I was 17 years old the first time I rented a sci-fi horror thriller called Pitch Black from the video store. While the movie itself stood out in my mind as a decent enough flick, the real gem of renting that particular VHS tape was the advertisement placed within for a Rob Zombie horror flick called House of 1000 Corpses.
I didn’t see the movie at that time. Once I did I can honestly say I was not disappointed. It clearly draws inspiration from the Tobe Hooper masterpiece Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Despite the obvious parallels to that retro classic, this movie easily stands on its own as a true terrifying experience.
It sounds cliche in a way but the movie was a thrill ride from start to finish. From the opening stand off between the clown-faced clerk to the skeleton infested climax, the movie is an absolute treat to behold.
Although I only saw it recently I can tell you right now I was drawn in. It hearkens back to the old cliche of driving by a gruesome wreck and not being able to turn away. It was exactly that. Every gore-filled, blood splattered image the film burns into your retinas is a visual work of art. Even though you know you should cover your eyes to spare yourself the nightmare inducing images you can’t help but stair wide eyed like a deer in the headlights.
The viewer is drawn into a story with a surprisingly rich back story for what appears to be a shallow gore-fest on the surface. It is no wonder the movie has now spawned two sequels and a pair of Halloween reboots.
The acting is more than adequate for what transpires. I couldn’t help but find myself rooting for the hillbilly family and it’s cult of terror that brutalizes those unsuspecting city-slickers that were given more than one obligatory safety warning.
Every kill, whether it be visually horrific or carried out off screen and alluded to, serves a purpose to cement the demented nature of this family who’s bloodlust binds them together, replacing the love that glues most families together.
It was a rare horror film that reminded me how scary good horror movies can be. I was on the edge of my seat, heart racing as every single frame passed before my eyes.
The gore is used to further the plot rather than being entirely gratuitous. The history that is set up in the open haunted house ride compels the characters to investigate the validity of the tale the shop keep dangles before their unsuspecting curiosities.
Under normal circumstances you follow the characters and hope at least one will survive. By the time the credits roll you have shifted your sympathy towards the killer unit as it slaughters the meat invaders one by one.
Unlike Texas Chainsaw before it which leaves the audience with a brief sigh of relief as the “final girl” manages to make her way to presumably a safe existence, this movie tells the viewer there is no escape, once you enter this world you will die.
I also found that as each torture scene played out I was reminded of the splatter staple Saw series. While those movies use the torture as some convoluted morality tale attempting to explain complex socio-political issues in the span of a horror flick, this movie throws that out the window instead opting to reinforce the most basic truth all humans have faced since the beginning of time; survival of the fittest. The cultist act as predators hunting a rabbit for sport nothing more.
In a world cluttered with PG-13 “scary movies”, the days of the iconic slasher in societies rearview mirror, it was very refreshing to see a movie that wasn’t afraid to dismember the audience from its humanity. Of course the film is now nearly 2 decades old it has left a mark on horror cinema which I can not ignore.
I look forward to investing deeper into the demented mind of horror genius Rob Zombie thanks to a movie I knew over twenty years ago I would enjoy. I can honestly say I was not disappointed.