The horror genre has a difficult time attaining the designation of “cult classic” or, even better, “masterwork.” However, the heavy-metal-rocker-turned-screenwriter/director Rob Zombie makes a sterling attempt to achieve both bone-chilling suspense and spine-tingling torture. Although House of 1000 Corpses comes up short of “masterwork” status, it is, without a doubt, worthy of an instant “cult classic” grade.
In an attempt to write a book on offbeat roadside attractions, Jerry (Chris Hardwick) and Bill (Rainn Wilson) take their girlfriends, Mary (Jennifer Jostyn) and Denise (Erin Daniels), on a cross-country trek. After arriving at Captain Spaulding’s house of fun in Texas, they learn the legend of Dr. Satan.
In order to become more educated on the satanic doctor, the foursome follow Spaulding’s (Sid Haig) directions and meet a young blonde named Baby (Sheri Moon). Baby leads the couples back to her house and introduces them to her beyond-bizarre Firefly family. Once it is evident the Fireflys are bloodthirsty, merciless folk, Jerry and company must survive the house of 1000 corpses and all of its horrors.
In the flavor of a throwback to the '70s slasher flicks, i.e. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it is no coincidence that House of 1000 Corpses begins with a car filled with two young adult couples pulling off the main road to unsuspectingly stop for their last time. Even with most of the horror clichés present, a mixture of the film’s grotesque, unflinching, funny, and uncalled-for scenes prevent it from being labeled as ordinary.
Considering Zombie obviously possesses a deeply warped mind, thankfully, it translates well on film. His originality in script and directorial skills are displayed through his creativity and his use of both slick slow-motion camera work and eerie angles.
While some claim that House of 1000 Corpses, Zombie’s freshman work, is nothing more than “adolescent filmmaking at its very worst,” some boast of its uniqueness on a cult level near that of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Even though Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses doesn’t quite attain the die-hard cult status of Rocky Horror, it is far from horror drivel; it’s fresh, disturbing, and above all, creepily engaging.
With such ebb and flow associated with the genre, it is rewarding to find a film fashioned as an unorganized nightmare and equipped with enough horrific weirdness to call memorable. If unsettling gore isn’t your “thing,” then steer clear of House of 1000 Corpses. If this type of film “works” for you, then pull the car over and enjoy.
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