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House Of 1000 Corpses

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: House Of 1000 Corpses

Starring: Karen Black, Sid Haig
Director: Rob Zombie
Rated: R
RunTime: 88 Minutes
Release Date: April 2003
Genre: Horror

*Also starring: Bill Moseley, Irwin Keyes, Chris Hardwick, Jeanne Carmen

Review by Jerry Saravia
2 stars out of 4

There have been so many variations on the stranded-kids-in-the-middle-of-nowhere scenario that, well, you can only come up with so many variations. Rob Zombie's directorial debut film, "House of 1000 Corpses," adds nothing new to the scenario except more of the usual cruel humor and occasional gory highlights.

The typical scenario has four young foolish people travelling on the road to discover the urban legend of Dr. Satan. Supposedly, Dr. Satan performed experiments on human guinea pigs involving dismemberment, disembowelment and who knows what else. So they stop at a chicken-takeout/gas station/haunted theatre called Captain Spaulding's Museum of Monsters and Madmen (the owner is wonderfully played by Sid Haig). They are lured into a ride of horrors that include wax figures of real-life murderers such as Ed Gein, Lizzie Borden and, naturally, the fictitious Dr. Satan. After the amusement ride is over, the four agree to go the woodsy area where Dr. Satan was supposedly hanged. They pick up a blonde hitchhiker (Sheri Moon) who has a knack for heavy rock and roll. Of course, their car gets a flat (thanks to a shotgun blast during a rainy night which nobody hears) and they end up at the blonde girl's residence, a spooky house occupied by the blonde's flirtatious mom (Karen Black), a deaf, deformed giant named Tiny (Matthew McGrory) and a blonde madman wearing spooky contact lenses and sporting a "Burn the Flag" T-shirt named Otis (Bill Moseley).

Most of "House of 1000 Corpses" is blackly comical and often too hyperbolic. It is the equivalent of a rock music video with interspersed clips of superior horror movies (including "The Old Dark House"), grainy footage and other film stocks, not unlike what Oliver Stone might have done had he directed this. The problem is that none of it is remotely scary. Even the cliched false alarms and the "who's there" shenanigans aren't very well executed. The two young couples are the most innocent and annoying of victims, and they hardly merit any sympathy. The black humor runs too high and the gory killings, played against rock music and asynchronous Satanic readings, feel out-of-date and repetitious. I know this is set in the 1970's and that this is Rob Zombie's homage to those splatter flicks, but he could have benefitted from the most tried-and-true rule of horror - less is infinitely more.

The best thing about this movie is Sid Haig, last seen as a judge in "Jackie Brown." He has fun with his role and brings it the relish and humor one might expect from an atypical clown character like Captain Spaulding. Bill Moseley seems to be treading on his "Chop Top" character from "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" (which this movie clearly resembles), yet he has a menacing stare. Karen Black and Sheri Moon run the gamut of overly theatrical to highly overly theatrical and may grate the nerves after a while. However, Sheri Moon's lip-synched rendition of "I Wanna Be Loved By You" is hysterically gaudy stuff.

"House of 1000 Corpses" is occasionally chilling and moodily photographed (though the zoom lens is overused), but it is just a maniacal, out-of-control carnival rather than a horror movie. High octane doesn't translate as unruly intensity. Ask Tobe Hooper.

Copyright 2003 Jerry Saravia

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