October 29, 2014

HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES...Home Is Where the Heart Is Removed With A Pickaxe

House of 1000 Corpses (R) 2003

Severed arms and legs litter the floor. Flecks of gore drip down the walls. Blood stains soak the couch cushions. Incredibly, every inch of this hellish room is covered in filth and rot.

It's horrible. Just horrible.

The house of 1000 corpses is a pigsty, you guys!

Would it be so hard to take a break from beheading cheerleaders and eviscerating local college kids long enough to wash a dish once in awhile? Maybe vacuum? My goodness.

So awkward.

Anyhoo, like the make-believe lodgings in writer/director Rob Zombie's 1970s-style grindhouse film House of 1000 Corpses, this schizophrenic movie is a blood-soaked mess. But from the throwback cover art to the eclectic soundtrack, it's a blood-soaked mess that will creep the digested food stuffs right out of you.

It's 1977 and social outcasts Jerry (Chris Hardwick) and Bill (Rainn Wilson) are driving cross country gathering research for a book they're writing on strange roadside attractions. (Never mind there's a good chance that neither one of these nerdy stoners has ever even read a book.) Meanwhile, their unhappy girlfriends pass the time by nagging, complaining, and generally making sure they don't become Mrs. Jerry or Mrs. Bill any time soon. (Well played, ladies.)

When the group finds itself in the middle of nowhere, they pull into a service station and are surprised to discover they've happened upon an oddball establishment that along with gas sells fried chicken, houses a museum of oddities, and offers funhouse rides celebrating the lives of deranged serial killers.

It's bumpkin nirvana!

The exuberant boys go inside in search of the proprietor of this gas fried murder station with hopes of adding it to the book. What they find is a pleasantly unpleasant man in a clown suit named "Captain Spaulding." The cap'n doesn't take kindly to the strangers or their "a-holey" questions and only calms himself after selling the foursome tickets to his "famous" murder-ride funhouse.

Once inside the ride, the girls are completely disgusted by the sights and sounds of simulated decapitation and cannibalism (and Captain Spaulding's chicken fried breath, I'm sure), while Bill looks on with morbid curiosity. Meanwhile, Jerry has become so infatuated with the display and story of "Dr. Satan," a local legend who was said to have operated on his victims while still alive and was later hanged from a tree and then vanished, that he risks the captain's ire and gets Spaulding to draw a map to the infamous tree before the four drive away in search of it.

Which is pretty much where the plot and logic shake hands and agree to go their separate ways.

What follows are a host of backwater crazy people, disjointed visual shocks, ritualistic violence, incoherent plotting, a little dessert...but no story. At least, no story by "three acts and a plot point or two" standards. By nightmare standards however, this thing coasts along swimmingly.

Because like a nightmare, House of 1000 Corpses is too busy dredging up everything that might scare you to worry about making sense. Yes, the complete bombardment of violence thrown at the audience is sometimes more tiresome than frightening. But when you use a kitchen-sink mentality and toss everything you can think of into the film as Zombie does, eventually something is going to resonate. And that is where opinions on this film differ wildly. If enough of what is on the screen gets under your goose-fleshed skin, then House is probably the type of movie that stays with you long after the lights come up. But if like me you find there are just too many goings-on going on, then what was meant to be creepy winds up being a bit creeky instead.

That isn't to say House of 1000 Corpses is a bad film. In fact, it is so disturbing and strange that at least one viewing seems mandatory for any self-respecting horror buff. But it's like the strange roadside attractions it celebrates.

Cool in the brochure, but kind of a disappointment in person.


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