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House of 1,000 Corpses - 20/31 Days of Halloween

I have to apologize for the delay on this review, folks. I spent most of Sunday driving home from ValleyCon. Ten hours is a hell of a stretch in a cramped minivan with two cranky kids, and of course it left me with no time to watch a movie. So today, I'm playing catch up.

Ever since his proposed Crow sequel The Crow: 2037 was canceled in 1997 (which really bummed me the hell out, considering it was actually a really neat, less-formulaic take on the concept), Rob Zombie fans were eagerly anticipating the rocker's leap from music to film, and six years later, we finally got to see what Zombie had up his sleeve, but instead of a gothic tale of vengeance, we got a strange tribute to gritty 1970s horror cinema. Would Zombie's vision appeal to moviegoers? Let's find out, shall we? Grab yourself a bucket of fried chicken and strap in for the murder ride that is 2003's House of 1000 Corpses.

As the movie opens, we witness a failed robbery attempt at a macabre roadside tourist trap run by a clown named Captain Spaulding (played by the late, great Sid Haig). Just as Spaulding is finishing up mopping up the would-be robbers' blood, four young travelers arrive to check out his "murder ride," in which Spaulding regales them with dioramas and tales of various serial killers, including a local killer known as Doctor Satan. At the travelers' insistence, Spaulding draws them a map to the very tree where Doctor Satan was hanged.

"I should have stayed in the office."

On the way to the tree, they pick up a woman named Baby hitchhiking in the rain. When an unseen gunman shoots out their tire, Baby takes them to her home to wait out the storm while her brother fixes their car. When they arrive, the travelers are immediately creeped out by the Firefly family's strange and even menacing antics. After a tense confrontation with Baby, the travelers try to leave, only to be ambushed on their way out by Baby's brothers Otis. What follows is a bloodbath the likes of which we've come to expect from Rob Zombie films.

While viewing House of 1000 Corpses, it's hard to forget who's pulling the strings, because the entire movie plays out like an extended Rob Zombie music video, and the soundtrack only helps reinforce that feeling. While the movie tries to replicate the look and feel of earlier, similar (way too similar) tales like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, it often employs visual gags and techniques associated with music videos. Zombie also takes every opportunity to remind us how hot his wife is. We know, Rob. No need to keep rubbing it in.

"Is it safe?"

Just when you think the movie can't get any stranger, it jumps the shark on a rocket-powered jet ski, and the obligatory "final girl" descends into Doctor Satan's lair and comes face to face with the mad doctor himself in a sequence that looks as if it were ripped straight from Zombie's stage show. I think it's worth mentioning that Doctor Satan is never seen or even alluded to in 2005's The Devil's Rejects, but we'll get to that soon. I promise.

So is House of 1000 Corpses worth watching? Well, that all depends on your taste in movies. Do you like a straight-forward viewing experience, or do you prefer your horror with a hit of LSD? House of 1000 Corpses isn't a bad film necessarily, but I wouldn't call it good, either. It's unsurprising that Zombie spent three years trying to nail down a studio to release the film after completing it in 2000. My advice? Smoke a few joints and listen to Rob Zombie's Past, Present, & Future compilation instead.

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