film review: House of 1000 Corpses ***

House of 1000 Corpses is a cheesy, 80’s style horror flick written and directed by heavy metal rocker, Rob Zombie. Therefore, one doesn’t exactly have high expectations when going to see a movie that’s tagline is “the most shocking tale of carnage ever seen.” And I’ll admit it, I’m not exactly a horror flick fan so I wasn’t really anticipating an enjoyable 80-minute experience, but I was proven wrong. Dead wrong.

The movie’s opening sequence is absolutely fantastic and sets the mood for a fun yet creepy ride through Rob Zombie’s deranged mind. Starting by showing old clips of 1970s humorous, though malefic UHF Halloween specials, the sequence ends by showing an advertisement for Captain Spaulding’s (played by Sid Haig) World Famous Murder Ride and Fried Chicken. The movie then opens at Spaulding’s, who is a redneck with an attitude dressed up like a clown and who has a fascination for serial killers. Just then, a car full of kids conveniently runs out of gas and has to fill up at the spot.

After taking Captain Spaulding’s brilliantly cheesy murder ride, they decide to go seek out the local legend of Dr. Satan. They see a pretty girl standing on the side of the road looking for a ride and they pick her up. She lives right down the road, but they get a flat tire, and the beautiful and flirtatious hitchhiker (played by Sheri Moon, Rob Zombie’s wife) has a brother who owns a tow truck. So the hot hitchhiker and one of the guys run to her house leaving the other 3 alone in the car. This is when the fireworks begin, and they do not stop from this point forward till the end of the movie.

Eventually the kids all make it to the creepy house and find out it will take a few hours to fix their car. They are invited to partake in the weird family’s Halloween eve festivities and this is when we get to meet the cast of characters that make up this “family:” the mother, Gloria, seems to be a 50-year-old version of her hitchhiker daughter. That’s enough to creep out anyone. Grandpa is a foul-mouthed drunk comedian. Next is Rufus, the quiet, angry tow truck operator who wears a bear head on top of his own head. Tiny is the younger deformed gentle giant brother who wears a mask to hide his hideousness. Later on we realize he’s not so gentle. Finally, the leader of the family, Otis, is the crazed albino artist who’s preferred medium to work with is the human body. In retrospect, this family is sort of like the Munsters, but instead of being monsters, they’re on acid.

The movie rolls on entertainingly for almost another 30 minutes, then Zombie begins to go a little too far with the fanatical killings and gore. But like any good cheesy ’80s horror film, there is one survivor who miraculously gets away in the end. But not so fast, look in the back seat…

Rob Zombie’s directing was similar to that of a music video, dominated by quick cuts and loud overpowering music. The flashy random color distortions are somewhat reminiscent of Natural Born Killers. The most breathtaking scene in the movie is when Otis holds a gun to a police officer’s head for 60 seconds while nothing is said and no action is taken. Eventually, Otis pulls the trigger and the awkward silence heard throughout the theatre erupted into laughter and applause.

House of 1000 Corpses is fun, plain and simple. If you’re looking for a movie with good acting, good script and amazing special effects, this is not the film for you. But this may very well be the best horror movie to come out in years. The characters are entertaining, the action is frightening and the campy feel is done perfectly. As Otis puts it so perfectly: “Guess what? The Boogeyman is real, and you’ve found him.”

Kevin Jaeger can be reached at