Rob Zombie’s first movie is a psychedelic acid trip into a neon hell.
After talking about our love of the family friendly Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins From Outer Space we bring you a Halloween movie that is completely switching gears. It’s still drenched in the spirit of Halloween, but the darkest, most vile, and disturbing corners of the holiday. Remember, Halloween is equal parts comfort and horror and House of 1000 Corpses is pure horror.
It’s been years since the one time I’ve seen it. I remember moments from Corpses so vividly in a way that you remember nightmares. I suppose that’s a compliment because isn’t that the true goal of horror? This is a story where you know things are going to go bad, but you somehow hope they won’t. You want to think the best. Maybe Captain Spaulding is just a nice hillbilly clown with a funny temper, right? Maybe it really is fried chicken that he sells and maybe it’s some good eatin’, too. And that hitchhiker, she’s cool right? Not crazy at all. Doesn’t have a maniacal babydoll laugh that I can still hear ringing in my ears or anything. Nope.
But you know that isn’t the case. These four cross country travelers are about to meet their ends.
Things go south at an alarming rate once they start in that direction. What’s particularly interesting and horrid is how the Firefly family plays with their victims. They put them through scenarios where you think there may be something good that could come from them. A tow truck, hot chocolate, a Hallow’s Eve dinner, and even a stand-up comedy show and dance number that follows. But this is just a house full of cats playing with their injured mice. It’s abhorrent to watch, especially when you know what is happening behind the scenes of this house of horrors.
While I wasn’t as disturbed as I was thirteen years ago after watching House of 1000 Corpses for the first time, I was still disturbed.
There’s a scene where a victim meets their demise that profoundly disturbs me. They are on their knees with a gun pointed to their head, the camera cranes back, farther, and farther… There is utter silence. The camera cranes back even further and the trigger still hasn’t been pulled.
The wait is gruesome.
This kill is something that encompasses what horror is. Zombie somehow puts you into this scene as both the victim and the killer. An experience that isn’t easy to shake. While I am more disturbed by this than anything, I also appreciate the skill in filmmaking that is being applied to something that could have just been another scene in a movie full of murder.
I don’t enjoy watching House of 1000 Corpses. It’s a movie devoid of hope, something that I struggle with in general but certainly in movies. Funny Games is another such example, perhaps the most perfect, of a film that robs you of all hope and even toys with you by giving you hope and then taking it away. I hate it. But that’s my personal preference.
But do I appreciate House of 1000 Corpses? I do. Rob Zombie set out to make something that I think is exactly what his vision was. His sequel to this, The Devil’s Rejects, is a much better film as a whole, but also a gruesome and grimy descent into horror. Corpses is wholeheartedly Rob Zombie. It shows that he has tremendous talent as a filmmaker and a very specific vision. While this was a positive in his first film, I think it has hindered him since as he can’t fully escape the gruesome grimy hillbilly aesthetic. This is most detrimental to his two Halloween movies.
If you plan to spend an evening with the Firefly’s I’d recommend watching with a close friend or group of friends. It softens the grisly nature of what you will see. What do you think about House of 1000 Corpses? Let us know your thoughts below.
Check out our other must-see Halloween picks on our 31 Days of Halloween list here.