House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #146

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Number of Views: Two
Release Date: April 11, 2003
Sub Genre: Exploitation
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $7,000,000
Box Office: $16,829,545

Running Time: 89 minutes
Director: Rob Zombie
Producer: Andy Gould
Screenplay: Alex Rodrego
Special Effects: Wayne Toth
Cinematography: Alex Poppas, Tom Richmond
Score: Rob Zombie, Scott Humphrey
Editing: Kathryn Himoff, Robert K. Lambert, Sean K. Lambert
Studio: Spectacle Entertainment Group, Universal Studios
Distributor: Lion’s Gate Films
Stars: Sid Haig, Billy Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, Karen Black,Chris Hardwick, Rainn Wilson, Erin Daniels, Jennifer Jostyn, Dennis Fimple, Matthew McGrory, Steve Naish, Michael J Pollard, Tom Towles, Harrison Young, Walton Goggins and Irwin Keyes

Suggested Audio Candy

Rob Zombie “House of 1000 Corpses”

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Sometimes one view of a piece of work simply doesn’t suffice. A typical example of this kind of feature would be a maiden voyage anticipated with such blind delirium that, by the time it sees the light of day, it barely gets a double take. We’re so fixated with expectation that we invariably neuter the experience for ourselves and come away not entirely privy to its charms.

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Industrial Metal Goliath Robert Bartleh Cumming’s meteoric ascension had been well documented through both his time with band White Zombie from 1985 and his subsequent solo career under the overlay Rob Zombie. The 90s proved especially fruitful and his devout followers were primed for his deviation into film-making by the time he untethered House of 1000 Corpses at the turn of the millennium.

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Although conceived in 2000 it would be three years before his work would see the light of day. Distribution issues over the level of violence and splatter handicapped the project and, therefore, by the time it hit the multiplexes it was already three years tardy. Once he shot his load into our gaping oral cavities we were chirping like baby birds and ready to guzzle that shit like mouth-rinse. So it stands to reason that some would spit rather than swallow. Keeper did neither, I stored it up like a hamster, labelled it up and promised one day to return for the final gulp.

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That day has arrived and what better manner in which to rediscover Zombie’s blood, sweat, tears and cum than to line it up alongside its sequel and take two shots in the mouth. I had fond recollections of my primary introduction and they were already impregnated. Well I am telling you now there must’ve been some Rohypnol involved as this movie well and truly date-raped me. I felt it infiltrate and was left with its after-effects as Zombie had intended but the whole experience had felt a little of a blur.

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Expectation was understandably gargantuan and a number of critics lauded his approach and the final bearing of his fruits. Others turned their noses up in disgust. Aficionados were split also; many bitched about it not being nearly sickening enough as a maiden big screen outing for Mr Zombie. Others dug the shit out of it. I was too sideswiped to know how it made me feel but there were seeds planted that day which, given the time to gestate, have turned into a motherfucking bonsai.

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I could wax 1000 Corpses like Daniel Son, that second enlightenment has jarred me from my state of nonchalance and I now come armed with the real sweat and bullets on this modern masterpiece. I actually felt fully aware that the return leg would yield magnificent rejoinder from the Crimson Quill. After stupefying for over ten years I slipped on my clown shoes and prepared for the freak show once more, knowing full well that this piece of art would do a real doozy on me. What I hadn’t prepared for was that it would reach into my rectum, clutch my throbbing organs and proceed to haul them southward.

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I sat in gawping quietude for 89 minutes like a stoned gargoyle , hardly able to so much as respire while the pummeling reconvened and this time there was no chloroform-doused rag placed over my breathing apparatus. I tasted its soured blackness willingly with sobriety intact and intoxication swiftly followed. As I slurped back the final frames I finally had clarity, where mist had formerly clouded my memory somewhat. It was good, no shit Sherlock, but how good actually was House of 1000 Corpses?

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Let’s dip our toes into the perimeter first before wading full steam into our Dr Satans and Fishboys. To say that the DVD menu is in the uppermost tier of top ends is akin to stating that Charlton Heston had a fetish for firearms; no grating looped audio here, instead we are gifted back stage passes with Captain Spalding himself as he chews the gristle from his drumstick for our own personal gaiety. Just prying yourself away is no small feat as Sid Haig inhabits the harlequin with pinpointed perfection. Fortunately, as the movie boots and your ventricles gape, there’s another hit right round the corner.

