House of 1000 Corpses

House of 1000 Corpses ★★

Rob Zombie clearly loves horror movies. He also clearly loves 70s exploitation, music videos, old Hollywood, the Marx brothers, tourist traps, tv horror hosts, haunted house attractions, and Halloween. All of this is evident in House of 1000 Corpses. But does it all blend together? Not really. A campy, poorly edited riff on 70s redneck horror in the vein of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (another one of my favorite horror films), the film mostly feels like hollow styling. It’s not so much storytelling as it is nerdy fetishization. Which can be fine. A lot of filmmakers do this. Quentin Tarantino does this all the time, but it more often than not, it usually coheres into a unified whole. His riffs and references  routinely contribute to the style or storytelling somehow. When it doesn’t work, it often feels to me like the director is merely listing films he or she likes, and asking the film fans or film critics they’re aiming for, “Hey, I like the stuff you guys like, too! We cool?” Hell, I’ve seen indie and arthouse films (for example, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Submarine), literally stop the film to have their characters talk about films and directors they like, and it serves very little to the story they’re trying to tell other than to let the audience know their characters are obsessive outsiders. I often hate this because I feel like I’m being pandered to. This isn’t as annoying in House of 1000 Corpses, but it’s just as empty. For the record, I don’t even really hate this movie. Perhaps it’s Zombie’s passion for what he’s riffing on. The film does have its moments. Despite it’s limited budget, there’s some decent production and costume design that make this stand out from other horror movies. The Captain Spaulding character seems to be the film’s most iconic creation, and It’s not hard to see why. Sid Haig steals the show, and I enjoyed the film more anytime he was onscreen. Haig’s presence is enough to get me to check out Zombie’s sequel The Devil’s Rejects. I admire what he was trying to accompish, but I can’t say this is a good movie. It poorly flows from scene to scene, with confusing editing choices and aimless references. Why does this take place during Halloween? Why the tv horror host? Why are characters named after Marx brothers characters? Why are there sometimes references to old Hollywood?  Because Zombie loves all of these things! But these references don’t build to any sort of point. Is he trying to say the old days were better? I don’t know! I think they’re just there for the sake of being there. I just wish it all came together for some satisfying thematic purpose other than horror is awesome. Why watch an empty style riff when you could just watch the things that inspired it? Fanboy enthusiam isn’t enough for creating a film, and any filmmaker worth his salt, especially the great horror filmmakers, will tell you this. But I can’t fault Zombie for the stuff he loves. His fans obviously love him for it, and that’s fine. I wasn’t offended. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t disturbed. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat in suspense. I was occasionally annoyed, but most of the time, I just felt nothing. A movie with a title like House of 1000 Corpses promises plenty, and given the decades worth of influences Rob Zombie is pulling from, I’m surprised I felt so little by the end.

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