The 13 Weeks of Halloween keeps on keepin on and it’s time for one of my favorite horror films ever made, Rob Zombie’s filmmaking debut, House of 1000 Corpses. It was initially released to little fanfare, but since has become a cult classic and even spawned a cult hit sequel, that one odd, non-Halloween-dwelling Rob Zombie film, The Devil’s Rejects.
From the outset House of 1000 Corpses flies into unhindered madness like a ricocheting bullet. The short opening sequence is one of my favorite’s RZ has ever composed. If for no other reason than we are introduced to his most enduring and unsettling character: Captain Spaulding, the most vile clown you’ll ever love. Captain Spaulding’s hilarious proclamation of “Goddamn-motherfucker got blood all over my best clown suit,” punctuates the characters introduction and affords the audience a peek at the madness to come in the film’s hour and a half run-time.
The film absolutely exudes Halloween spirit: from the retro Halloween clown aesthetic of Captain Spaulding to the old spooky house (boasting an equally spooky reputation from local “legends”) Zombie made good use of traditional Halloween archetypes. However not without tweaking tradition with ample amounts his unique style. Corpses was filmed in a glaring palate of neon layered beneath the grime and grit that cloaks the entire production like a death shroud. Something very familiar to fans of Zombie’s music and self-directed music videos that often accompanied his first few solo albums. His former band White Zombie also had a plethora of these grindhouse-esque videos directed by RZ himself.
The majority of the film has the pacing of a heavy metal music video and I think that was off-putting to early critics who were looking for something much more slick and polished. As mentioned earlier, this was Zombie’s debut film and he didn’t try to break too much new ground. That was reserved for the beautifully shot and scripted Devil’s Rejects. No, for House of 1000 Corpses he stuck with the visual style that he knew best, letting his creativity flourish in the writing and the collective character of the story.
The cast of veteran genre actors were instantly memorable; Sid Haig’s murderous Captain Spaulding unforgettable, Bill Mosely’s Otis demented in the best possible way while Karen Black’s Mother Firefly was both charming and repulsive. The younger, fresh-faced cast included Rob Zombie’s now ever-present wife Sheri Moon Zombie as the beautiful and deadly Baby Firefly, with a delightfully manic attitude and maniacal laughter to match. House of 1000 Corpses also saw Rainn Wilson in his first major role before he skyrocketed to success on The Office and now staring on Backstrom. The same goes for Chris Hardwick, years before he hosted @midnight and The Talking Dead he was being skinned alive by the fabled Dr. Satan in the titular House. Every time I rewatch the film I can’t believe these two hilarious comedians got a career kick start from one of the best cult (figuratively and literally) films of the last decade.
You can see Rob Zombie’s love for Halloween shine through on this project despite the studio opposition he faced. He still managed to give us a Halloween classic that folks are sure to be watching for years to come. This modern classic always helps put me in the All Hallow’s Eve spirit no matter what the temperature outside. After all, they sure as hell know how celebrate in Texas, just ask Captain Spaulding and co.