HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES
Review by Michael Jacobson
Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon, Karen Black
Director: Rob Zombie
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Lions Gate
Features: See Review
Length: 88 Minutes
Release Date: August 12, 2003
can’t be real this can’t be real this can’t be real…”
*** (on the cult scale)
I first heard that Rob Zombie was writing and directing a horror film some years
back, I clapped my hands with eager anticipation.
Not only was I a fan of Zombie as a musician, but from my decade-plus
long experience with his records and videos, I knew the man was an absolute
walking lexicon of the horror genre. I’d
wager there was no film, no matter how low budget or obscure (those probably all
the better) that he didn’t know. Many
of them he had referenced in his music.
House of 1000 Corpses turned into a house of 1000 problems, as Zombie put
it. The years passed and the
faithful fans waited patiently, but no movie.
Universal, the studio that originally greenlighted it, kept insisting
that it needed to be toned down. They
wanted an R rated film, and Rob Zombie wasn’t giving it to them.
It begs the question…when they first agreed to the project, exactly
what kind of movie did they expect from Zombie?
of my friends had seen clips of the film he showed during his concerts.
And all of us were beginning to wonder if that was the best we could hope
for…would Zombie’s directorial debut end up buried along with his fictional
cache of dead bodies?
Universal gave up on the movie, and their loss was Lions Gate’s gain.
I was there on opening day when House of 1000 Corpses finally
menaced the screen. It was
everything I expected…and then some.
for others, it was nothing of the kind. One
camp contained both the devotees of Zombie and the horror film junkies who
recognized exactly what he was trying to (and successfully) accomplish with his
movie, which was a stylistic throwback to the “underground” horror films of
other camp, I’m convinced, was made up of those who were weaned on Scream and
I Know What You Did Last Summer. They
were prepared for anything but what they got, which was a sheer, undiluted dose
of horror extremism that harkened back to pictures like Texas Chainsaw
Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes or Dawn of the Dead.
These were the first of the modern horror films to really push the
envelope. House of 1000 Corpses doesn’t
break new ground, but pays dutiful homage to these icons of terror.
It seems fresh and invigorating simply because the likes of it hadn’t
been seen on the big screen in so long.
plot is familiar: bunch of teens
meet up with crazed homicidal southern family, guess who wins.
Nothing new needed to be created for the set-up, and for the true horror
junkies, the familiarity lent to a kind of comfort zone, for lack of a better
phrase. Our frames of mind were set
for the carnage to begin.
it’s exactly there were Zombie shows his true mettle. He hints at the creepy things to come in obvious ways:
posters indicating some cheerleaders had gone missing (in horror, missing
cheerleaders ALWAYS means bad news). We
then get glimpses of said pom-pom posers in various rooms of the HOUSE as our
unsuspecting victims blather away in the family room with their strange hosts.
Bad things are happening to them. What
will happen to our heroes?
quickly unravels into a surreal, gory and decadent nightmare.
The stretch near the finale is close to brilliant in how well it keeps
our stomachs churning, our faces ashen and our hearts pounding.
It all leads to exactly the kind of ending we’re expecting, but as I
said, the point was never to break new ground.
It was to rediscover hallowed ground.
a decidedly imperfect film, but an effective one nonetheless; one with a few
modest and clearly defined goals for its audience that it goes after with gusto.
Zombie spun his knowledge of horror into a film aimed for a select
audience, but if you’re one of them, you’re in for a helluva time.
Zombie obviously dreams in color, as his first filmed nightmare is a brutishly
harsh assault of color. I hope that
sounds like a compliment, because that’s how I mean it!
His hodgepodge style of reverse negatives, enhanced colors, mixed media
and montage editing make for a perfect DVD workout…your player will be putting
in overtime to process these images, but your eyes will thank you.
Everything renders with integrity and clarity; I noticed no undue grain
or effects of compression. And
definitely no bleeding despite the frequent chaos of adamantly clashing tones
and such. One of the year’s best.
sound in a horror movie is all important, and even better when your movie
pulsates to the sounds of Rob Zombie! This
5.1 mix is a diabolical success, with plenty of dynamic range that will have you
cowering in your chair, noise and music coming from all directions, and all out
thunder from the .1 channel. Mind the breakables on your shelf before you crank this one
starters, this disc has the year’s coolest menu screens hands down.
Rob Zombie directed bits of new footage featuring cast members Sid Haig,
Bill Moseley and Sheri Moon, and they basically talk to you and taunt you as you
navigate the menus! On the main
screen, the cursor is actually a little FULLY animated head of Captain
offers a fun and fact filled commentary track, and as usual, I find I prefer
commentaries for the low budgeted films than the bazillion dollar ones, simply
because there seem to be more interesting tidbits in how to make a picture with
no time and money! Zombie is a
great speaker who sounds amazingly normal.
To listen to him talk isn’t to imagine the man who snarled out monster
rock tunes like “Living Dead Girl”!
is a very short featurette and some selected cast interviews (also short), plus
a stills gallery, and a teaser and theatrical trailer with radio spot.
A stereo music-only soundtrack is also included.
Rounding out are some strange and hilarious tidbits starting with a
selection that I can’t actually print here, but again, they feature Haig,
Moseley and Moon. I say ‘they’, because they also pop up in Easter eggs,
for the dutiful hunters. All I can
say is I laughed hard, even though I couldn’t really explain to you what was
so funny about them!
click on the Lions Gate logo on the main screen for some cool coming