House of 1000 Corpses DVD Review

House of 1000 Corpses Review

HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES | DVD REVIEW [SEPT 9, 2003]

Iím still trying to figure out how I feel about this film. Itís hard because House of 1000 Corpses is one hell of an unbalanced film. In places itís brilliant, ranking among the best in its genre, but for the most part it is a plodding exercise in mediocrity. I absolutely loved the first 5 and the last 15 minutes of the film, but the whole middle portion should have been tossed. I didnít hate it, I just was completely indifferent toward it, and thatís a sign somethingís terribly wrong.

The basic story involves four kids on a road trip, writing a book about obscure roadside attractions. On a stop to get some gas they check out Captain Spauldingís (Sid Haig) Murder Ride and find out about Dr. Satan, a legendary serial killer/psycho doctor that performed gruesome experiments on his patients. They set out, in the middle of a stormy night, to find the tree where Dr. Satan was supposedly hanged by an angry mob. Along the way pick up a hot hitchhiker (Sherri Moon) who says she can show them where to find the hanginí tree. Their car pops a tire, and they end up stuck at the hitchhikerís house. Of course the family that inhabits the house is out to kill them. Itís a basic horror story line from the 70ís, and one that is fairly tried and true when it comes to the genre.

As I said, I loved the beginning and the end, but the middle portionís filled with annoying characters (both the good guys and the bad), puerile, inane humour that would only be funny to a stoned fifth grader, and amazing special effects you barely get to see. The sad thing is Zombie had such a great cast of veteran exploitation and horror actors to work with. Sid Haig (Spider Baby, The Big Doll House), Karen Black (Easy Rider, Burnt Offerings), Bill Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The Blob (1988)). The characters are a complete mixed bag as well The good guys are made up of two prudish, bitchy girls, a sci-fi geek, and a horror junkie (played by longtime friend of Rob Zombie, Chris Hardwick. He essentially plays his old Singled Out host persona.) These characters are hard to empathise with, as you are sort of pleased when each character finally meets their doom. One main character dead equals one less annoyance. It doesnít help that the family, while made up of an awesome assortment of freaks, is so damn annoying you canít side with them either. I loved the character of Dr Satan, even though the name is unbelievably stupid (like something I would have come up with in 7th grade) but heís only on screen for a split second. The Professor character, Dr Satanís sidekick and genetic experiment, is equally intriguing, though heís only in it for a good 3 minutes.

I had actually been waiting quite a long time for House of 1000 Corpses. The film had promised a full return to old school horror, but it is surprisingly lacking in shocks and in gore. The absence of CG is very welcome, and Wayne Toth did an excellent job on the gore and creature effects, but youíll only be able to appreciate his work if you have a remote control handy and your finger primed on the pause button. Thatís because most of it is actually only shown in a flash cut where if you blink, youíve missed it. I believe this is mostly due to the hatchet job Rob was forced to do in the editing room by the Fascist Regime of Uber-Censorship (MPAA), so I will reserve complete judgment until the directorís cut is finally released.

House of 1000 Corpses Review

Of course the film has repeatedly been compared to the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre due to the fact itís the first film in quite a long time to attempt a serious foray into the slasher genre. While itís definitely better than Tobe Hooperís Eaten Alive, it still has a ways to go before it reaches the Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s level of greatness. In fact, Iíd say itís more along the lines of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.

While it may not be exactly what was promised, it is still an important attempt at returning to the glory days of 70ís and early 80ís horror. In that case Iíd say itís important to support this film if you want to see actual horror films in the future, rather than comedies disguised as horror films, a la Scream. I just hope a legitimate Directorís Cut finally comes out so we can see what was originally intended. Iím fairly certain Rob Zombie will fix the problems of this film when he does House of 1000 Corpses 2.

THE DVD:
The disc itself is a mixed bag as well. The menus are set up so that you interact with the film characters. To activate the DVD you ring the bell on Captain Spauldingís counter and he comes out and greets you with ďShit the bed!Ē Itís mildly amusing, once. Each menu is set up with one of the characters telling you the options, then blabbering about assorted things. If you donít choose an option fast enough theyíll get mad at you and curse you out. Itís a novel idea, only it gets to be quite annoying.

House of 1000 Corpses Review

As far as special features go you have a fairly dull commentary by Rob Zombie. I was hoping to get some insight as to how hard it was to make the film. Rob mainly talks about what his intention was with a scene, why it didnít work out quite as he planned, and how over all he thinks it ďturned out pretty good.Ē I didnít learn anything about the film from the commentary, but it did help me fall asleep. I actually had to listen to the commentary in installments. I dare a reader to count how many times he says ďit turned out pretty goodĒ throughout the commentary.

You also have a gallery of special effects art by Wayne Toth amd assorted set pics. These galleries are fun, but a little too small. You have a promo reel from Universal Pictures which makes the film look a little more intense than it actually is.

Then thereís the selection ďTiny Fucked a Stump.Ē This is just a long take of the dvd hosts/actors in front of a green screen telling bad jokes with Tiny Fucked a Stump as the Punchline. Knock Knock. Whoís there? Charles. Charles who? Tiny fucked a stump! Maybe itís funny if youíre high. I mean really, really, really high.

Then you have some audition footage. It seems interesting, but the audio level is so low that itís hard to hear. I never cared much for audition footage anyway.

The behind the scenes featurette is mainly a collection of handycam moments during filming. You get to see certain shots being filmed and Bill Moseley eating.

Lastly you have the cast and crew interviews. Questions flash on the screen and the actors respond. Sherriís not much of a horror fan, Bill Moseley seems a little embarrassed, and I was hoping for a lot more from Sid Haig. But Wayne Toth is fairly interesting. Probably the best special feature.

So overall you have an unbalanced film on an unbalanced disc. I donít hate the film, but I donít love it the way I had originally expected. I have watched the film twice, but I still want to wait for the Directorís Cut before my final judgment is cast on the film. Check it out. Help support old school horror. Just donít expect it to be everything that was originally promised.

–Chris Nelson

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