House of 1,000 Corpses was the first directorial attempt from Rocker-turned film-maker Rob Zombie. It tells the tale of two couples with an interest in off-beat tourist attractions. When they happen upon a crazed clown running an oddities shop, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), he sends them in search of the grave of a legendary mass murderer known as Dr. Satan. From here, the couples soon find themselves in the house of a family calling themselves the ‘Fireflies’ and things get weird fast.
Sherri Moon, now Rob Zombie’s wife, made her sensational film debut in this picture, playing the beautiful but psychotic Baby. Sid Haig created a lasting, hilariously lowbrow character in Captain Spaulding and Bill Moseley burns up the screen as Otis, the family’s patriarch. Fans of Justified or The Shield will also enjoy Walton Goggins in a supporting role.
House was critically savaged upon its release, deemed to be the work of a first time director who was trying too hard. I can see their point in that House is a strange, violent and disjointed movie. For me, however, this only serves to heighten the effect. It’s not disjointed in a ‘I’m Terrence Malick and I like to look at flowers for six minutes’ kind of way, it’s more like ‘White-trash-Tarantino meets Stephen King’. Some of the dialogue is very reminiscent of early King and the over-styled look of the piece is Tarantinoesque. Or it would be had the budget not been so low.
As an introduction to the horror genre, this film has it all. Violence. Madness. Depravity. Comedy. Annoying characters meeting the end they deserve. Over the top Rob Zombie Music.
It’s all there.
When I compare this to the standard Hollywood ‘horror’ dreck which clears up at the box-office every year, I can’t help but wonder why the studios didn’t back it more at the time. One audacious shot which lingers above an imminent execution for a disconcertingly long time is a good example of Zombie’s experimental style. He mixes things up the whole way through House but never at the expense of a fast past, entertaining story.
It’s insane. It’s low budget. It has ‘Fish-Boy’ and THE best Halloween costume I’ve ever seen.
At times, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially towards the end.
Most of all though, it’s awesome!
Everyone should have to watch this at least once because like it or loathe it, it’s memorable in a way that too few films are. Besides, the sequel is even better if you watch this first!
I once showed ‘House’ to a family friend. As the film ended, he asked me what was wrong with me, stood up and stormed out of the house.
I genuinely cannot think of a stronger recommendation than that.
Reviewer: Dave Coughlan