Friday, October 7, 2011
House of 1000 Corpses
Plot Synopsis: Two teenage couples traveling across the backwoods of Texas searching for urban legends of serial killers end up as prisoners of a bizarre and sadistic backwater family of serial killers.
This review is going to be much different than anything I have ever done before. I have written, erased, and re written this review about 6 times now. I don't mean like I erased a sentence, I mean I erased a very long write up. Multiple times. House of 1000 Corpses is a hard film to review, because for everything I love about it, theres is something I hate. For every thing done correctly, everything is done wrong. Basically I recommend you watch this film, but I wont be surprised if you hate it. It's polarizing, mesmerizing, hypnotic, and in the same sense immature, poorly crafted, and in some cases blatantly a rip off of other films. But I have to say it is the horror film of the 90's. And it sure as hell paved the way for a more dirty, exploitation style of films we have seen ever sense.
House of 1000 Corpses is Rob Zombie's directorial debut. And he came out running. He also wrote this film. I would love to write about Zombie, his artistic measures, love of films, and visions. In some way the back story of the film is more interesting than the film itself. I cant write about that because someone already has. Sholggs Horror Blog. Shloggs wrote a fantastic piece about Zombie that you will want to check out. I will include the link at the end of the write up. It's a fantastic read, and will give you another chapter of this review that you will want to experience. For another very detailed account of Zombie carrier you need to look, or should I say listen no further than Profondo Cinemas Rob Zombie retrospective. Click there link at the top of the site.
Corpses is essentially Zombies version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Nothing more, nothing less. Let it be known I think Chainsaw is a shit film. I don't care how important it is in film history, its boring, and it is laughable at times. Corpses is neither boring, nor funny. Sure there are a few comical lines, but nothing to laugh out loud. It does have one thing going against it from the get go however. Hype! You see this film sat on a shelf for a few years as studios didn't want to distribute it. Not because it was bad. Because it was so gross and violent. It's not, but for its time nothing was being released that looked like this. You cant have close to 2 years of hype for a film then watch it live up to it.
A group of kids, Billy, Jerry, Denise, and Mary who are visiting different roadside attractions stop at a gas station, that features fried chicken, a haunted house, and different types of sideshow creatures. They meet the owner, Captain Spaulding, played by 70's exploitation star Sid Haig. He wears clown make up and swears constantly. The kids learn about the local legend of Dr. Satan, and go off in search of the tree he was hanged from. They pick up a hitchhiker named Baby, played by Zombies real life wife Sherri Moon. The car breaks down, and Baby's brother comes and gets them.
They go back to Baby's house and meet her mom, her deformed half brother Tiny, her grandfather Hugo, and her adopted brother Otis, played by Bill Mosley of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 fame. The family has them stay for dinner, and at one point the mom hands Tiny a note that says "Get Grampa" a line taken straight from Chainsaw Massacre. After that they put on a Halloween dress up show for the kids, and when Baby starts coming on to one of them, the other girls get offended and they all leave, as their car has been fixed. Problem is these people, as you already can tell are nuts and attack the kids and drag them back in the house.
Otis, turns out makes these weird creatures for Captain Spauldings museum out of people he captures and kills. He turns Bill into a side show creature, while Baby scalps Jerry.
The next day Mary's dad calls the police when she does not return home, and two officers go in search of the kids. They find the car, and stop off at the house, with Mary's dad. After discovering a few dead body's they are all killed. And in one very long, long scene Otis makes one of the officers get on his knees before he shoots him in the head. Not long in dialogue, just a long panned out camera shot before the firing of the gun.
Here's where it gets weird. Mary, Denise, and Jerry are then taken to an underground well and dressed in bunny suits. Mary escapes, but is chased down and killed by Baby. Denise and Jerry are lowered into a huge underground lair and are split up when a group of what appears to be zombies grab Jerry. As Denise goes further into the lair she discovers Dr. Satan performing an operation on Jerry. She escapes, and stumbles to the side of the road where Captain Spaulding is driving by and picks her up. In the final scene she passes out in the car from exhaustion, and Otis appears in the back seat.
There you have it, that's the film in a nutshell. I know its not in my usually smart ass smarmy tone, but this is a film that I really cant laugh at. Sure it's goofy in a way all horror films are, but it has a vibe that is hard to explain. See I'm 37 years old so in the 70's when exploitation films were the hottest ticket out there I was too little to really watch them. One of the first horror films I watched was My Bloody Valentine. Of course I saw all the classics when I was a kid. Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Hellraiser, and so on. I watched these at such a young age other kids in the neighborhood weren't allowed to play with me. Apparently I was some kind of 8 year old devil worshiper. As I got older my love for these films continued to grow, so I began searching other ones out. Italian, German, Asian, all kinds. I started going back and watching stuff like Toolbox Murders, Last House on the Left, Candy Snatchers, anything I could pick up at the local video store. Along that time I discovered Exploitation films. Vanishing Point, Black Cesar, Last House on a Dead End Street, anything I could find I bought. And believe me when I say I have a film collection most would die for. I liked the 70's Exploitation films for the grainy look and feel. The quick cuts, the menacing, yet campy dialogue. And of course the sleaze, and violence.
Corpses captures that style of film like no other. The color schemes are amazing. The look, the feel, it's like being at a drive in movie, even though your watching it in your home. In a way that's hard to explain, you don't give two shits about the kids in danger. You are rooting for the killers. Zombie is able to present a family of crazy mass murderers in a way you actually care about them. Mosley gives a performance of a life time. Picture a low rent Charles Manson, mixed with Jim Jones, and it works. I hate the fact Sherrie Moon is in everything he does, but she plays the crazy psycho bitch part better than Juliet Lewis in Natural Born Killers. Sid Haig is fantastic, although his part is small. Everyone does a good job,. So good almost want to see these kids get mutilated.
Does this film rip off Chainsaw Massacre? Sure, but no more than Pulp Fiction rips off Fudoko, or Reservoir Dogs, does to City on Fire. If a studio gave me the freedom, and money to make a horror film, I would present them with my version of Halloween. You would do the same. Zombie took a film he obviously loved and made it in his eyes. He manages to take all films he loves and roll them into this. Musters clips, scenes that are straight out of the old universal Monster films, everything. Violent, visceral, atrocious language. Everything that is so bad works so good.
The ending does suck, I cant say that it doesn't. I think Zombie threw so much at us in the first half he had no way to really wrap things up. The whole Bunny suite, underground lair of Dr. Satan is bad. I cant defend it. But I can say, it's a first try. The guy is a musician. An artist, but a musician first and foremost. I doubt Phil Collins could come up with a film like this, no one could.
I love films, as you can tell. And this film captures everything I enjoy. Sorry I cant make funny comments, but this is truly the film that paved the way for modern horror. Saw, Hostel, and every God for saken remake that has come along, came after this. And they all use the same raw dirty feel. And like the films of the 70's the gore and violence is back with a vengeance, and this is the film that started that. Go and pick this film up if you haven't seen it. If you have seen it, watch it again, and think about all the horror films you grew up watching. Like I said, horrible ending, but in the grand scheme of things, who cares.
Overall 4 out of 5 Stars!
Sholggs Rob Zombie piece