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House of 1000 Corpses

As one might expect from the title, House of 1000 Corpses is a subtle and intelligent film of psychological terror, satirizing modern America with
wit, erudition, and cadavers.

Not! (Except for the cadavers.)

I like a gorefest as much as anybody. My favorite horror flicks include Re-Animator, Dead Alive, and Creepshow. Alas, Rob Zombie's effort comes up
lacking -- scares, laughs, or interesting characters.

The story is familiar to all genre fans, as well as anybody who might have seen an episode of Scooby Doo. Our heroes -- two couples researching a book on mid-American roadside attractions -- have car trouble while searching for the ominous-sounding Hanging Tree of Dr. Satan.

Fortunately, there's a dilapidated country house nearby, and the macabre inhabitants seem more than eager to accommodate a few unexpected guests.

This all sounds like good fun, and the actors mostly leap into their roles with gusto, hamming it up and cackling madly at every opportunity to show the traditional rotten teeth of a murderous backwoods hick. So what goes wrong?

Plenty. The biggest thing is probably a complete lack of character development. Our heroes are little more than mannequins dutifully marching their way into victimhood. (The girls, in particular, come off as generic sorority harpies.) Our baddies get more attention from the camera, but their depth goes no deeper than their costumes.

The direction tends to be more annoying than stylish. Scenes of violence tend to be rapid-cut flashbacks to a hand-held video sequence of what would probably pretty gruesome if it was in focus. Some scenes are shot in black and white, or negative image, but in no case does this improve the movie.

And the whole story is just a glorification of torture and murder. Our heroes never get to take action of their own; they are simply victims.

On the plus side, every once in a while a macabre sense of humor emerges that promises a chuckle, even if it fails to ever deliver. Our protagonists' first stop is at "Captain Spaulding's Museum of Monsters and Mayhem" -- renowned, according to its billboard, for its chicken and gasoline. And the obligatory homicidal hillbilly chick, Sheri Moon (director Rob Zombie's wife), is pretty hot.

If you're going to see House of 1000 Corpses, I'm not going to be able to talk you out of it. But if you're looking for quality schlock, look elsewhere.

What's it worth? $3

Joe Williams

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