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It isn’t just Sid however, each of the fucked-up brood concocted absolutely shimmers authenticity. This comes as no great revelation considering the endowment on display, the casting couldn’t have been bettered had Zombie recruited A-Listers from the Hollywood hills and, if anything, they wouldn’t have shit so close to the pot. Bill Moseley, the late Karen Black and Zombie’s spouse Sheri Moon all pour themselves into their roles with such zeal that we can but succumb.

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On the subject of Sheri, let’s get one thing very much straight before we proceed any further. Anybody pathetic enough to suggest that she gets an easy ride because of bias should get a fucking eye-dog. She has proven consistently, not only that she can damn well act but also that she can adapt effortlessly to any challenge thrown her way. Sure, I’ve commented before that I would like to see her in other material but that is purely because she has such aptitude. As Baby she treads the line between candy-floss and cyanide superbly, making her rather difficult to ferry your peepers away from for even a solitary moment.

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Moseley proves his platinum testicles as Otis, running this fucked up sideshow with sporadic alpha bursts punctuating his teeth-grinding disapproval exquisitely. The reason for his odium is simple – fucking prying busybodies sticking their shitty little noses into affairs that don’t concern them. The two couples, which include a perfectly cast Rainn Wilson, set out on search for urban legends in the backwaters of Texas and, despite appearing welcome at the family house initially, the good old Deep South hospitality begins to wane, and the freaks come out with some panache.

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Zombie directs with gusto and his past pursuits in the music industry bleed through the entire duration. His audio selection is varied and he resists the temptation to go for the obvious, instead supplying a melange of different styles, all of which lend themselves to creating an oppressive atmosphere, something this flick has in embarrassing abundance. The final act really twists the blade and, by the time Aleister Crowley poem The Poet is used to chilling effect, as one victim is buried into a nameless grave any hint of even black humor has dissipated and it all becomes about just how macabre he is willing to venture. He doesn’t disappoint and the air is siphoned from our lungs as we finally get to meet Dr. Satan. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure then firstly tsk tsk and secondly you’re in for some damned tasty tutti frutti, let me tell you.

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For all the perplexing imagery and portentous twisted corridors the scene which performed the five-fingered death punch leaving me all Carradine as I gasped for precious oxygen, was shot in broad daylight and Zombie eked every drip of anticipation out of his long-range execution. It’s one of those moments whereby the first response afterwards is to cackle, not out of derision, but because you know in your heart that you have just witnessed a timeless piece of cinematic history.

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I’m in two minds as to whether the experience would benefit from all the splatter footage lost during its three years of conveyance as it grappled for distribution. On one hand, and as a true Gruehead, I would be enraptured to see the full extent of the debauchery but, on the other, it works on a different plane through the restraint of the final cut made available. A little like Tobe Hooper’s seminal Texas Chainsaw Massacre it is what you don’t witness that leaves its interminable stain.

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No movie since Texas has felt quite as slovenly and mean-spirited, at least not as successfully, and that is one of the highest pieces of praise I can bestow upon it. In the same instance there is a messed up Rocky Horror vibe about proceedings which counter-balances any lack of pleasantry without once veering into campy.

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Zombie intersperses using a technique which pays homage to the Manson family home movies and handles adeptly. in his first full-length feature, he showcases what a potent force he is as a filmmaker. Bearing in mind this is a guy whose albums have shifted well over fifteen million units worldwide in a career spanning nearly thirty years already, I’d say he pretty much shits plutonium.


For anyone reading this unenlightened as to House of 1000 Corpses I implore you to donate it your time. If, like Keeper, your memory has become hazed or you felt a tad underwhelmed first time out after the insane hype that surrounded the troubled project, then settle down with a bucket of greasy wings as you couldn’t be in safer company.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10

Grue Factor: 4/5

For the Grue Guzzlers: Yeah, you read that right. The cut you’ve watched may not pile on the excess in terms of discernible grue but this is one nasty motherfucker of a flick which allows your mind to do its own wandering, with far grander results.

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Read The Devil’s Rejects Appraisal

Read The Lords of Salem Appraisal

Read Halloween (2007) Appraisal

Read Halloween II (2009) Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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