House of 1,000 Corpses (2002)

On Halloween Eve, two young couples traveling across the backwoods of Texas end up as prisoners of a bizarre and sadistic family of killers.

VHS release pictured: 2002, Lions Gate Home Entertainment.

Starring: Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Karen Black | Director: Rob Zombie

House of 1,000 Corpses: VHS of the Month Review

by Sam Rakestraw

* * * SPOILERS * * *

Lionsgate had a fierce VHS game. Their tapes are loaded with previews for the latest to hit the theater and video store at the time. Last year, their release of May had the trailer for Rob Zombie’s directorial debut of House of 1000 Corpses which was set to be released on video by Lionsgate after its theatrical run. This month's tape is that very VHS that was advertised. Funny enough, House of 1000 Corpses also has the trailer for the VHS release of May. Lionsgate loved their scary movies and so do we. No better time to ring in the best month of them all than this legitimately scared me when I saw it as a teen back in the glory days of FEAR Net.

If there's one thing every horror fan knows about Rob Zombie is that he is just like us –he respects the classics like Dracula and eats up the modern stuff like Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They're even his major influences when it comes to his heavy metal discography. Dragula, Living Dead Girl, and American Nightmare are some of his best hits. In the early 2000s, he would tackle the media that is film and begin a long spree of terrifying and entertaining audiences. The demented and horror-inspired world of Rob Zombie starts right with the Firefly family in the House of 1000 Corpses.

Much like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, our story takes place in the most backwoods parts of Texas in the 1970s. Our group of youngins and protagonists that we experience the world are Denise (Erin Daniels), Mary (Jennifer Jostyn), Jerry (Chris Hardwick), and Bill (Pre-Office Rainn Wilson!). They're traveling the roads of Texas in search of roadside attractions for their travel guide. They come across all that and more at Captain Spaulding's (Sid Haig) Museum of Monsters And Madmen. The most enchanting scene of the movie (and as nice and pleasant as it's going to get) is the ride through the animatronic museum of terrifying serial killers. Guess there was also plenty of influence from Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse.

Here they learn the legend of Dr. Satan, a ghoulish surgeon who creates Frankenstein-like monsters. The tree where he was supposedly hanged. So, it sounds like the group has a hook for their guide. Everything goes wrong the moment they pick up Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie) hitchhiking along the road and "get" a flat tire. Baby takes the "stranded" group to her house nearby. Her family, brothers Otis (Bill Moseley), Tiny (Matthew McGory), and Rufus (Robert Mukes), Mom (Karen Black), and Grandpa Huge (Dennis Fimple) have all the charm of a Hills Have Eyes family, but take them in for some Hallow's Eve fun. However, they never leave the house.

Welcome to the den of torture that is the Firefly's residence. You'll squeeze the armrests or bed pillows, you'll cringe, and you'll find it hard to watch. At the same time, there's a bizarre music video-esque atmosphere. They freaking kill Dwight, man! Otis turned him into Fish Boy! It's horrible what these kids go through. Heavy metal rockers really have a knack for terrifying their audience. When Denise's dad (Harrison Young) gets word that his daughter is missing, the body count only continues. But this is more than just a Texas Chainsaw Massacre where the demented family takes their time with their victims –there is something far darker and evil in the heart of the Firefly family's operation. Denise embarks on an unforgettable journey of hellish horror of no return.

The scariest thing about House of 1000 Corpses is how immersive it is. From the monster museum to the Firefly house, we follow these doomed young adults and see the demented world through their eyes. What's bizarre is Zombie intended the Fireflys to have a more Beetlejuice-esque role wherein the viewer is scared by them but also recognizes that they are the main characters and who you paid money to see. You know something, Zombie and his crew sells it because they put so much heart and performance into this production. It's uniquely theirs similar to how Beetlejuice is uniquely Tim Burton's. But House of 1000 Corpses is anything but a whimsical macabre adventure. Then again, maybe it can be for some demented viewers since that's what gives it its' appeal.

Great production value and a deep passion for everything classic and modern horror really shine here and anyone can respect that in a movie. Zombie also has a great soundtrack and use of music. That use of "I Remember You" for the botched rescue scene is ultra-memorable and also an unfortunate introduction to an otherwise great song. His original score slaps as well. Guitar riffs and shredding sure do go well with people being stabbed and mutilated. Again, very music video-like because of this.

Of course, no one can talk about this movie without talking about the actors. Bill Moseley had audiences thinking he was crazy as Chop Top in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, now he goes above and beyond as Otis Driftwood. I think I would prefer Captain Howdy from Strangeland than being one of his prisoners. He knows evil and he wants everyone else to know it too. Sheri Moon Zombie gives a psychopathic crazy girl years before Harley Quinn hit the mainstream. Sid Haig, rest his soul, also cements himself as a horror icon for the new millennium as Captain Spaulding. These three would also become Rob Zombie regulars and stars in his various projects to follow. If Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are the Trinity of DC, then these three are the Trinity of Zombie. It also warms your heart when you know that they are super involved in the horror community and really care about the fans.

Lionsgate handled everything for House of 1000 Corpses, from the run in theaters to the video store release. Grossing $16.8 million on a $7 million budget, it was anything but a failure and people were talking about it. Zombie for sure made his money back and a franchise was born. The Lionsgate Home Entertainment VHS release is loaded with trailers for movies coming soon to theaters and video stores, as previously mentioned, and this one doesn't disappoint. The theatrical trailers included Cabin Fever, Sweet Sixteen, The Hard Word, and Godsend all from 2002. VHS trailers included the Fright Flicks pack full of Sci-Fi channel-tier flicks with glorious garbage CGI sharks and other creatures, a remaster of The House That Dripped Blood with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, Nemesis Games, and Intact. Would you know it, there is also a trailer for the VHS release of May. That's right! The very same May from last year –it's all connected! There's also a bumper for Lionsgate's old website and a video store hotline –you know, in case you want to know what's out (couldn't look at your smartphone in 2002).

House of 1000 Corpses was just the beginning of Rob Zombie's career as a director and also of the Firefly family saga. Haig, Moseley, and Moon Zombie would reprise their roles two more times in 2005's The Devil's Rejects and 2019's 3 From Hell. Zombie would also direct his hit-or-miss Halloween movies and a fun adult animated flick based on his comic The Haunted World of El Superbeasto –all with his regular cast members and guest stars. Step into the metal-filled and horror-inspired world of Rob Zombie. Might as well, it's the perfect month for it. His Munsters movie was just released in time for the spooky season too. Don't worry, Herman Munster doesn't stab anyone in the eye with an icepick and take their body into his basement workshop.