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House Of 1000 Corpses
cast: Sid Haig, Billy Moseley, Sheri Moon, Karen Black, and Erin Daniels

writer and director: Rob Zombie

85 minutes (18) 2003
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Tartan Terror DVD Region 0 retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Ian Shutter
Halloween 1977. Two young couples on a road trip go looking for the truth about a serial killer known as Dr Satan, end up as captives of a bizarre family who prey on innocents (travellers, cheerleaders, and anyone else, including local cops) for amateur cabaret parties, heinous surgical games, grotesque live burial rites, and much else besides...
   Basically Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) meets The Funhouse (1981), this unfortunately lacks the relentlessly claustrophobic intensity of the former, or the eerie freakshow atmosphere of the latter. Hindered by a somewhat confusing and rudimentary plotline, it seems like a product distilled from the avid ramblings of a US horror geeks' convention. It's a clever yet undisciplined movie that's full of novelty, not genius, with a narrative and style that's merely inventive rather than innovative. It stalks the line between campy schlock and appalling brutality, but just stumbles drunkenly around from stage left to right, to tragically plain wrong as drama. It has little or no sense of comic timing and lacks an ability to generate frightening suspense. For these reasons and others, the picture fails to sustain a dark mood, or anything like a coherent tone, for long enough to derive maximum horror entertainment value from its various black comedy set pieces.
   For all his eager harking back to late-1970s' slasher flicks that appeared in the wake of Carpenter's classic Halloween, heavy metal rock star turned director Rob Zombie just cannot avoid being strongly influenced by genre films from the post-video nasties era of the 1980s and early 1990s. In the climactic scenes of House Of 1000 Corpses, helpless survivor Denise (Erin Daniels) struggles desperately to escape from the (haunted?) catacombs, in weird scenes reminiscent of Michele Soavi's memorable The Sect (1991). The risibly necrophiliac Firefly family are not even half as convincing as they need to be to scare viewers into believing all their kidnappings and murderous rage would go unnoticed by locals. They clearly lack anything resembling a publicly presentable 'sociopathic' face to make us viewers think they could ever get away with a speeding ticket, let alone the wholesale sex and mutilation crimes suggested here.
   In its favour, House Of 1000 Corpses does feature several scenes of disturbing horror that are equal to the kinetic delirium of Wes Craven's best work, while its mixed-media visuals range from the grainy pseudo-documentary of reality TV to a richer palette resembling European giallo cinema. Oh well then, I'll just go and watch Craven's The People Under The Stairs (1991) again...
   The British DVD release is anamorphic with a choice of Dolby digital 5.1 or DTS surround sound, in English only. Disc extras are presented full-frame, and consist of a bland making-of featurette, dull behind-the-scenes footage, casting and rehearsals, interviews with cast and crew (including Billy Chainsaw meeting Rob Zombie) a batch of Tartan trailers, and a curiously unfunny and sadly annoying in-joke spot, "Tiny Fucked A Stump."

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