House of 1000 Corpses

But who’s counting?

Rob Zombie grew up a Monster Kid, watching all the horror classics, reading Famous Monsters of Filmland and putting together Aurora model kits. A psychotronic soul if there ever was one, his interests expanded into the usual esoteric territories: true crime serial killer lore, sleazy girlie mags, Fortean phenomena, etc. And so, after achieving a great deal of success with his hard-edged, spookhouse-flavored dance/metal music, it comes as little surprise that he ended up making a horror movie.

Unlike Dee Snider, who made the much harsher Strangeland, Zombie has too much of the carny in him to put on a straight horror show without constant winks at the audience. His first act is centered on a gloriously bizarre roadside attraction, a serial killer museum – and fried chicken stand – run by a seedy clown billed as Captain Spaulding (the legendary Sid Haig). Four 20somethings stumble upon the place while driving to spend Halloween with one of the girls’ father, and as the two guys are writing a book on such things (something like Ken Smith’s Roadside America), they naturally can’t get enough of the place. And as the burial site of one of the most notorious serial killers ever – the evil Dr. Satan – is said to be not too far away, they naturally have to see that, too.

But along the road, they stop for odd hitchhiker Baby Firefly (the sensational Sheri Moon, Mrs. Zombie), who easily lures them to the title house, where she lives with a whole family of psychos. The family, headed up by Mom (Karen Black) wastes little time in springing their trap.

You don’t need the Marx Bros. character names to tell you that Zombie is just trying to have a whole lot o’ fun here. It’s almost a note-for-note retread of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, only so crammed to the rafters with weird artifacts that I can’t wait for a closer inspection on DVD. Zombie lifts from numerous other sources as well, including a carefully built up doomed rescue attempt that recalls Kubrick’s The Shining, but ‘saw supplies the main structure. In fact, he sticks to his model so closely that by the time he tries to “surprise” us in the third act with a fall down a rabbit hole – a twist that delivers a juiced up tribute to elements of Fulci’s House by the Cemetery and a whole lot more – that you almost miss the turn.  House isn’t a particularly scary movie, but it is a trashy good time, which is most likely the filmmaker’s intention.

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