House of 1000 Corpses
Taking his cue from such 1970s horror classics as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977), animated rocker Rob Zombie goes celluloid with the throwback shocker House of 1000 Corpses. Running low on gas as they travel the highways of America in search of the ultimate roadside attraction, a group of teens pull into Captain Spaulding's (Sid Haig) museum of oddities (which also offers fried chicken and gasoline) only to become obsessed with uncovering the mystery of a legendary local maniac known only as Dr. Satan. When an attractive and mysterious hitchhiker subsequently offers to give the thrill seekers a personal tour of Dr. Satan's old stabbing grounds, a breakdown forces them to take refuge with a group of menacing oddballs as a fearsome storm rages outside. As the evening progresses and the backwoods hosts' Halloween festivities become ever more threatening, the teens soon realize that the legend of Dr. Satan may hold a bit more contemporary weight than any of them had previously thought.
Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses has nostalgia on its side but not much else. Pretending the last 20 years of teen slasher flicks never existed, Zombie creates a strange burlesque cocktail that reimagines The Texas Chainsaw Massacre by way of Vulgar. Four teenagers go chasing after an urban legend (Doctor Satan) in backwater USA and meet strange with an ex-prom queen (a busty Karen Black) and her immediate family. The kids have to wear masks before they can chow down on Halloween dessert and soon find themselves rubbing shoulders with several corpses-cum-scarecrows hanging outside Mother Firefly's lovely estate. Zombie's film-stock fetish gives 1000 Corpses a welcomed homespun quality but the effect quickly wears off. Not unlike Zombie's clip for his song "Living Dead Girl," 1000 Corpses is a playful shout-out to the horror films of yesteryear but there's little meat beneath the admiration. In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, anticipation was Tobe Hooper's weapon of choice. Only once does Zombie successfully channel the hellish dread of Hooper's masterpiece. High above the Death compound, Zombie's camera observes the preening Otis (Bill Moseley) as he aims a gun to a man's head and it feels like an eternity before he pulls the trigger. If not for the blink-and-miss sideshow attractions (most notable is the sight of the howl-inducing Fish Boy) and stockpile of memorable quotes (if "He performed lurid acts on my person" and "You stupid fucking whore" don't tickle your fancy, there's also "I'm going to cut you like a pig and make you eat your own intestines"), 1000 Corpses would have been easier to shrug off. This vintage curio is proudly and humorously derivative but that familiar aftertaste is that of wasted opportunities.