House of 1,000 Corpses (2003) Reviewed
HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES (2003)
There’s a reason Rob Zombie’s notorious movie sat on a shelf for two years before getting a distributor and release – and it’s not that it was too scary. Four very unlikable college students break down close to the home of a family of sicko psycho killers. Sound familiar? After that…chasing, screaming, torture and butchery. There’s no story, just a bunch of “shock” scenes thrown at the wall to see what sticks. Not much. Bill Moseley, as Otis, has long stringy Riff-Raff hair instead of the steel plate he wore in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Part 2. He doesn’t just kill cheerleaders; he makes them endure long rambling speeches first. Karen Black, as the family matriarch, hits a new career low. She cackles and winks her way through the film while Zombie’s real-life wife, Cheri Moon, screeches, pouts and – God help us – lip syncs to “I Wanna Be Loved By You.” Zombie seems to sabotage any promising moments with misplaced comedy and random brutality without a cause. (At least Chainsaw’s Sawyer clan turned their victims into sausage). Corpses was clearly either destroyed in the editing room or written during its production. Zombie has packed the mess with way too many characters (and nowhere near 1,000 corpses incidentally) all of whom seem to be the exact same degree of crazy and the same calibre of mean. The family lacks a back story which keeps any character from ever being more than just another freak with an ax. It might seem edgy to follow some bud-um-pum zingers with an uncomfortably long look at the naked body of a dead young girl, but it’s that which frustrates most. More often than not the jokes keep the horror from working and vice-versa. Zombie shot and cut this as if he were attempting to channel Oliver Stone. The flashes, reverse photography and quick cuts become grating almost immediately. A protracted scene in which Otis is holding a cop at gunpoint is supposed to illicit suspense – and then, just when you expect something interesting to happen, it doesn’t. I’m sure Zombie thought the sadistic, no-holds-barred violence in Corpses made it more badass – but sadly, its greatest crimes are that it’s a big loud bore and that it thinks its something it’s not – primarily scary. Someone should urge Zombie to resist dropping clips, “homages” and references of better movies into his films so as not to beg comparison. The equally grating semi-sequel, The Devil’s Rejects followed.