GRIMM & Chill: House of 1000 Corpses

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  • Title: House of 1000 Corpses
  • Director: Rob Zombie
  • Cast: Sid Haig, Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, Karen Black
  • Genre: horror
  • Publication Date: April 11th, 2003
  • Runtime: 89 min
  • Production Company: Lionsgate Films

In 1977, the night before Halloween, two young couples are driving on the road near Ruggsville, Texas. They stop at a peculiar gas station where Captain Spaulding tells them about the local legend of Dr. Satan, a sadistic surgeon who performed horrific experiments on his patients. Intrigued, the four youngsters follow Captain Spaulding’s roadmap to the place where Dr. Satan was supposedly hanged. On their way over there, they pick up a hitchhiker named Baby Firefly. After their car breaks down, they’re forced to seek shelter at Baby’s nearby house, which is also the residence of the Firefly family. They soon discover however that they’ve fallen into a trap, as their demented hosts start to unveil their gruesome proclivities.

House of 1000 Corpses was released back in april of 2003. Had it not been for writer/director Rob Zombie‘s perseverance though, the movie might have never seen the light of day. The footage, which had already been shot back in 2000, was deemed too explicit and too sadistic to be released. Multiple film studios refused to distribute the movie because they feared it would be rated NC-17 instead of the commercially viable R-rating.

After cutting some of the more excessive footage, the movie was ultimately distributed by Lions Gate Films (which would later also distribute all of the Saw films). The movie’s marketing campaign cleverly incorporated the controversy surrounding its release with the tagline “The movie some never wanted you to see”. Upon its release the movie ended up grossing $16.8 million worldwide on a $7 million budget. While it didn’t receive much praise from critics, the movie started gaining a cult following among horror aficionados and it put Rob Zombie on the map as a fresh (or in this case rotten) new voice in the world of horror and exploitation cinema. In the subsequent years Rob Zombie would make two more movies focusing on the Firefly family, namely The Devil’s Rejects (2005) and 3 from Hell (2019).

Does the original movie still hold up though after more than 15 years? Well, to be honest, I never considered it to be a truly great movie to begin with. Now, to all you diehard-fans out there reading this in disbelief, before you start lighting your torches and brandishing your pitchforks, allow me to further elaborate please. For I also believe that the movie has a lot of redeeming qualities.

For starters, much thought and care was poured into the look of the movie. The make-up, the sets and the locations all look amazingly nasty with lots of details. The movie contains some iconic characters and performances, particularly from Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding, Sheri Moon Zombie as Baby Firefly and Bill Moseley as Otis Driftwood. Rob Zombie was also clearly inspired by classic horror movies from the seventies, such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977). Like those movies, House of 1000 Corpses oozes a certain atmosphere, which left me with a feeling of disgust after it was over. It was as if I needed to take a shower to wash its filth off of me. Finally, the movie’s soundtrack contains some fitting music from Rob Zombie himself.

What’s so bad about it then? Well, my main issues are with the story and the four main characters that we’re supposed to root for. All of it is rather simplistic, dull and unoriginal. None of the four protagonists are given any backstory or character development. They’re merely there to be tortured and tormented. Rob Zombie was more interested in creating memorable antagonists. The problem with this approach is that it makes it difficult to remain invested in the main characters’ plight. I also felt the narrative flow of the story was at times choppy and uneven, though this might be attributed to the loss of certain scenes that had to be cut from the final version of the movie. Lastly, the movie’s shock value isn’t as effective now as it once was. If you haven’t seen House of 1000 Corpses yet, but you have already been subjected to later gorefests such as Saw, Hostel or The Human Centipede, you might be left expecting something a bit more shocking.

In conclusion, the movie is a bit of a mixed bag. I wouldn’t call it an absolute must-watch, but it is definitely deserving of its cult status and it is also a fitting movie to watch during Halloween season.

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