House of 1000 Corpses starts out more like Clerks than an exploitation horror flashback, with two guys arguing about whacking material (albeit with one of the two dressed as a clown). Then there’s a holdup.
“Goddammit, motherfucker got blood all over my best clown suit.”
Then it gets creepy. Captain Spaulding’s Murder Ride is both low-rent and unsettling, and as soon as the kids in the car ask for directions to the tree where Dr. Satan was hanged, you know everything’s going to go to shit. Nothing good ever happens to kids seeking out a supposedly haunted place in the middle of the night.
The film’s loaded with cuts to faux b-movie reels starring Sheri Moon Zombie, as well as real clips from vintage genre fare. The shots of the missing cheerleaders and Rainn Wilson have a snuff film cinema verite feel to them that’s a little too close to real life. Really, though, it seems like all the clips are designed to distract the viewer from the acting. That acting, which is so purposefully atrocious and over-the-top, that what could have been a wink and a nod take on classic ’70s horror, is instead hamfisted.
I read a review when this first came out — I think on Ain’t It Cool — where someone complained that there were far too many shootings. Agreed — for every fantastic hatcheting, scalping, or skinning, someone gets shot in the head. Yawn. Rob Zombie seems to have thrown every interest of his (including an unsurprising Munsters clip with Grandpa racing Drag-U-La) into this film, with little regard as to whether or not it fits or not.
The ending isn’t nearly as scary as you’d expect, suddenly turning into some sort of post-apocalyptic sci-fi mess, rather than the gritty, backwoods slasher the film had been trying for during the first 60 minutes. Why you’ve all of a sudden got dudes in costumes is beyond me. All in all, the best part of House of 1000 Corpses is that it’s short.