Nowadays. Rob Zombie is a name associated as much with movies as it is with music, and his contribution to the horror genre dates back to the depraved House of 1000 Corpses, with yesterday marking 18 years since its initial debut.
The film’s ostensible plot involves a pair of couples travelling the backroads of America as research for a book they plan to write about bizarre roadside attractions, but the setup is just an excuse to have a quartet of hapless innocents stumble into a waking nightmare where they’e systematically tortured and murdered by a clan of psychotic sadists in increasingly depraved ways.
The aesthetic is heavily influenced by ‘70s exploitation flicks, most notably The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and is intended to evoke the feel of a haunted house attraction, with each scene staged like the rooms of such places and overdressed with gore and grime to pull in those experiencing it.
It was such focus on violence that almost led to the movie never being seen, as it was shelved by original studio Universal due to fears it would be rated NC-17. Zombie bought back the rights, though, and managed to sell them to Lionsgate, which at the time was fast acquiring a reputation for distributing material too weird or controversial for major outlets. The release became a modest box office success despite a largely negative reception criticizing the overabundance of gore and derivative nature of the content, and was followed up by two sequels, The Devil’s Rejects and 3 From Hell.
Zombie has since freely admitted that House of 100 Corpses is an utter mess of a film, one clearly made by an inexperienced director wielding little sense of narrative structure, pacing or characterization. Despite such issues and its critical mauling, however, it’s become something of a cult favorite among many horror fans, and this will be far from the last time it’s given a retrospective once over.