Darkness Falls a deeply tedious and tepid mess.

4/10

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

TCM

Directed by Marcus Nispel [Other horror films: Frankenstein (2004), Friday the 13th (2009), Exeter (2015)]

This won’t be a very long review, because quite honestly, I can’t think of much to say.

Throughout the whole of the film, I just felt it very bland. It’s not bad, per se, but nothing really did anything for me. The gore was top-notch, with some solid dismemberments and impaling on meat hooks and the like, but with the glossy style the movie sometimes took, it sort of weakened the impact.

One thing, gore aside, that this movie did really well were the sets. The Hewitt house looked great, with a really creepy exterior and fantastically-done basement, with a whole mess of random horrific stuff crammed down there. The meat packing plant was appropriately creepy also, so kudos there.

As for the actors/actresses involved, none of them were either that great or that bad. They just felt sort of there, going through the motions. I didn’t care for R. Lee Ermey’s character, but he did okay. As Leatherface, Andrew Bryniarski did decent, and looked rather menacing. As for Jessica Biel and company, really, nothing good nor bad stands out. Biel was certainly attractive in some scenes, which is what they were going for, it seems, but other than that, eh.

The movie starts off a bit sluggish, and doesn’t really pick up until about forty minutes in, and when it does, it’s a smooth ride forward, but I just couldn’t shake the idea of how bland I felt the movie was. It has it’s positive factors, but from 2003 alone, I can think of other horror flicks I’d rather watch (such as Dead End or House of 1000 Corpses), so ultimately, I wasn’t much impressed this time around.

6/10

The Devil’s Tattoo (2003)

Devil's Tattoo

Directed by Julian Kean [Other horror films: N/A]

This movie (which, while known as Ghost Rig, is originally titled The Devil’s Tattoo) isn’t all that amazing, not by any stretch. I saw it many years back on Chiller, and all-in-all, it never really came to mind, aside from the basics of the plot (a group of environmentalists take over an oil rig, only to discover nobody’s left, and are soon picked off by an evil force that goes from body to body). Still, it’s not exactly a bad movie either. It’s main problem is how unoriginal the premise is. An evil entity going from host to host, pitting those left against each other, unsure of who they could trust, isn’t exactly new territory. Aside from similarities to The Thing, which are fair enough, I’m also reminded of the classic Horror Express (1972). Even so, The Devil’s Tattoo is passable.

Though it’s not overly thrilling for most of the film, I do think the last twenty minutes or so (which includes more than one plot twist) were pretty enjoyable. All-in-all, this movie’s around average, maybe a little less. It’s quality certainly isn’t worthy of praise, nor most of the acting (Noel Fitzpatrick in particular does a good job, though), but it’s a good movie to pass the night with.

7/10