Saturday, October 8, 2016

31 Days of Horror: HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003)

Welcome, horror fans, to Day 8 of the 31 DAYS OF HORROR! We're back with another film in our lead-up to Halloween. Today, we'll be reviewing what is probably the strangest, bloodiest, and schlockiest film we've featured thus far, the Rob Zombie classic(?), HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. Enjoy!

Rob Zombie is a strange filmmaker. Not one to make a typical film, Zombie's films all display a unique sense of atmosphere, style, and even just a difference sense of logic or coherency. And House of 1000 Corpses is about as good of a thesis statement for Rob Zombie's entire filmography as there could ever be. Released in 2003 to critical hatred (currently holding a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes), the film nevertheless found a fervent cult following, and was a moderate success at the box office. And, guess where I land on that spectrum? That's right, I unabashedly LOVE House of 1000 Corpses, and I think Rob Zombie has a very unique grasp on the perfect balance of a 70's grindhouse aesthetic, modern gore porn, and the love for classic horror that you can see in his music.

A group of four is journeying across America's backwoods and road-stops writing a book on the subject, when they come across a local legend known as Dr. Satan. In foolish pursuit of said legend, the four fall into the clutches of a murderous family of psychopaths, with little hope of escape. Zombie constantly sacrifices story and character development all on the altar of style, which they somehow manage to make work through sheer force of will. Rain Wilson and Chris Hardwick are entertaining enough as the innocent writers, but the REAL stars of the show are the Firefly Family, played by Bill Mossely as Otis, Sheri Moon-Zombie (Rob Zombie's very attractive wife) as Baby, Karen Black as Mother Firefly, Matthew McGrory as Tiny, Robert Allen Mukes as RJ, and Dennis Fimple as Grandpa Hugo, as well as Sid Haig as my favorite character (and who gets very little screentime), the killer clown, Captain Spalding. Moosely, Moon-Zombie, and Haig in particular steal the show, managing to inject so much life and personality into their characters. Much of this personality is part of why the film can get away with the lack of character development, because these characters are just so entertaining. The four victims are basically slasher teenagers. They have no character other than what's on the surface, and they don't need to, because they're basically just fresh meat, though Hardwick still manages to get in some good lines every now and then.

The rest of the film is an ode to 70's grindhouse and exploitation film. The Firefly Family's titular House is the stage for gory horror filmed in the most over the top and manic way as possible. The film is as grimy as possible, even down to the editing, interspersed every now and then with scenes spliced from classic horror movies like The Old Dark House or The Wolfman, multicolored nightmarish glimpses at the horrors to come, or even just to random gory or disturbing imagery that properly sets the mood, all of it made to look like it was shot on the dirtiest, crappiest camcorder ever made. Everything is as twisted as can be and the schlock is turned up to 1000. Because of that, it's admittedly a film with a limited reach. If you're looking for any kind of substance with your style, this isn't the film you're looking for. If you want a heroic character to latch onto, look elsewhere. If you want some meditation or desconstruction on this kind of 70's exploitation, this isn't for you. But, if you want some intense horror, the 70's slasher film turned up to 11, and memorable horror movie villains who, in their own right, deserve to be as revered as Jason, Freddy, and the like, then this is something I think you need to check out. It's a bloody good time with a style all its own,

Zombie is an incredibly polarizing figure in the film industry, some calling him a genius, some calling him a hack (especially after his Halloween remake), but few can deny that he's very good at what he does. Whether or not you LIKE what he does, I suppose that's up to you. But seemingly enough people liked it that Zombie felt that it was worth it to revisit this universe. But that...well, that's a story for another day...tune in tomorrow for that story...

Tony's Score: 8.5/10

Be sure to stay tuned throughout the rest of the month! We're posting a new horror review every day all throughout October, both old and new! Check back to see what movie we'll have you covering your eyes from next!

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