Sunday, October 25, 2020

Ten Days of Terror!: House of 1000 Corpses

Film: House of 1000 Corpses
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

If I remember correctly, House of 1000 Corpses was one of those movies that had a weird development history. I think there was a trailer for it several years before the film actually dropped. I knew about it at the time and had no real interest in seeing it, and now that I have seen it, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. There’s a definite sense of style here, or at least there wants to be a sense of style, but I’m not sure how good the damned thing actually is.

House of 1000 Corpses is a film that is almost entirely plotless. The traditional group of young people are on a long road trip to discover weird roadside attractions. The quartet is made up of Jerry (Chris Hardwick), Bill (Rainn Wilson), Mary (Jennifer Jostyn), and Denise (Erin Daniels). They discover Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen. Spaulding (Sid Haig) tells them of a local legend called Dr. Satan who was eventually captured and hanged from a nearby tree. He draws them a map, and off the four go. The pick up a hitchhiker named Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie, wife of director Rob Zombie) along the way, who leads them to her house when the group has car trouble.

What follows is, more or less, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a lot more interaction between the eventual victims and the family of crazy people. Among our violent, criminal, murderous Firefly family are Otis (Bill Moseley), Grandpa Hugo (Dennis Fimple), Tiny (Matthew McGrory), Rufus (Robert Allen Mukes), and the mother (Karen Black). And a weird dinner progresses, followed by a bizarre Halloween show that almost ends violently. More or less, the four leave because their car has been repaired, but when they try to open the gate to get the car through, they are all attacked and dragged back to the house. Terrible things ensue.

This really is the whole movie—there’s nothing really more than what I have just put out here. It’s kind of like torture porn in the sense that most of what follows the dinner scene is torture in one way or another and nothing good happens to our four young travelers. That’s true of everyone who shows up at the Firefly house: a group of five cheerleaders who have been missing for days, Denise’s father (Harrison Young), and a couple of cops (Tom Towles and Walton Goggins). Murder, mayhem, and pain are pretty much what we’re going to be seeing.

And while I get the point of this, I don’t really understand the point of this. There is no plot here, and there’s nothing that happens beyond a bunch of people getting killed either very quickly or very terribly and slowly. There’s nothing here to really recommend the film in any real sense. You’re not going to learn a hell of a lot, and there’s not a point that the film is trying to make. It really just wants to be gory and nasty and freak people out. Sometimes that’s enough, but it really isn’t enough here.

There are some very funny things here, though. I love the fact that many of the characters are named for Groucho Marx characters. Rufus T. Firefly, Otis B. Driftwood, and Captain Spaulding in particular are Marx characters, and I enjoy that reference. I also really enjoy Sid Haig in this film a great deal. Haig was never going to be a mainstream actor. He was always going to be in weird films like this one or Spider Baby, but he was absolutely the kind of actor who would play any role like he was actually living it. That’s his Captain Spaulding—he comes across like a real person who would actually exist in the real world. Haig isn’t playing the role; he’s inhabiting it.

But the rest of the movie is really just nasty and without any real point or merit. It’s gross for the sake of being gross, and I don’t really have a ton of interest in that. On top of this, we have the character of Baby Firefly. I realize that there is a particular type of guy who finds that “dangerous baby doll” persona interesting, intriguing, and sexy, and that guy is absolutely not me. Her little girl laugh is, I think, supposed to be part of her charm and it’s just an instant turn-off. It’s a movie I didn’t like to begin with, and her presence made it worse.

So, yeah…not a fan.

Why to watch House of 1000 Corpses: Sid Haig.
Why not to watch: Sheri Moon Zombie’s laugh.


  1. This film was insane and outrageous yet I enjoyed it. I think The Devil's Rejects was the better film and I'm still in shock when I watched that episode of At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper where Roger Ebert said all of the negative things about the film yet he praised it. His written review was even more impressive as it's why I love the guy so much. I may not agree with him at times but he's often on point.

    1. I'm a big fan of Ebert--of all of the reviewers and critics I've read at length, he's the one I agree with the most. Few people hate a movie the way Ebert hated a movie, although Mark Kermode comes pretty close.

    2. His review of Kanye West's favorite film ever in North remains one of my all-time favorite reviews. Had I gained an understanding of film criticism and was warned about what I would see. I'd probably would've never seen that film in the theaters as I got pissed off during that film when I saw it in the theaters.

    3. Have you read his review of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo?

      My absolute favorite pieces of film criticism, though, are Mark Kermode's scorching review of Sex and the City 2 (google the video--you won't be sorry) and the chapter in Kevin Murphy's book "A Year at the Movies" on Corky Romano.

  2. I didn't like this either but I didn't hate it with the fiery passion of 10,000 suns like I did Devil's Rejects. This one was just too messy to level that type of passion against.

    1. I agree with that completely. I didn't like this, but I hated The Devil's Rejects.