|Plot Outline: After four friends stop in at Captain Spaulding’s strange shop, he tells them the local legend of Dr. Satan. A crazed doctor who performed horrible acts on his patients. The kids, who are writing a book about their cross country trip into the bizarre, set out to find more information on Dr. Satan, but after picking up a beautiful female hitchhiker their car breaks down. The hitchhiker leads one of them to her home where she gets her brother to tow the kids car back. During the course of the night, the kids are picked off one by one.|
The Review: I’m not a Rob Zombie fan. I used to kind of dig the White Zombie stuff a long time ago, but I passed through it. I’m not here to debate the man’s musical ability or negate fans of his, I’m just stating this because fans of his music will likely love the film no matter what. Me on the other hand, I tried to keep my mind as open as possible. I don’t hate House of A 1000 Corpses, but I certainly don’t love it, which is what this film seems like it needs. I used to be pretty hard and heavy in the horror scene about three years ago and I stayed in it until just a year ago. I had a few sites I would frequent regularly, posting on message boards etc. Well, somewhere along the line, House of a 1000 Corpses was dropped by it’s original production company because they said they were afraid it would get an NC-17, and thus began an urban legend of sorts. There have been people hyping this flick up to be the true resurgence of horror. A film that would cleanse the palette of horror fans, destroying all memories of Valentine and I Know What You Did Last Summer. I figured out quite a while ago that these people were easily lead along and easily excited over nothing. I remember people actually being excited when Urban Legends: Final Cut came out, jeez you’d think these people could spot a stinker from a mile away.
Anyway, I figured there was no use in looking to this film as anything other than another horror flick. Well, HOA1C isn’t an average horror film, and I guess that’s a good thing. Only I imagine this film is going to severely polarize it’s audience. I don’t think middle America is ready for a film like this in the least. Not because it’s violent or gory like it’s reputation seems to have suggested, no I’ve seen much more violent films that get the R rating, no it has more to do with how campy the film is. The dialogue in the film, especially by the younger cast, is of the ‘wanna-be-cool’ variety that comes off so forced that it hurts. Sid Haig seems to be the only one who can really get away with pulling off some of the lines without looking like a fool, but even he struggles sometimes. I wish I could say the cast did a fine job, but other than Sid Haig not one person didn’t come off looking terrible almost all the time. I can’t tell if Zombie was going for a campy vibe or not. The acting is over the top, but not in a fun way like a Troma film. The acting here just seems unprofessional which is really sad when you look at the talent. The film has Bill Moseley for pete’s sake! Chop Top! Yet Moseley doesn’t come off half as threatening here as he did in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, and he was probably one of the only things I truly liked about that film. Tom Towles and Walt Goggins, two actors I enjoy as well, also show up in the form of cops. Towles’ character might as well be called Detective Cliche because he never has anything to do. Goggins gets points for being in one of the films cooler scenes, but his character is just as wasted as the rest. I find it hard to believe Zombie actually meant for the actors to do so poorly. If he was going for a silly vibe to the film he shouldn’t have tried to incorporate the deadly seriousness of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre near the end.
I’m just airing my grievances right now. The film is full of good things as well as bad, sometimes they’re one in the same. A prime example is the visual style of the film. For the most part I really liked what zombie did bringing his comic book horror style to the big screen, but then there’s the flip side, like his use of inverted colors. The effect is just unneeded and very hackneyed. Kind of like the Predator’s night vision, only used with no context or reason. The film does have an excellent style to it. It shows that Zombie was definitely in on the production design for the film, his acid trip looking creatures are brought to life in a rural southern backdrop to great effect. There are also a couple of really standout scenes that show Zombie has promise as a director. Even though they got on my nerves, I liked the way Zombie would sometimes splice documentary styled interviews in with the film. I disliked it because what the characters would say ended up sounding extremely cheesy, but I liked the way it was done and it sometimes produced something interesting. The film is full of these little somewhat good/somewhat bad little effects and it leaves the film kind of in an odd place. You either have to look at the film negatively or you can look at it positively. I personally choose neither, so the film never reaches any levels above subpar for me.
I felt like calling Rob Zombie the Quentin Tarantino of horror movies for a minute, but then I reevaluated it, and I take it back. What Zombie and Tarantino have in common is simple, the nods and homage’s to other films. In House, Zombie walks the fine line between Homage and ripoff. I hate to sound so totally down on the film, but it just shocked me how much this film takes from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I won’t go into all of that because I might get into spoiler territory, but if you’re familiar with the film you’ll spot the scenes. There’s also some nods to the earlier horror films Zombie loves so much, mostly shown through clips on television in the film. I also kind of got a very old school approach to the horror in the film, the first half of the film kind of felt like a 50s horror film just with more violence. I can’t really explain why I get the feeling, maybe it has something to do with the characters or the black & white introduction, anyway it certainly produces a similar effect as the monster movies of old.
For all of the bad aspects of the film, somewhere deep down inside me I really like it. I can’t really gauge how audiences will take to it, but this doesn’t seem like the kind of film that could do big business at the box office. House actually resembles a straight to video Full Moon picture, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re a fan. In the end you can only see if the film is right for you. I could easily see this film developing a cult following in the future, I could also see it being critically reviled and spat upon. We’ll just have to wait and see. I’m giving the film a three, because despite it’s many flaws I did enjoy some aspects. Sid Haig’s Mr. Spaulding was an entertaining and memorable character. The film definitely has a neat and original style to it which is always nice, and although it didn’t shine through often, there were some nice scenes that hinted at Zombie’s talent. The shooting of the sheriff for instance. In the end it’s all up to you. You’ll either like the film or you won’t.