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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » The House of 1000 Corpses
The House of 1000 Corpses
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // April 11, 2003
Review by Geoffrey Kleinman | posted April 13, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The House of 1000 Corpses has had an interesting road to the silver screen: The movie was produced by Universal, who upon seeing the finished product decided not to release the film. Many people speculated that The House of 1000 Corpses might never see the inside of a movie theater and there was a great deal of conjecture as to what scared off Universal from releasing the film. Finally, Lions Gate picked up the film and decided to unleash it into theaters. Going in to The House of 1000 Corpses I had pretty clear expectations and hopes that if the film was a bad one, at least it would be a proverbial 'so bad it's good horror flick'. 1

After suffering through The House of 1000 Corpses I am beginning to think that Universal was on the right track with their decision to hold off releasing the film, not because the movie is sick and depraved (it clearly is), but for the simply reason that The House of 1000 corpses is an unenjoyable snarled and mutilated mess of a film without a single clue as to what kind of movie it really wants to be. Written and Directed by gore-minded rocker and film neophyte Rob Zombie (known best for his work with the music group White Zombie), The House of 1000 Corpses starts out as a fun throwback to the ultra-low budget horror films of the 70's but it quickly disintegrates into a fractured mess, a cacophony of film styles and techniques that feels more like a freak show gone bad than a movie. Think of someone pulling out an overloaded and disorganized scrapbook of articles on serial killers and then wildly flips the pages between gory photos and sick descriptions, and your not too far off the experience of The House of 1000 Corpses.

Rob Zombie has fallen into one of the biggest traps a music video director turned feature film maker can make, he's taken the style and technique which works in a five minute format and tries to make them work in an hour and a half long feature film where they fail miserably. One example of Zombies random and disjointed use of styles is a scene where a police car drives up a country road towards a creepy house. Zombie inverts the color of the film so that the scene is shown in negative. It's so disjointing that it makes you much more aware of the technique being used than the film its self. If nothing else The House of 1000 Corpses is a good example that good music video directors don't always make good feature film directors.

What bothered me the most about The House of 1000 Corpses is the fact this it's a film that is sick and depraved for the sake of being sick and depraved. It fails as a straight horror film as it delivers almost no thrills, no jumps, no chills. Although Rob Zombie is a talented rocker, he is unable to produce a soundtrack that creates any level of suspense. The House of 1000 Corpses also fails as a splatter/gore flick Zombie's inconsistent filmmaking style is mirrored in the gore as some scenes vacillate between campy violence and much more sick, graphic, and extreme violence all extremely self aware and none of them really work.2

I was pretty surprised to see that The House of 1000 Corpses received an R Rating from the Rating's Board. It's true that many of the extreme scenes and violence are shown in a shaky/flash oriented style. But someone on the Ratings Board must be smoking crack not to give a movie that contains cannibalism, decapitation, necrophilia, teen rape, torture and mutilation and NC-17 rating. If nothing else The House of 1000 Corpses proves that the NC-17 rating is really only reserved for films with strong sexual scenes, not extremely sick and strong violence.

At the end of the day, The House of 1000 Corpses is simply a poorly made, disjointed mess of a film.3 Perhaps if Rob Zombie had collaborated with another Writer/Director who had a clearer vision of what makes a good horror movie or even someone who had a firmer grasp on the fundamentals of feature film making, The House of 1000 Corpses might have been one of those guilty pleasure 'bad' horror films. Unfortunately he didn't and as the credits rolled I could just hear someone at Universal say: "I told you so....." The House of 1000 Corpses is the kind of bad roadside attraction you warn friends not to waste their time with. It's bad, bad in a bad way. Not so bad it's good. Not fun because it's bad. Just bad. Skip This film!.4

Footnotes:

1. A movie doesn't have to be well crafted to fall in the 'so bad it's good' category. A great example of this is The Transporter which has some of the worst dialogue I've heard in a movie. But the sheer over the top adventure of the film transcends the fact that it's less than well crafted.
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2. If you're going for 'sick and depraved' then go for it. I can still remember how bone chilling Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was and how much it effected me. Here Zombie never manages to make me cringe or even jump.
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3. I've gotten several reader e-mails saying that House of 1000 corpses is better than many of the 'contrived/crappy' films like Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer and they revel at the return to more traditional splatter films. Hey, I'm with you. I eagerly await Media-Blaster's release of Herschell Gordon Lewis' Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat in theaters and DVD this year for that same reason. But there's no getting past how much a disaster of a film House of 1000 Corpses is. I would have LOVED for it to deliver on it's promise and have me walk out of the theater effected in some way other than absolutely bored.
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4. For the DVD release of The House of 1000 Corpses Lions Gate Home Entertainment has decided to stick with the 'R' Rated cut of the film, so the 'Unrated' version reported to have been created won't be released. Since seeing The House of 1000 Corpses I've seen 2 horror films which are models of what TO do in horror film: 28 Days Later and May both should bring glee to even the most jaded of horror fans.
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