I wish there was a way to write a long, exasperated, conflicted sigh.
House of 1000 Corpses is Rob Zombie’s debut film, known for being provocative, disturbing, and kind of awful. It kicked off his Firefly trilogy (of which the third movie is being filmed now) and while the second entry, The Devil’s Rejects, is relatively well known and acclaimed, House of 1000 Corpses seems to have a much more, uhh, niche, cult following. It’s about a group of four college-ish aged kids who, while on a roadtrip to visit and explore America’s weird and wild roadside attractions, fall victim to the Firefly family: a cult of sadistic and psychotic hillbillies who capture, torture, and kill anybody they come across.
Before House of 1000 Corpses, I’ve never seen a Rob Zombie movie. I figured that while half drunk on a Friday afternoon, I wanted to watch something kind of fucked up, and while I’m not ready for Cannibal Holocaust (no matter how many times I tell my friends that I am), I thought hey why not watch a crazy movie and my first Rob Zombie flick at the same time? So, here I am an hour and forty five minutes later, scratching my head, and just a smidge drunker than I was before I queued up the movie.
I have to give Rob Zombie credit where credit is due: House of 1000 Corpses is unlike anything else I’ve seen before. Sure, it helped pave the way for movies is Martyrs and Saw, but past the shock value of the gore, there isn’t anything in this movie that resembles those other two. House of 1000 Corpses is capital “W” wild, and I think that’s about one of the only reasons I can say that I liked it. Surreal and trippy transitions flash across the screen between and even in the middle of scenes, from using the negative color of the current scene to cutting to seemingly unrelated footage of characters talking to the camera almost like a talking heads segment meeting a serial killer’s manifesto video, House of 1000 Corpses is constantly shoving something into your eyes for the entire duration of the film. Filling the space between transitions lies all the scenes which are equally as extreme and difficult to digest. Zombie doesn’t shy away from the gore, and as the movie ramps up, he leans hard into the ’70s grindhouse aesthetic, letting some even crazier shit unfold on screen. Now, don’t get me wrong. Even though House of 1000 Corpses can be brutal at times doesn’t mean it’s devoid of any other substance.
This poor soul is rather full of, uhhh, substance.
It’s rather funny, for instance. I never thought I would say that about this film, but after watching it I can safely say that House of 1000 Corpses partially rests on it’s kind-of-crude-but-mostly-absurdist humour. I wouldn’t say there are any jokes here, but when you see Grandpa Firefly walking through the mist with his menacing murder family wearing Edo-era Japanese samurai armor, you can’t help but laugh to yourself. Even the climax of the film has some moments where all you can do is uncomfortably laugh under your breath. They’re too overt for me to think they were unintentional, and I think Rob Zombie, while a huge fan of schlocky, gonzo horror flicks, is kind of “in on the joke” of how over the top they can be. I believe that Rob Zombie made House of 1000 Corpses with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.
You might’ve noticed by now that I haven’t made any comments on the plot or the characters. That’s because there are none. The majority of the plot is summed up in that second paragraph and the characters are so paper thin that I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob Zombie wrote his script on them. Now obviously this is a flaw of the movie, but does it even matter? House of 1000 Corpses is such an assault on the senses right from minute one that I feel like if he spent more time than he already did with our characters (whether our unsuspecting 20-somethings or the Firefly family), the movie would feel bloated and overwritten. I don’t know how it works the way that it does, but it does. House of 1000 Corpses feels like Zombie watched the last half hour of 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and wanted to remake it, but with the insanity turned up to 11.
I can, however, comment on the acting. It’s kind of all over the place. Bill Moseley solidified himself as a horror icon to for the modern age as Otis, and Sid Haig absolutely floored me as Captain Spaulding. I knew horror fiends loved Haig from this movie, but I didn’t fully understand why until I watched this. Haig is simultaneously terrifying and hilarious as Spaulding, and despite there being no shortage of actors who can pull off crazy eyes, I can’t imagine anybody else filling this role. Everybody else ranges from piss poor to passable, but again, it doesn’t really matter. Rarely is the acting so bar it’s distracting and if anything, the bad acting adds to that grindhouse feel House of 1000 Corpses seems to capture so well.
So, is House of 1000 Corpses good? I dunno. I think I said I liked it about 400 words ago and said it was awful 500 words ago, but I’m too deep into this case of Alpine to double check right now. Sober Saturday Morning Editor’s Note: I did, and they were 522 and 787 words ago respectively. If you like weird cinema, or are in to movies that are unapologetically different and stylized for better or worse, you should give this film a shot. It definitely got me interested in Zombie’s other films, and while I don’t know if I’ll like them (especially his contribution to the Halloween franchise), I think they’ll be interesting to say the least. To be boring is the worst crime a movie can commit. I would rather watch ten interesting movies that I disliked than one that was truly and completely boring. If it’s one thing, House of 1000 Corpses is not boring.
It’s been far too long since I last watched a horror movie. It’s been even longer since I’ve watched a horror movie for the first time. The amount of times I fire up Netflix of Shudder before just watching a movie I’ve seen for the millionth time is almost immeasurable at this point (Editor’s Note: to give perspective on my glacial posting pace, I’ve watched three horror flicks and the entirety of Shudder’s The Core since I wrote those sentences). But alas, motivation (if you want to call it that) struck me and I felt the need to watch something extreme, gory, uncomfortable, and most importantly, new. So obviously, I chose a movie that came out almost two decades ago.
