Plot: A group of friends are traveling off the beaten path, hoping to find unique roadside attractions to visit and document, so that other seekers of the unusual can find all the hidden gems. A stop for gas reveals just the sort of place they’ve dreamed of, a colorful curiosity shop run by Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), a hulking clown with a foul mouth and a dark sense of humor. The friends bask in a wealth of strange sights and artifacts, but the Murder Ride really piques their interest, especially the tale of local madman Dr. Satan. After pushing him for more info, the friends are given a hand drawn map from Spaulding, guiding them to the tree that plays a central role in the legend of Dr. Satan, which of course they have to visit. The trip to the tree takes some unexpected turns however, when the group picks up a charismatic hitch hiker and winds up stranded in the back roads of the area. Help soon arrives, but will the friends discover more hidden horrors than even they could imagine?
Entertainment Value: This first movie from Rob Zombie has a scattered vision, but it also has a lot of style, colorful characters, and grindhouse tribute vibes, so it winds up as a fun, over the top horror ride. House of 1000 Corpses is much sillier and campier than its sequel The Devil’s Rejects, but it does well in crafting interesting characters to build on and despite some rather obvious inspirations, the movie is able to create a kind of unique texture at times. Zombie’s music video roots are evident, with fast cuts and shifts between visual styles, but it all works fairly well and helps keep us distracted from the rather mediocre narrative involved. House of 1000 Corpses also has a lot of fan service for horror fiends, including a loaded cast of genre veterans like Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, and Karen Black. The cast really runs with the roles, though the four friends are rather bland, compared to the wild, outrageous Firefly clan, but that is a tough group to stand out against, without question. The stacked cast helps the movie a lot, as even small roles are in capable hands and for the most part, the performers make the most of the movie’s twisted nature. I didn’t love the Dr. Satan elements here, but for the most part, the rest of House of 1000 Corpses is a fun, often ridiculous watch. So for those who appreciate stylish, character driven horror that wears its inspirations on its sleeves, this one is well recommended.
The movie has a very sleazy vibe to it, but there’s little actual nakedness here, with Sheri Moon Zombie in various states of undress. So don’t expect much skin in this one, but man, that scene with the chaps is quite epic. As for bloodshed, there is a good amount of violence and a lot of threats of violence, but not a whole lot happens on screen, which lessens the good times. The kinetic gore and violence is mostly either off camera or behind special camera angles, so we can see the general action being taken, but not the juicy nastiness. A few exceptions are present, with some splashy gun shot wounds for the most part. And the makeup effects are impressive, so we might not see the gore unfold, but the aftermath is well crafted. The dialogue moves the needle however, with a host of wild, over the top, and maniacal rants and exchanges, no surprise given how colorful the characters are and how game most of the cast is. The horror veterans chew up scenes left and right, with Haig as the standout, just making the most of every single line to make Captain Spaulding an instant genre icon. A wealth of hilarious, unsettling, and quotable lines to be soaked in with this one. The overall insanity isn’t as high as expected, but with the over the top performances, super colorful characters, and offbeat tone, some points are put on the board.
Overall Insanity: 5/10
The Disc: House of 1000 Corpses was released by Umbrella Entertainment as part of their Two From Hell set, which also includes the sequel, The Devil’s Rejects. The movie looks good in this presentation, but keep in mind the visual design uses a lot of different approaches, so the look is inconsistent. This is intended however and the movie looks just as it should, sometimes polished and sharp, other times degraded and worn. In the end, I think fans will appreciate this high definition release and as each movie is given its own disc, no compression woes are present. A new extra is found on this version, an interview with William Bassett, while the other supplements have been ported over from previous editions. This includes Rob Zombie’s informative audio comments, cast & crew interviews, rehearsal footage, a behind the scenes featurette, and the film’s trailer. A nice set of extras that fans can dig through.