Original release: April 11th, 2003
Running time: 88 minutes
Writer and director: Rob Zombie
Compser: Rob Zombie
Cast: Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, Karen Black, Chris Hardwick, Erin Daniels, Jennifer Jostyn, Rainn Wilson, Walton Goggins, Tom Towles
Over the years, and after watching countless horror films, there’s one thing I’ve learned. No matter how far I’m travelling with a group of friends, never make any unscheduled stops, and if we do stop, it shouldn’t be for too long. After all, we all know what always happens to these kids when they pull in somewhere, start chatting with the locals, asking questions and poking their noses in places where they’re likely to get chopped off. It never ends well for any of them.
In Rob Zombie’s House Of 1000 Corpses this couldn’t be more true. After admiring his work for years with the band White Zombie, as well as his solo efforts, the news of him turning his hand to writing and directing a feature film was met with much excitement by my friends and me. We couldn’t wait for the film to be released, and although it was completed in 2000, it would be a further three years before it would see the light of day at selected cinemas across London, but how did such a bizarre film come about?
Set on October 30, 1977, it follows Jerry Goldsmith (Chris Hardwick), Bill Hudley (Rainn Wilson), Mary Knowles (Jennifer Jostyn) and Denise Willis (Erin Daniels) who are travelling cross country while writing a book about offbeat roadside locations when their car runs out of gas. They pull into a gas station where they meet the eccentric and foul-mouthed Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) who owns the place together with the Museum of Monsters & Madmen. After enticing the group to have a look and to go on the death ride, they learn about the local legend of Dr. Satan which makes Jerry and Bill curious and wanting to know more.
Once they’re on the road again they pick up Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), a pretty hitchhiker who lives nearby, but when their car breaks down they all end up at her house. That’s where they meet her brother Rufus (Robert Mukes), Mother Firefly (Karen Black), adopted brother Otis Driftwood (Bill Moseley), Grampa Hugo (Dennis Fimple) and her deformed giant half-brother, Tiny (Matthew McGrory). Sitting down to dinner with them, the travellers start to feel a little uncomfortable and hope that it won’t take Rufus long to fix their car so they can be on their way and maybe look for the tree Captain Spaulding told them Dr. Satan was hung from.. However, the Firefly clan have other plans for them, and what’s served up is not entirely unlike what we saw in films such like The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), which in turn offers us an interesting way with which to view the film.
Yet House Of 1000 Corpses shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a post-9/11 film which deconstructs American values and attitudes the way that Cloverfield does for one major reason. It was made before 9/11.
Try as they might, there’s no escape for them, not even when the obligatory bungling Deputy Sheriffs turn up at the house and discover what’s been going on. Using various editing techniques, some of which I was used to seeing in Rob Zombie’s music videos, the film presents us with a collage of horrific images and dark humour as the travellers are dispensed with one by one.
Yet aside for the film’s visual flair and subtexts, House Of 1000 Corpses wasn’t as gory as I’d hoped. I imagined there’d be a lot more, even after Fish Boy’s revealed. There also didn’t seem to be much in the way of character development. As a result, the four travellers are never elevated to the status of protagonists during the film – they’re just there and available. Likewise with the Firefly clan; they’re just there, bored and hungry. There’s no one to root for or become emotionally invested in, making it one of those movies that seems a lot better when you’re either drunk, high or with friends – or all of the above.
In spite of those criticisms though, there are some great things about House Of 1000 Corpses, namely its editing, set design, soundtrack and costumes. Bill Moseley dressed as Otis Driftwood, with his long white hair and overall dirty appearance, isn’t the sort of character you’d like to run into at any point in your life, least of all a gas station on All Hallows’ Eve, or All Hallows’ Eve Eve as the case would be for our unlucky travellers.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .