"Oh it’s true. The bogeyman is real. And you found him." - Otis B. Driftwood
"Whatever you need to do, you do it. There is no wrong. If someone needs to be killed, you kill 'em. That's the way." - Baby Firefly
Leave it to the creative genius of Rob Zombie to bring us one of the most twisted, depraved and just plain "wrong in the name of all that’s decent" film debuts I’ve ever seen in House of 1000 Corpses. Back in 2002, or thereabouts, Zombie wanted to stretch his creative wings. He was a multi million disc selling rock star, he had gone solo after the split up of his band White Zombie and achieved even greater success. He used sound bite samples from classic, cult and obscure movies -usually horror in his songs. He referenced movies endlessly on his tracks - to the point of writing one about the Munsters’ coffin based drag racer, "Dragula". He directed all his own music videos - so a feature film was the next logical step.
You’d think it would be cut and dried. Rob Zombie making a film for Universal Studios - the home of the classic horror films. But Universal shied away from the finished product and refused to release it. But don’t take my word for it - here an excerpt of an phone interview I did with Rob Zombie on March 24, 2008:
RP: Let’s start at the very beginning, how difficult was it to get "House of 1000 Corpses " made ?
RZ: Well, getting made wasn’t really the problem, getting released was the problem.
RP: Yeah, Universal pulled out didn’t they ?
RZ: Yeah. Universal made the movie, but getting it made was easy. It was getting it out of their vaults and actually on to movie screens which was the tricky part. You know that took about...and I’m starting to forget now, but after the movie was done, I think it sat in Universal’s vaults for about a year and a half, maybe.
RP: How frustrating was that for you creatively ?
RZ: Oh, it’s horrible. I mean you put all this work into something and the last thing you want to do is have somebody basically throw it in the garbage. But in a way, it was liberating in the sense that I knew that they didn’t want to put out the movie and I didn’t want them to chop it to pieces, so I would rather have it delayed and put out
I mean, it all worked out for the best. It was a long road, going from studio to studio, and at that time, which seems hard to believe now, that was - I forget what year it was - 2000 or 2001. Shopping like a weird horror movie was not exactly fashionable. Nobody wanted it.
Horror was slightly out of fashion at that point, the major studios weren’t really releasing horror movies necessarily and nobody wanted it, you know. And then eventually, Lionsgate came on board, and soon after that there seemed to be a big horror boom.
So it was all good.
And it’s a film that remains good to this day, opening with Sid Haig’s sadistic and psychotic clown character, Captain Spaulding. The foul mouthed Spaulding runs a gas station/general store/world famous murder ride attraction and is also the front man for the infamous Firefly family. It’s that Halloween time of year. Enter two teenage couples on a road trip researching those strange, weird roadside attractions on the back roads of Texas. They come across a sign advertising Spaulding’s murder ride and become aware of the local legend of Doctor Satan and decide to try and find the tree he was reputedly hung from several years earlier.
Okay - it rains and they pick up a lone girl, hitching a ride on the deserted road, who claims to live a short distance away and knows where Doctor Satan’s tree is. Bad move, people - you just picked up the deranged Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) and she just led you to a trap where you’ll be sadistically tortured and brutalised by Otis B.Driftwood (Bill Moseley), Mother Firefly (Karen Black in a really disturbing role, reminiscent of Bette Davis’s Baby Jane) and Hugo Z.Hackenbush (Dennis Fimple). If those names sound familiar, they were taken from Marx Brothers movies.
Although it reminded me of Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where a bunch of road tripping teens stray on to the radar of a family of cannibals, the Firefly clan are, if at al possible even worse. They don’t kill for food. They kill for fun, and boy do they enjoy themselves. Baby happily and literally scalps one of the teens who fails to guess her favourite movie star. Their house is littered with the corpses of slaughtered cheerleaders, while Hugo watches the Munsters on TV.
But those who survive have a meeting ahead.... With Doctor Satan himself, living in a vast underground chamber with some of his nightmarish surviving mentally handicapped experiments - a kind of splice and dice extravaganza of Rob Zombie’s imagination in hyper drive.
I mean, who else would have two cops executed in a scene, to the sounds of Slim Whitman warbling "I Remember You"?
It’s a mean and nasty exercise in horror exploitation, but it’s also a stunning movie debut and I recommend it wholeheartedly. The soundtrack album pretty much rocks as well.
Next time, we’re looking at a Halloween favourite - bring on the headless horsemen of Ichabod and Mr.Toad (yes, I’m going Disney) and Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. Two versions of Washington Irving’s classic tale.
Copyright © 2010 - 2012 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.