House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Say what you will about Rob Zombie but the man loves horror just as much as every single one of us. He is a fan who makes films for the fans. Maybe he doesn't always get I right. But, when he does it is a spectacle to behold. Nothing illustrates this better than his 2003 debut 'House of a 1000 corpses'. This gritty horror throwback ranks highly amongst my most enjoyable films in the genre. Zombies has an extremely unique directing style, clearly having taken inspiration from his time spent directing music videos for his band White Zombie and later his own solo efforts. This is evident in the films jittery pace, intertwining negative images and random film stick segments that bare little resemblance to the story. Whilst also simultaneously taking on board the gritty style of Tobe Hooper's 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre', which is clearly his biggest inspiration for this film. One thing I really appreciated was his strong use of blue tones during nightfall, something commonly used in 70's and 80's horror. This is a cinematography technique I believe is strongly missing from slashers and horror in general these days. The casting is full of recognisable faces, including the legendary Sid Haig, someone that has cemented himself as a favourite amongst fans in the genre, as the iconic character of Captain Spalding. Before this, he had retired from acting due to type-casting, but this is a role I now can't imagine being played by anyone else. Haig along with Bill Moseley as Ottis are without doubt the strongest performances of the group. His character really is unlike anything I've seen before. He is a vile creature who commits some very heinous acts throughout this film. Taking the decision to cast Sheri Moon Zombie in all of his films has only caused damage to her acting career, in my opinion. She is a genuinely capable actress and this for me is her career highlight as Baby. She can be quite cartoonish at times but I feel her performance lends well to the tone of the film. If I had to be picky and call this film out for any major flaws it would be the lack of connection to the group of protagonists that we are naturally wanting to evade their captors. This is a more of a writing issue, as I feel like the majority of the focus is aimed towards the family and the behaviour that they are inflicting on these people. I personally didn't take a lot of issue with it, as the family are clearly a very complex and interesting group of people. Although, it is difficult to empathise with characters that don't quite receive the development required, in order for us as a viewer to invest in them emotionally. I find the use of practical and make up works used here to be one of the more creative elements of this film. It's very graphic and extremely violent and there is not a single frame of CGI in sight. Seeing Rainn Wilson being turned into a half human/half fish hybrid and Chris Hardwick getting partially scalped are just a few of the examples of practical work put on display. However, for me it it's the character design of Dr. Satan that really stands out above the rest. He is an extremely disfigured man in what can only be described as 'steam punk' cosplay. I found myself constantly reviewing his moments on screen during my first watch just to marvel at his make up work. There is no denying that this film opened up a lot of doors for zombie as a director. I can appreciate some of the later projects he has taken on and the different approach he has taken with them, yet for me, this is a style that Zombie is clearly exceptionally good at and a return to form is something that is well overdue for this director. Not only do I like him as a film maker, but I am a big fan of his music and this film features some of his best solo efforts - most noticeably the title track 'House of 1000 Corpses'. This is the perfect Halloween season film, due to the set aesthetics, bloated homages to the horror genre and the seasonal tone in general. It has great pacing and is an extremely entertaining ride from start to finish - going completely of the rails once you reach the 1 hour mark. This has garnered quite a large cult following since its initial release, aand quite rightly so. As someone who really appreciates B-movie creativity, this provides it and then some. Is this a perfect film? No. Does that matter? Certainly not. Sit back, relax and prepare yourself for a film made by a horror fan for the horror fans.