After a surprisingly successful theatrical run, Rob Zombie's love letter to seventies exploitation flicks comes home to DVD. While it's not the uncut film we've all been expecting (thanks, in no small part, to Zombie's own insistence that this would be the case), it is served up in such a nice package that it actually helped soften me up on the film.
But only a little.
A group of young adults are on a cross country trip to gather information about roadside attractions for a book they are working on. They come across one such attraction, run by Captain Spaulding (Haig), a redneck clown faced psychopath who markets the deeds of history's most infamous killers within his "museum". The Captain and his "family", including the luscious Baby (Moon), Mother Firefly (Black) and Otis (Mosely, basically playing Chop-Top all over again) entertain their young visitors at first with their backwoods eccentricities, but it soon becomes apparent that the Captain has more than just a tour of the premises in mind for the gullible visitors.
Zombie is obviously very close to his subject matter, and while watching the film you can't help but feel his love for the darker days of horror. The problem is, the film unspools like a one of those broad genre parodies, with nods to literally dozens of films from the period Zombie tries to emulate. This patchwork motif carries over to the film's tired screenplay, which can't decide whether or not it wants' to be a self-referential and self-aware homage or a standalone entry into the genre. In the end, the script becomes a schizophrenic hybrid of both. A lot of critics have hailed Zombie's decision to cast the film with many 70's horror icons as a great move, but to me this is just one more reason the film has no true identity of its own, and further blurs the line between nostalgic renaissance and out and out parody.
As for the excessive violence we've all heard about, it's here, but neutered in editing to the point of nausea inducing quick cuts and flashes. Zombie had gone on record saying that the DVD release of the film would be an uncut NC-17 sensory assault, but this never materialized and so we are once again given the R-rated cut, leaving the door open for a special edition down the line.
The DVD from Lion's Gate is one of those rare examples of the technology rescuing what is otherwise a mediocre film by piling on the extras and giving us something completely new by way of some extremely cool interactive menus. The menu system features footage of the actors from the film, shot specifically for the DVD, as they direct us toward features, comment on our choices, and lead in to other interactive bits. The film's widescreen anamorphic transfer is fantastic, and handles the funhouse mood of Zombie's colorful sets wonderfully. The DVD also features a commentary track by Zombie, behind the scenes footage, interviews, audition and rehearsal footage, stills gallery, and a few other bells and whistles.
House of 1000 Corpses didn't really do it for me during it's theatrical run, but upon subsequent viewings I've learned to appreciate the film's campy seventies vibe a bit more. I'm not completely enamored of it, but thanks to a bit of remodeling in the guise of a cutting edge DVD package, this House is finally up to code.