He Should Have Stuck With Dragula
Is it harder to write about something you loathe or something you love? It’s definitely a lot easier to get caught up in overwrought clichés when you are describing a piece of art that means a lot to you, but it’s also just as easy to get bogged down in the minutia of something that fails on every level. This week I’m going to try to avoid the minutia, because I’m writing about a movie that even a mother couldn’t love; Rob Zombie’s inexorably bad House of 1000 Corpses.
Let me be clear about something from the start; I hate every film Rob Zombie has made. The only one I haven’t watched is Lords of Salem, but the rest of his oeuvre is so bad that I am going to group it in with the rest and just go ahead and say that I can’t stand it. Everything about Zombie’s films stand in direct opposition to what I like in horror movies; they are shrill, soulless, and trashy, without being any fun.
The biggest flaw in all of Zombies films is the writing; the dialogue is tantamount to an alien trying to convince a redneck that he is from Arkansas, and the characters are such hollow, flat archetypes that they would be more at home on a cereal box. For the original Halloween John Carpenter got Debra Hill to help with the female characters dialogue; for Zombie’s remake, he appears to have consulted several Penthouse Forum columns and a transcription of a Grim Reaper interview from 1987. For Halloween 2, rumor has it that he simply let a donkey randomly hit keys on a typewriter and turned it in to Dimension after it passed 100 pages.
So why House of 1000 Corpses? What makes it standout? I guess for me, it’s the fact that it is what brought all of the shit that followed, and that someone thought it was a good idea to give a man who apparently had roughly one idea (remaking The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 without any of the humor) multiple millions of dollars to make a terrible film. House of 1000 Corpses stands as a testament to everything that is wrong with horror movies; it is thoroughly unoriginal and completely unlikable in every way.
The shit-show starts almost immediately when Sid Haig (playing a man named Captain Spaulding) is accosted by two robbers. The acting between all of them leaves a bit to be desired, but it’s the dialogue consisting of such zingers as “Why don’t you just take your Mama home some chicken and then I won’t have to stuff my boot all up in your ass” and “Goddamn, motherfucker got blood all over my best clown suit” that really set the mood for the thrill ride you’re about to take.
Next thing you know, future nerd king himself Chris Hardwick shows up. This was back when he was primarily known for Singled Out and dating a model that was on one of the seasons of The Real World, not being the “cool” guy that knows all about comics and shit. Hardwick is joined by Rainn Wilson, Erin Daniels, and Jennifer Jostyn as a group called “the plot devices.” The plot devices have names that are totally unimportant because they are only used to get us to the house of the real heroes of the film, the Firefly family!
This family of lackluster shitheads is comprised of various b-movie actors (Karen Black, Bill Moseley, Dennis Fimple, Matthew McGrory) and Zombie’s wife Sheri Moon. All of the performers do their best with the material, but Moseley steals the show, primarily because he is playing the same character he did in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, with all the humor removed of course. I am convinced that he just pretended he was back on that set the whole time he made this movie, and its follow up The Devil’s Rejects.
The biggest problem (of multitudes) that House of 1000 Corpses has is its total lack of coherence. There is literally no one to root for; things happen for seemingly no reason (explain how the liquor store scene adds to the film and I’ll give you a cookie); about ten percent of the film’s runtime is taken up by over-saturated shots of cars driving, snakes, burlesque dancers, etc. It seems like Zombie had about an hour’s worth of material that he padded to 90 minutes by throwing in superfluous scenes that add nothing to the story.
So is there anything good about House of 1000 Corpses? The short answer is no. I wish that I could say that Zombie learned something from this one (he generally dismisses the film these days), but everything that is bad about House of 1000 Corpses is still present in all of his films. Zombie’s remake of a sequel, Halloween 2, is actually worse than House of 1000 Corpses, which is something I didn’t actually think was possible. Halloween 2 is probably the flat-out worst horror film ever made, so I guess that’s something this one has going for it; at least it’s not Halloween 2.
Will Rob Zombie ever make a good movie? It’s highly doubtful at this point. His next movie, 31, is about some bullshit underground murder house (hmmm, sounds familiar Dr. Satan) and it’s debuting soon. Apparently it was originally rated NC-17 due to the level of violence in it, but perhaps the MPAA is just trying to spare a large portion of the public from another Zombie shit-fest. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong with this one. Maybe it will be his Citizen Kane. In reality, it will probably be like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, just without the humor.
Until next time…