When teenagers let their curiosity about local legend “Doctor Satan” get the best of them, they become a part of it…
When a film starts out at a horror-themed roadside attraction in the middle of nowhere, Texas, viewers know something terrifying is to come. Nothing can quite prepare them, though, for the atrocities that take place in the hour and forty-five minute masterpiece that is Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses (2003).
The beginning scene itself sets the unsettling tone that will follow through the rest of the film. Clown and owner of Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) is attempting to close up shop for the night with his coworker when two men ambush them, attempting a robbery. It is eerie to watch how calm Spaulding stays during this event, taunting the robber and his family all while a gun is staring him in the face. What the bandits don’t know, though, is that a man is waiting outside and is moments away from brutally attacking them. Spaulding finally gets the last laugh, shooting his enemy three times point-blank.
From here, it is apparent that Captain Spaulding and his band of misfits are more dangerous than they appear. Something about Spaulding’s crazy eyes and hoarse yet powerful laugh give off the feeling that he is not an innocent shopkeeper. This is only the beginning of the story, though. Spaulding is only a cog in a part of a much larger family, or should I say murderous cult.
Curious youngsters Denise Willis (Erin Daniels), Bill Hudley (Rainn Wilson), Mary Knowles (Jennifer Josten), and Jerry Goldsmith (Chris Hardwick) stumble upon Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen, curious to learn more about it for a book they’re in the process of writing. While Spaulding’s unsettling and confrontational nature gives Bill the creeps, he and the others agree to go through the museum ride. At the end, they learn of Doctor Satan, who would catch their attention and ultimately lead them to their own personal hell.
After getting a detailed map to try and solve the legend, they slowly encounter more members of the Firefly family, beginning with Baby, played by Sheri Moon Zombie. There are countless members of this family, each more off putting than the last. After picking up Baby on the side of the road, she tells them that Doctor Satan is buried close to her house.
From here, the innocence of the Firefly family begins to unravel. Bill, Denise, Mary, and Jerry are driven to the Firefly home where they encounter Mother Firefly (Karen Black) and Tiny (Matthew McGrory) to name a couple. Tiny, standing incredibly tall, hides his face away due to a vicious attack long ago. He is quiet, walks slowly, and terrifies the group of young adults who are searching for any way to abandon this Hallows Eve nightmare.
If evil had to take human form, though, it would be through Otis B. Driftwood (Bill Moseley). He is vicious by nature, especially targeting young women. Only a short time before the four young adults passed through the town of Ruggsville, Texas, five cheerleaders went missing without a trace. It is not hard to guess where they might have ended up…
The rest of the film is pure and unbridled gore, violence, and horror. There is a clear reason that House of 1000 Corpses is rated R, as it lives up to this ranking honestly. Not only are the characters psychotic murderers, but they use very strong language and are very sexual. It is truly disgusting to see Rob Zombie’s vision come to life, mixing themes of sex with death and gore. His films are not for the weak-hearted, or for weak stomachs.
The cinematography in House of 1000 Corpses sets it apart from others, making it a new example to go off of in the horror universe. In the middle of scenes, certain clips would run of title characters talking, or of much more sickening content. The quality of the clips are always very high in contrast and fuzzy, looking like ruined clips from an old camcorder. Sometimes, loud music or chilling noises will accompany the shots, foreshadowing that the movie gets more and more disconcerting as it goes on. These short, sometimes five-second clips are jump cuts from scene to scene that have rarely, if ever been used in horror. Zombie was revolutionary in paving a new way of editing films. He included these off-the-wall elements like short clips with distorted colors and visuals that completed the aesthetic of the movie. Zombie’s cinematography can only be described as extraordinarily shocking art.
Along with the striking cinematography, Rob Zombie incorporated another great passion of his into his work. He is a heavy metal singer and used many of his own songs in House of 1000 Corpses, along with others from different artists. From his own discography came songs like “Stuck In the Mud”, “Little Piggy”, and a rendition of “Brick House,” starring Zombie and Lionel Richie. This element made the movie unique and personal. The movie leaves viewers feeling a connection to Zombie and his music.
It is a difficult task to create a frighteningly grand piece of art. Writer, Director, and Musician Rob Zombie is a man of many talents that revolutionized the film and music industry. With a cast of wonderful actors, unique cinematography, and a timeless story, there is no questioning how the movie has amassed a cult following.
If you need more of a Firefly fix, don’t go wandering all the way to Ruggsville, Texas. There are two other films in the Firefly Trilogy- The Devil’s Rejects and 3 From Hell– and you can find them on Amazon Prime. Prepare to be terrified, though, because Captain Spaulding and the rest of the gang still have plenty of hell to raise.
House of 1000 Corpses (2003) Official Trailer