Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses has nostalgia on its side but not much else. Pretending the last 20 years of teen slasher flicks never existed, Zombie creates a strange burlesque cocktail that reimagines Texas Chainsaw Massacre by way of Vulgar. Four teenagers go chasing after an urban legend (Doctor Satan) in backwater USA and meet strange with an ex-prom queen (a busty Karen Black) and her immediate family. The kids have to wear masks before they can chow down on Halloween dessert and soon find themselves rubbing shoulders with several corpses-cum-scarecrows hanging outside Mother Firefly’s lovely estate. Zombie’s film-stock fetish gives 1000 Corpses a welcomed homespun quality but the effect quickly wears off. Not unlike Zombie’s clip for his song “Living Dead Girl,” 1000 Corpses is a playful shout-out to the horror films of yesteryear but there’s little meat beneath the admiration. In Texas Chainsaw Massacre, anticipation was Tobe Hooper’s weapon of choice. Only once does Zombie successfully channel the hellish dread of Hooper’s masterpiece. High above the Death compound, Zombie’s camera observes the preening Otis (Bill Moseley) as he aims a gun to a man’s head and it feels like an eternity before he pulls the trigger. If not for the blink-and-miss sideshow attractions (most notable is the sight of the howl-inducing Fish Boy) and stockpile of memorable quotes (if “He performed lurid acts on my person” and “You stupid fucking whore” don’t tickle your fancy, there’s also “I’m going to cut you like a pig and make you eat your own intestines”), 1000 Corpses would have been easier to shrug off. This vintage curio is proudly and humorously derivative but that familiar aftertaste is that of wasted opportunities.
Lions Gate Home Entertainment presents House of 1000 Corpses in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen on this DVD edition. Curiously, it's the low-grade film stock that fares best (what's the use complaining about the quality of homemade Super 8 footage?). Edge enhancement is virtually nil and colors are remarkably vibrant but shadow delineation isn't exactly great and there's a considerable amount of chroma noise throughout. But considering just how dark the film is, this is a fine transfer any way you cut it. Far more consistent is the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. The use of rear channels is incredible, dialogue is perfectly audible and Rob Zombie's kooky music score, if not a tad cacophonous, is blended effortlessly with the other facets of the soundscape.
Because House of 1000 Corpses proved to be such a modest hit for Lions Gate, the studio treats the film well on its DVD edition with a wide collection of supplemental material. First up is Rob Zombie's commentary track. Though the goth rocker spends entirely too much time talking about the mundane, his passion for the film is irrepressible (much of the film's low-grade film stock footage was shot by the director himself during the course of the film's production and edited on a cheap editing system on his computer). The making-of featurette is fairy ordinary and short but its deliberately low aesthetic value more than complements the look of the film. Two minutes of behind-the-scenes footage is every bit as random as Dennis Fimple's casting video but it's nowhere near as fun to watch. Also included here are three rehearsal clips, a still gallery, four interview clips, the film's early teaser and theatrical trailer, a radio spot and the "Tiny Fucked a Stump" featurette, where three members from the cast test the limits of a knock-knock joke.
May be worth a look solely for the sadistic interactive menus, where Sid Haig will test your powers of resistance. As for the film itself: it's more tiresomely inhuman than human.