I will be frank with you. I have never been a fan of Rob Zombie, his image, his band, or his music, and as such I approached his directorial feature film debut "House Of 1000 Corpses" with reluctance. I will be entirely honest with you however, in saying that I was in for a treat! "House Of 1000 Corpses" is certainly one of the most stylish and imaginative horror films in a long time, and boy, is it terrifying and unsettling!
From the first frame the film sets an eerie mood and by keeping the screen awash in red and green colors, populating it with extremely eccentric characters, immediately the movie has a somewhat surreal tension that never lets up. It tells the story of two young couples on the road to research a book about tourist attractions – mostly haunted houses, etc. Somewhere in the sticks they end up in a bizarre sideshow run by Captain Spaulding, who tells them the story of Doctor Satan, an urban legend about a local cannibal and serial killer. The couples decide to learn more about Doctor Satan and follow his legendary trail until their car breaks down in the pouring rain. From there the film literally explodes as the couples are picked up by local farmers, who are anything but a regular family. A family indeed, with quite a few skeletons in their closets… just about 1000 to be exact.
Unsettling and utterly suspensefully brought to the screen, "House Of 1000 Corpses" shows us some of the most deranged humans that ever graced the screen. The thought that people like this may actually live somewhere out there keeps nagging in the back of your mind as you watch the film’s horrors unfold. The movie puts the finger where it frightens us the most as we try to overcome the helpnessness and keep asking ourselves, if this could happen to any of us.
Although a long shot from traditional horror films that you might have expected, Zombie’s "House Of 1000 Corpses" is a modern mix of the exploitation genre that was extremely successful in the 80s, mixed with a portion of MTV-generation, "Evil Dead," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and topped off with a good dose of Lucio Fulci! Not that the film is in any way derivative. Far from it. But Zombie manages to distill much of the quintessence of these films and bring it to the screen in a very fresh way without losing any of the impact.
Lions Gate is bringing us "House Of 1000 Corpses" in a great widescreen transfer that is enhanced for 16x9 TV sets. The image is clean and free of grain, although there are a good number of shots of lesser quality, which have been deliberately created by the filmmakers as flashbacks etc. Colors are strong and faithfully rendered without oversaturation. Skin tones look natural and the deep blacks of the picture add a lot of visual depth to the presentation. No edge-enhancement is evident and the transfer is also free of compression artifacts.
The audio on the DVD is coming as a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital mix that is very aggressive and makes very good use of the split surrounds. The track has a wide frequency response with solid bass reproduction and clear high ends that are free of sibilance or distortion. Dialogues are well integrated and always integrated in the overall mix to remain understandable. Rob Zombie also contributed music to the film, as you’d expect, and once again he shows some serious maturity. Unlike many other modern horror films, he never uses music to deafen scenes or to explode right into your face with constant barrage of infernal metal riffs. Quite unexpected, Zombie is restrained and while his signature is clearly audible, the music is very much serving the picture. Slow, pounding heavy metal ostinati create a sense of foreboding, screaming guitars accentuate certain moments. Despite what one might expect from Rob Zombie, this is actually one of the better horror soundtracks of recent memory – one that has purpose and direction. The track is also available as an isolated score on one of the DVD’s audio track.
Lions Gate has added a good number of cool extras to the DVD, starting with an engaging commentary track by Rob Zombie. Zombie is very conversational on the track and reveals a lot about the movie’s production and never fails to point out little tidbits here and there that are otherwise easily overlooked.
Next up is a "Making Of" featurette with many interview snippets and a good deal of behind-the-scenes footage. While it has an undeniable promo feel, it is nonetheless fun to watch. The audio quality is pretty weak though, slightly distorted, over-compressed and too low in volume compared to the other features.
A second "Behind The Scenes" clip takes you on the set during the shoot, allowing viewers to just take in the atmosphere as the crew prepares for a night shot.
"Tiny Fucked A Stump" is a clip in which the main actors of the film tell Knock-Knock jokes getting in an out of character. It is an insane blip…
Next up are audition tapes in which we see the film’s stars trying to make an impression on the director. It is followed by a selection of rehearsal tapes in which the actors go through some of the film’s scenes.
Trailers and a photo gallery are also included, and the DVD is rounded out by a few on-set interviews during the shoot of the footage for the DVD menus.
Already on the fast-track for a sequel, "House Of 1000 Corpses" is a masterful horror film that stands head and shoulders above the crowd. Rob Zombie shows a strong directorial hand and an eye for the unsettling. His rabid visuals are never blatantly gory and he manages to add edge to his images by using various effects, such as negative prints, video-clip-style-editing and visual distortion. I have a new-found respect for Zombie and I truly think he should stick to filmmaking and make sure to serve up some more of these insanely horrific films.
After seeing "House Of 1000 Corpses" it is hardly surprising that this film had to go through some tribulations to get made and that various studios dropped the project before Lions Gate had the guts to finally bring it to fruition without adhering to the absolute "political correctness" attitude of major movie studios. The film is daring, provocative and very scary. Watch it, if you dare, and I promise, you won’t be disappointed.