House of 1,000 Corpses (2003) Movie Review

Rob Zombie’s “House of 1,000 Corpses” seems like an appropriate enough title. The movie is essentially about a family of backwoods hillbilly that preys on passing motorists. Their latest prey are four 20-somethings on their way home from somewhere. The year is 1977, and Otis (Bill Moseley) is the head of the loony household. Otis is also a poet, artist, and all-around nut job. After kidnapping a bunch of local cheerleaders, torturing and then killing them, Otis sets his sights on Jerry (Chris Hardwick) and his 3 buddies, whose car has “broken down” near the nutty family’s house. Can you say, “Gee, that’s a big knife you have, Doctor Satan?”

“Corpses” is a troubled project. Not troubled because Rob Zombie had trouble making it, but troubled in the sense that once made, the movie had to scrape to get itself seen. After a quick death at the box office, the movie will most likely find a cult following on video/cable/DVD. The movie was made for a niche market, to be sure, and the vibe is, like the movie’s era, the 1970s. And in fact, the film is best looked on as a slicker and more expensive version of Slasher films from the ’70s, most notably “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and its ilk.

Now if you happened to think ’70s Slasher films are groovy, then “Corpses” was made especially for you. The point is, “Corpses” has no interest in offering up story, just a narrative built around perverted acts of violence perpetrated on the victims by Otis and family. Of the family, there is Karen Black as the mother, Sheri Moon as the sexy Baby, and Dennis Fimple as the grumpy Grampa. Matthew McGrory, mostly known for being a regular member of Howard Stern’s “freaks are great for exploiting” radio show, is a disfigured — what else? — giant.

I’m not sure what version of “Corpses” I saw, or if it even matters. There are rumors that Zombie was forced to cut out large chunks of his movie in order to get a decent “R” rating. If this is the case, then I’m not entirely sure if I’m the audience for an “unrated” version. What has been left in is not altogether shocking (I’ve seen way too many horror movies to be shocked anymore), but it’s still quite graphic. Even though Zombie puts the movie through an artistic ringer, the whole thing still comes out, well, perversely giddy in its extensive bloodletting.

For a first-time director, Rob Zombie does an impressive job here. “Corpses” is oftentimes inspired in its visuals, with extensive minutes of the movie shot through various filters and using camera tricks. It’s all very impressive, especially considering that Zombie is an ex-rocker whose only experience with filmmaking were over-the-top and cheesy music videos. The screenplay, on the other hand, is nothing to write home about. Let’s just say that if Zombie had written the screenplay on spec, and no one knew him, he could never sell it. Why? Because people wouldn’t be able to understand why anyone would make a movie without a story.

“House of 1,000 Corpses” has nothing to offer an audience not into gratuitous blood and guts. It’s a rather pointless movie, unless you’re into watching dismemberments and killings for the same of dismemberments and killings. Also, the last 30 minutes seem to drag on. That is, if you like 30 minutes of nonstop, er, “stuff” happening for no apparent reason.

Rob Zombie (director) / Rob Zombie (screenplay)
CAST: Sid Haig …. Captain Spaulding
Bill Moseley …. Otis Driftwood
Sheri Moon …. Baby Firefly
Karen Black …. Mother Firefly
Chris Hardwick …. Jerry Goldsmith
Jennifer Jostyn …. Mary Knowles

Buy House of 1,000 Corpses on DVD