The Film: House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Let Me Set the Scene: With its tenth anniversary upon us, I felt it was appropriate to give a special highlight to Rob Zombie's premiere feature film effort. More importantly, it's a chance for me to reflect on a movie I anxiously waited years to see, and impacted my nerdy life more than I had anticipated.
I remember becoming a fan of Rob Zombie's music sometime in my young and formative years, probably because of my love for Twisted Metal 3 and things that my parents thought were way too gruesome for my juvenile brain. I can't remember the exact moment I heard about Rob's transition into the moviemaking world (probably online), but I do have a clear memory of seeing the trailer for the very first time. It was on the E! Channel show "Coming Attractions" with that guy who would later host the revamped version of "Press Your Luck" on the Game Show network. I watched the show religiously, proving that my rabid hunger for upcoming movie news had already permanently infected me. When they showed the trailer, I was aghast with delight. The psychedelic colors, the creepy atmosphere, and the only line I can even remember being spoken is Bill Moseley's perfectly inviting, "It's all true. The Boogie Man is real, and you found him." I creamed my Underoos. This was going to be the horror movie of my infantile generation. There was a release date posted for later that year, and I made a note (written with blood red ink) in my mental calendar.
That trailer featured under the logo of Universal Pictures. Little did I know of all the insanity going on behind the scenes, involving studio execs who were terrified the film would receive an NC-17 rating, making it even more desirable to incorrigible scamps like me. This insanity would lead to the film being delayed for three years, and switching hands from Universal to MGM until finally finding a home at distributor Lions Gate. Throughout those tumultuous three years, I scoured every Fangoria article, every website post, every scrap of info I could get my grubby little palms on. I kept the faith that entire time, and eventually, I was rewarded.
The First Viewing: Convincing my mother to buy me and my middle school date tickets to a movie titled House of 1000 Corpses was no easy task, but considering I had the hots for this girl (who was a Crow makeup job away from being full-on goth) and was not very adept at procuring dates, my mother thankfully relented and sent us on our gore-filled way. However, my heart sank when I saw the theater had posted a guard outside the door, and he refused to let us in since we didn't have an adult. But, the Movie Gods heard my fervent prayer, and the guy ended up being a Rob Zombie fan himself. After some banter and a skillful glance searching for managers, he let us slip in. I'll always be indebted to that man.
The theater was sold out, filled with the exact kind of crowd you'd expect to see at a Rob Zombie film: metalheads with enough black t-shirts to stock an entire Hot Topic. The fellas in the row behind us were pretty stoked to see some younglings present, ready for the desensitization that lay in wait. We situated our bag of popcorn between us, and strapped in.
It was impossible for me not to enjoy the film (my anticipation had already labeled the film a masterpiece), but the experience was something I didn't expect. The crowd's reactions, the spirit of camaraderie flowing through the theater, and the absolute joy every single person exuded filled me with a love of cinema I didn't completely appreciate until that moment. The fact that the movie was a fever dream of phantasmagoria certainly didn't hurt either.
At the end of the film, the entire audience applauded and cheered. I wish Rob himself could have been there, since it had to be the exact response he hoped his film would engender. Everyone walked out of the theater as hyped up as they had been going in. I wanted to relive that showing immediately after it finished. It was, to use an often abused term, awesome.
Lasting Effects: House of 1000 Corpses will always hold a dementedly special place in my black heart. Even though the film's sequel is actually superior in terms of structure, character and pacing, I can't help but fall fiendishly in love with the kaleidoscopic colors and madcap admiration of horror movies and haunted house shenanigans the original wallows in.
I won a copy of the poster (seen at the top of this article) signed by the writer/director himself from CHUD.com and it was one of my most prized possessions. Due to an accident, moisture got inside the frame and completely ruined it. That and the death of my father are the two greatest losses I've had to deal with in my life.
When I was taking acting classes in high school, I performed Captain Spaulding's murder ride monologue verbatim, even leaning into a girl in the front row to menacingly grumble, "Maybe he lives next door to YOU!" I garnered quite the freakish reputation after that, and loved every minute of it.
I try to get a showing of this in once every year around Halloween. It didn't make it in this past year, so for its ten year anniversary, I will be taking a trip to the house where nobody lives tomorrow.