This week, Rob Zombie, the demented creative force behind metal band White Zombie and a skull-cavity-full of music videos and movie sound tracks, finally splatters the big screen with his directorial debut, House of 1000 Corpses. “Finally,” because after years in production, numerous trips to the MCAA to get the “R” rating he wanted and a home-stretch distribution switch from Miramax to Lion’s Gate Films, Zombie’s gore fest is at last available to all the little boys and ghouls out there. Working with a story that’s essentially an extreme variation on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) — if you can imagine such a thing — and a cast of cult figures and B-movie veterans (among them, Karen Black, Sid Haig and Bill Moseley), Zombie lets it all hang out, especially the innards.
Four twentysomethings, driving through what seems like the South, stop at Captain Spaulding’s gas station-horror funhouse, then make the mistake of going off in search of one “Dr. Satan” on a back-country road in a downpour. In no time, they’re kidnapped by a family of blood-sucking rednecks. And then things get r-e-a-l-l-y sick.
Weezer: This ballsy movie fears no audience and fears no critic. It knows it’s going to take flak for all the extreme gore and sexual perversion, but you can tell it doesn’t care. Regardless of what Hollywood, critics or parents are going to say, it’s like, “This is my roller-coaster ride to hell, and if you don’t like it then get the fuck off.”
Geezer: I got pretty disgusted. I’ve been a horror fan for a long time — Night of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, John Carpenter’s The Thing — all gory movies, but they tell a story and keep you completely involved from beginning to end. Here, after a very interesting beginning, the story stops going anywhere. Once those kids are in that wild-looking house, it seems like nothing’s going to happen except them getting killed.
Weezer: Usually, once the victims meet the horror, they regroup and try to fight back. But here it looks totally hopeless for the captives right away. So my interest was to see what Zombie was going to do. What’s the next level of gore? What are you going to pull off? Wow me.
Normally you ask yourself, what’s the motivation for a particular character, but here it’s so “out there” that you can’t put your mind inside the head of Otis (Bill Moseley, who played Chop Top in 1986’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), who looks like Kid Rock on the devil’s crack cocaine.
Geezer: I’ll give this film one thing: You can’t classify it under any kind of redeeming social value. By the end of Night of the Living Dead, you realize it’s a critique of the Vietnam War and racial violence — what ennobles it in many people’s minds is that it’s about something. What’s House of 1000 Corpses about except how fucking horrible redneck America is?
Weezer: Didn’t you like Otis’ soliloquies when he’s talking about “the revolution” and his brain being frozen like some closet genius stuck in Nowhere, America? He’s preaching to these cheerleaders, who are bound and gagged, as he continues to torture them. Though he’s a psychopath, there’s a creepy level of intelligence there — he’s not just some bumbling moron into capturing pretty girls. On a higher level of twisted fascination, why is this creepy smart guy living like this?
Geezer: Sort of like Charles Manson, the homicidal hippie.
Weezer: I was watching “MTV Cribs” and they did Rob Zombie’s house. He has a walk-in closet full of horror movies, ceiling-to-floor, and a collection of old horror posters. One of the biggest posters he has is from the movie Freaks. You can see an allusion to that twisted family sense that the circus freaks have with each other in House’s rednecks, who are a circus family. Big brother wears a bear skin on his head. The other brother, Tiny, is a mutant. Baby, the daughter, oozes sexuality, but she’s one of the most twisted of them all. Then there’s the creepy mom (Karen Black), a crazy grandpa and Otis, who runs the show.
Geezer: Where I start to resent this movie is its huge Dagwood sandwich of horror-film references, especially leaning so heavily on Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In that film, there’s a country family of guys who are demented and killing people who come in off the road. But is this supposed to be a comedy?
Weezer: I laughed out loud in the theater. The four young victims are so clichéd. Zombie, from watching millions of horror films, knows cliché heroes. This is like Horror Movie 101: You’ve got the final girl and the useless cops. The beginning draws you in with clichés and then it takes a morbid twist. All of sudden you have this girl dressed like Alice in Wonderland walking through a hall with corpses everywhere, and a huge undertaker-cyborg with an axe hunting her down.
Geezer: But the film seems like it’s about gore for its own sake, rather than some idea of narrative development. Instead of House taking the next interesting step in horror, it’s just a party that wallows in blood.
Weezer: This movie’s trying to be itself. There’s not some great, profound message here, though Zombie’s trying to push the envelope, to make the goriest, most depressing, sickening film he can. The visuals are a mesmerizing force to be reckoned with. I’d say, get it in theaters ’cause it’s a wild ride. And plain Jane beware, because you might just throw up in your popcorn.
George Tysh (Geezer) is the Metro Times arts editor. Bruno Tysh (Weezer) is a high school senior. E-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.