Rob Zombie…what a fitting name for this filmmaker. If you watch any of his work, then you’ll understand why I say that. Pretty gritty stuff. Before seeing House of 1000 Corpses, I had only seen one other film by him, which was his remake of Halloween. Suffice to say I wasn’t too impressed. As a matter of fact, I had a lot of reluctance as I started watching this just because of my immense dislike for his retelling of the John Carpenter classic. Little did I know that my feelings for this film would be the complete opposite. This was the directorial debut of Rob Zombie. They actually had to go to several different studios before they finally found one that would pick up the film. That studio was Lionsgate, which wasn’t very big then, as it was just a few years old. I’m certainly glad they were willing to greenlight it, because this is a little gem in the horror genre.
This film follows four young people on a road trip. They stop at a gas station and end up staying to see a little tour of this scary attraction run by the owner, who is a really redneck guy dressed up as a clown. Sound creepy enough? No? Don’t worry it gets much worse. After that, they pick up a hitchhiker, and everything goes downhill.
The big thing that comes to mind when I think about this film is originality, which is something that’s very much needed in the horror genre since so much of it can be consumed with the typical clichés and boring tropes. And while this film might start out with some horror movie standards, it very quickly becomes clear that Zombie has some interesting tricks up his sleeve. By this I mean that you probably can’t guess or think up the kinds of things that are to come here. I thought this was going to be some whatever movie with a lot of pointless graphic violence and moments you could see coming from a mile away, but that isn’t the case.
The casting is well done and the performances are good for the most part. The family they end up coming upon is perfectly portrayed by the actors playing them, as in they are very creepy. Sheri Moon Zombie really stood out here to me. Her character is a great addition and she plays her role with a childlike derangement that’s extremely unsettling. The rest of the family is portrayed very well; Karen Black impressed me very much, and she really nailed her role, Sid Haig and Bill Moseley are also great. The younger people (or victims) are fine, though to be honest their performances were fairly middle of the road. They didn’t really hurt the film, but they weren’t stellar. You may surprised to see Dwight (Rainn Wilson) from The Office in a film like this.I always talk about atmosphere when it comes to this genre, because it really is so important for this kind of film. The atmospheric aspect is very well done throughout and the house the family of killers live in is really great. I fell in love with the way it was put together as it really did a lot to make that creepy vibe tangible. There’s also something towards the end that is just fabulous when it comes to atmosphere and set design, but I won’t discuss it because it’s a spoiler. You’ll understand when you see it and I loved what they did. I enjoyed the film consistently throughout, but I was so glad to see that it didn’t lose momentum towards the end. On the contrary, it ramped up even more and delivered a truly thrilling finale.
This could seem like a regular old slasher flick at first glance, but once you get into it, it turns out to be so much more. It’s a truly creative horror film that features great performances and amazing atmosphere.