“Howdy Folks! You like blood? Violence? Freaks of nature? Well then, come on down to Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Mad-Men. See the Alligator Boy, ride my famous Murder Ride. Most of all, don’t forget to take home some of my tasty fried chicken! Ha ha! It just tastes so damn good!”
“House of 1000 Corpses,” takes place on October 30, 1977. Two couples are traveling cross country, writing a book in which they are compiling information about interesting road side attractions. One of the stops they make, is at a gas station in, an off the beaten path town, in Texas, which has such an attraction – The Museum of Monsters & Madmen. The proprietor of the property is Captain Spaulding, who is shown replete with face paint and a clown suit; Spaulding is portrayed by Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects). Viewers will have already been introduced to Spaulding, a few minutes earlier, during the opening scene of the film; a short scene, that features a botched robbery, which showcases, that Spaulding is a person that should not be trifled with.
While hosting the ‘Murder Ride,’ as Spaulding calls it, which depicts monsters, as well as real and fictional killers, he imparts information to the travelers: Denise (Erin Daniels), Mary (Jennifer Jostyn), Bill played by three time Emmy nominee Rainn Wilson (The Office), and Jerry, a role acted by two time Emmy winner Chris Hardwick (@Midnight). The information Spaulding imparts during the ride, which especially peaks Jerry’s interest, is about S. Quentin Quale, referred to by the locals as Dr. Satan. According to legend, years earlier, when the townsfolk learned of the ungodly experiments Quale was performing at the asylum where he worked, they took it upon themselves to execute their own justice, and hung him from a tree. Spaulding tells the couples, that when some people returned the next day to retrieve Quale’s body, it was gone. After receiving driving directions from Spaulding, Jerry convinces his less than thrilled friends, and girlfriend, that they should drive out to the tree where Dr. Satan was purportedly hung.
In route to the location, the group spots a woman walking in the rain, and gives her a ride; her name is Vera-Ellen, but she refers to herself as Baby. The character is played by Sheri Moon Zombie (31), in her film debut. Baby informs the group, that she lives near the location they want to see. Unfortunately, shortly after resuming their trip, the car gets a flat tire. As luck would have it, bad luck in this instance, Baby’s brother is a tow truck driver. She tells the group, that he’ll come and tow the car, and while it is being fixed, everyone is welcome to stay at her house, where she lives with her family. The Firefly family consists of: Mother Firefly, played by two time Golden Globe winner Karen Black (Five Easy Pieces); her brothers, Otis portrayed by horror film veteran Bill Moseley (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Tiny (Matthew McGrory), and Rufus (Robert Allen Mukes); and rounding out the family, her grandfather, Hugo, portrayed by long time character actor Dennis Fimple, in his final film role before he passed away from heart disease, on August 23, 2002. (As an aside: In the film, there are a number of characters named after characters that “The Marx Brothers,” played in their films from the 1930s and 40s which include, Captain Spaulding in “Animal Crackers” – Rufus T. Firefly from “Duck Soup” – Otis from “A Night at the Opera” – S. Quentin Quale from “Go West” – and Vera-Ellen from “Love Happy”).
Once the couples accompany Baby back to the house, they join the Firefly family for dinner, which is followed by a play. The performances during the play, which is not shown in its entirety, is a mixture of vulgarity, with grandpa Hugo offering some foul-mouthed humor, and strange charm, as Baby performs the Marilyn Monroe song, I Wanna Be Loved By You.” Mary, thinking that Baby is flirting with her boyfriend, vociferously objects, and the couples are promptly told to leave. This conveniently, although not really, coincides with their car being ready. While attempting to leave the sizeable grounds the Firefly family house is located on, the couples are attacked by costumed figures, and that is just the beginning of their problems.
Do any of the four escape the house of horrors they’ve been unwillingly thrust into? Is Dr. Satan alive? Does he make an appearance in the film? What if any are the motivations of the Firefly family? Are they just deranged, cold blooded killers? Is there more to them? What, if any, is Spaulding’s connection to the Firefly family?
“House of 1000 Corpses” written and directed by musician Rob Zombie (real name Robert Bartleh Cummings), marks his directorial debut. The film was shot in 2000 but not released until 2003, when it premiered in Argentina, on March 13th at the Mar del Plata Film Festival. Zombie followed up “House of 1000 Corpses” with the 2005 film “The Devil’s Rejects.” Furthermore, he has turned his attention once more to several of the characters from the two previous films, and will be releasing “3 From Hell” in 2019; as of the writing of this post, no date for its release has been set.
The film has garnered a reputation for being an intense, violent, blood soaked piece of cinema. There are moments that are unsettling, and definitely not for the squeamish, however, like a film that “House of 1000 Corpses” is often compared to, the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” (1974), I think more is envisioned by viewers as to what is transpiring on screen, as opposed to what is actually happening. There is an eeriness to it, and it can make you, as a viewer, feel uncomfortable one moment, but the next, have you laughing at some of its dark humor. The sound track is eclectic to say the least. For example, one moment Baby is dancing to the song “Brick House,” written by Oscar and two time Grammy award winner Lionel Richie (White Nights)– a song he performed with “The Commodores” before embarking on his solo career – and in another scene the country song “I Remember You” by Slim Whitman is heard. In addition, the score, composed by Rob Zombie and Scott Humphrey, works well with what is taking place on screen.
In closing, I took the film for what it is, a horror film, made by a lover of horror movies, in his first attempt at filmmaking, outside of music videos. I’ll state right now that this film will not be for everyone. Those of you who don’t like horror movies, are more than likely going to have a deep dislike for the movie if you decide to watch it. For fans of Rob Zombie, who are used to, and like what he shows in his music videos, as well as those of you who like some of the actors in this movie who’ve appeared in numerous exploitation and horror films over the years, “House of 1000 Corpses,” will probably appeal to you.