Zombie's lurid homage to '70s gore flicks is exactly
what it claims to be... and why would anyone who chose
to watch it in the first place expect it to be anything
less? The film isn't inept or unprofessional. But it
is nasty, glorying in its own extreme imagery
and parading its gory credentials with a ghoulish grin.
fan of the genre, as evidenced by his output as a rocker
with the band White Zombie and on his solo
albums, Rob Zombie the film-maker has, in House
of 1000 Corpses, taken a generic plot-line
bloody with inbred white-trash carnage and woven around
it a freak-show montage of associated images from the
cultural edge. As a celebration of trash cinema (or
at least, one segment of it) and the appeal of the ghoulishly
bizarre, the film is spot-on: its design is gaudy and
calculatedly backwoods-decadent, its sounds are horrendous,
its plot is unremittingly violent and drags you into
the nightmare with an irresponsible giggle that leaves
you feeling both thrilled and disturbed, and it combines
medical deviancy and hideous torture with careless aplomb.
Back country deviants? Roadside freak shows? Violence
and mutilation? Sinister clowns? Gruesome back story?
Cronenbergian melange of obscene instrumentation and
ripped flesh? Death cults and demonic undead? They're
all there, forming an effective encyclopedic revisiting
of hundreds of old horror film tropes. Generally speaking,
Zombie pulls it all off with greater finesse than many
of the films he references, and he certainly makes you
react, one way or another. Check out the Internet
Movie Database critical reviews. Despite some protestations
to the contrary, it's hard to see that volume of response
fact that I was entertained by something so extreme
(and, yes, I am familiar with the work of Romero, Fulci,
Argento and their less talented protegy) is why, perhaps,
I felt a little disturbed after watching the film. Joking
all the way, Zombie had taken me, along with his fatally
curious victims, into the dark interior of an unnatural
world -- one that we normally experience through a sort
of detached curiosity that keeps us at a safe distance.
(The metaphor of the demonic underworld, representing
our fear of death and/or immersion in the sinisterly
abnormal, is realised in House of 1000 Corpses
as a dark and deadly labyrinth of caves accessed through
a grave ... and is particularly apt in this regard!)
A catalogue of human depravity and cruelty is on display
in the film, no excuses offered, no prisoners taken.
As such outré horror films as these witness,
there often exists in humanity a fascination for the
possibility of outlandish physical and mental
torment, at least when it is viewed from a safe distance
through the unrealities of fiction. With the drawing-power
of a road accident, it tweaks our fear that we are never
really safe and feeds an awareness of our own inevitable
mortality. In some ways it even mocks that fear. The
characters in Zombie's film are literally plunged into
the world they've been toying with on an intellectual
level up until then -- they're researching a book on
roadside freakshows and gruesome urban/rural legends
-- and, for them, it suddenly becomes somewhat less
theoretical and decidedly less fascinating. We, the
audience, watch safely from the wings, as usual: entertained
-- perhaps; involved -- hopefully; and in some cases
scornful. But at least safe.
do we really escape unaffected? Despite the essential
unreality of it all (and the fact that the plot is one
we've re-visited many times), I found that the film's
imagery haunted my consciousness for some time afterwards.
And it made me wonder if the critical scorn it has provoked
is in fact another way of dealing with the same feeling
-- that though this is clearly a self-indulgent and
exploitative fiction, it is done well enough to lure
us into its reality and thus remind us that, as living
beings in a world that is essentially indifferent to
morality and justice, neither we nor those we care about
are ever really safe.
is something we don't like to be reminded of.
the inbred psycho characters are all given the names
of characters created by Groucho Marx (Captain Spaulding,
Rufus T. Firefly, Otis B. Driftwood). Now what does
that mean, I wonder?
OF 1,000 CORPSES