Audition is one of the movies that launched long-time weirdo and ultra prolific filmmaker Takashi Miike career in the Western world. It follows Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), who after his wife died, is looking for companionship again. Working for a video production company with his friend Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura), they decide to stage auditions to find a lead heroine for fake movie so that Aoyama can take his pick from the hundreds of ladies who come out to meet with them. He ends up falling for a very shy ex-ballerina, Asami (Eihi Shiina), but Japanese horror movie do as Japanese horror movie like, and things start getting pretty, uhh, wild, to say the least.
Well, he we are. Last stop. The final Hellraiser movie. Hellraiser: Revelations. The Omega. The infamous ashcan film. The Hellraiser film panned hardest by fans and critics alike. Even Doug Bradley, beloved actor for Pinhead since 1987 opted out because this was below him. He showed up for Deader and Hellworld to collect a cheque and offer thirty seconds of his face and voice, but this was too much of a hack gig for him to take. I want you to think about that as we dive into this thing.
Hellraiser: Revelations starts the way every good Hellraiser should start: with shakey found footage of dipshit teenagers (played by twenty-somethings). Two guys, Nico and Steve are on their way to Tijuana (constantly pronounced TI-OU-HHHWA-NAH) for a vacation, and they’re ready to record all of their crazy escapades. While out partying one night, Nico drunkenly kills a prostitute with a toilet (yes, really) and while trying to drink away the rest of the night (as I did after watching this) they’re offered an intricate puzzle box by a grubby homeless man. Totes obvi, this is the Lament Configuration, and when they start messing around with it, Pinhead and the Cenobites appear to reap their flesh and souls.
Turns out, all this footage has made its way back to Steve’s parents who are having a dinner party with Nico’s parents. They’re all mourning the loss of their boys while Steven’s sister, who has not yet seen the tape, wants to find out what really happened to them. She gets her hands on the Lament Configuration because apparently it somehow came back to L.A. into Steven’s room and once she begins solving it, Steven appears! His family, shocked and astounded to see him alive brings him inside where he can recount the events of that fateful night in Tijuana first hand.
Boy, oh boy, it’s been a little while since I’ve been to a big theatre to see a movie. Last I saw was Baby Driver (review: it’s great, go see it!) maybe a month ago. It’s been even longer since I’ve seen a horror flick on the silver screen, so considering the immense hype train (which I will admit I was happily riding) surrounding the new version of IT, you can bet your butt I’d be there.
IT (I’m going to refer to the story’s title in all caps to help avoid confusion) is an adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name, and somewhat of a remake of the 1990 TV mini-series. I haven’t seen the version from ’90, but a lot of people seem to love it, particularly Tim Curry’s unhinged performance throughout. I’ve read the beginning of the novel, but it’s snowblinded Stephen King (which I’ve mentioned before) that clocks in at over 1100 pages, so forgive me if I don’t finish it this decade.
IT takes place in Derry, Maine (duh), and follows the Losers Club, a group of kind of nerdy, kind of dweeby, kind of outcast kids who discover that an evil entity wakes up every 27 years to terrorize and devour the kids of the town. The de facto leader of the Losers Club, Bill is interested in investigating this evil force since the mysterious disappearance of his brother Georgie last summer. As the Losers try to piece together the mystery of Georgie and Derry’s other missing kids, they encounter the evil, which has taken the terrifying form of Pennywise The Dancing Clown, because coked out Stephen King that’s why.
YEEEAAAAHHHHH. It feels good to be back. It’s been almost three months since we last opened the Lament Configuration and watched a Hellraiser movie. I mean, I’ve seen a couple existential and nihilistic films since Hellraiser VII: Deader, but man, watching this last ‘Raiser flick is on a whole other level. Hellworld is the eighth and second-to-last bowel movement in the Hellraiser franchise. Released in the same year as its predecessor, I think this movie is the culmination of everything wrong that the later Hellraiser flicks have done.
Hellraiser: Hellworld takes place no discernible time after the previous movies, and honestly, it doesn’t even matter. We’re introduced to an intrepid band of super edgy goth nerds whom are all mourning the loss of their friend Adam. How did Adam pass? Oh, y’know, video games killed him! Pretty topical for 2005. Immediately after Adam’s funeral, they continue to play Hellworld, the Hellraiser-themed MMORPG that allegedly killed their friend because they’re insensitive fucks. Wait, back up. A Hellraiser-themed video game? What the fuck? Is the Hellraiser mythos that popular in this movie world that somebody made a video game about it?
Whatever, it’s not worth trying to fight this movie’s stupitidy.
They all individually beat the game (which usually isn’t possible in games like this, but whatever) and get invited to a secret and private Hellworld Party. It’s a super edgy mid-2000s Hard Rock And Metal Rave™ at a massive mansion owned by The Host (Lance Henriksen, looking for a paycheque). Sex, drugs, and rock and roll ensue in this Bacchanalian party, and this movie be like it do as it slowly picks off our main characters one by one in increasingly stupid and frustrating ways.