[Blu-ray Review] There's Plenty to Devour in Lionsgate's 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition of 'House of 1000 Corpses'
Twenty years ago, horror fans were salivating like a bunch of hungry ghouls over the prospects of Rob Zombie directing his first feature, House of 1000 Corpses. Known for his genre-infused tunes and eye-popping music videos—as well as an unabashed love for horror—we were all anxious to lay our eyes on whatever deviance Zombie was about to unleash on screen. And we weren’t disappointed. Now, for its twentieth anniversary, Lionsgate has released a brand-spanking new two-disc collector’s edition of House of 1000 Corpses that boils and ghouls will want to sink their teeth into.
Written/directed by Zombie, House of 1000 Corpses is set around Halloween in the 70s and follows a group of friends travelling across the country who find themselves at Captain Spaulding’s (the great Sid Haig) “Museum of Monsters and Madmen”. There, they learn of a town legend known as Dr. Satan (Walter Phelan), a mass murderer believed to still be alive. Dumb kids are going to dumb kid, so they head out in search for the killer’s home, encountering the sadistic Firefly family instead, who invite them in for a night of shocking terror.
House of 1000 Corpses didn’t prove to be a superbeast at the box office, but it’s no wonder the film became somewhat of a cult classic. Stitching together gritty violence in line with the nastiest of 70s grindhouse films, cartoonish characters and a stylish as hell music video vibe, Zombie’s debut cuts his heart open and slaps it on screen. Love or hate his work, there’s no denying the unique voice that comes screaming out of Rob in his films, perhaps at its most outspoken in House.
What allows House of 1000 Corpses to bite into the flesh of the viewer and never let go is Zombie’s obvious passion for the horror genre. In just the first few minutes, we get savage kills, a setting loaded with the macabre, and infusions of a black and white program, “Dr. Wolfenstein’s Creature Feature,” a callback to the eccentric horror hosts which many of us grew up admiring. Listening to the various new interviews on the disc, Rob’s drive to bring back the type of horror he enjoyed comes up time and again. Films such as I Know What You Did Last Summer receive dishonorable mentions, that 90s era dubbed “pretty” horror where the genre was packed with glossy films featuring a hot, MTV-centric cast. Outside of some stunning visuals, House of 1000 Corpses is most definitely not a “pretty” movie.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The Hills Have Eyes. The House by the Cemetery. Zombie blends them all into one seriously fucked up horror picture that had normies swearing themselves off the director for good, while others saw a brave new talent emerging from a maggot-y grave. The thing viewers either enjoy or detest about Zombie’s work—and which is more than evident in House—is his fearlessness in crossing the line. He wants to upset you, to scare you, to make you close your eyes and wish it all away. His debut is a funhouse of horrors filled with scenes of torture, uncomfortable depravity and completely unhinged characters that have you sweating for fear they may reach out and touch you.
Part of the effectiveness of House comes not just from Zombie’s understanding of the genre, but his respect for actors and the knowledge that if you cast the right people, a director’s job is that much easier. Mixing a murderer’s row of fan favorites such as Karen Black, Bill Moseley and of course, Sid Haig (god, I miss him), along with relative newcomers like Erin Daniels, Rainn Wilson and Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, Rob compiled a troupe where he knew exactly what he was going to get. In the never-before-released interviews on the disc, nearly every actor discusses how freeing Rob is as a director, giving them just the right amount of direction and then letting them work. It shows, as many of the performances amongst the film’s villains are off-the-rails and unforgettable.
During over three hours (!) of never released interviews/behind the scenes footage, hardcore fans get a detailed look at Rob as a director. All shot on set while filming, this isn’t footage chopped together and dolled up to look presentable. Instead, we get a lengthy, raw behind the scenes view of moments such as the cast piling into the car to get away, Spaulding’s horror ride, and the wretched zombie pit. The footage gives viewers a great sense of Rob’s calm demeanor on set. Those of you aching to work on your first film also get a good taste of one of production’s favorite mantras, “hurry up and wait”. There’s a whole lot of standing around between takes, and for better or worse, this footage allows you to absorb that.
Between hours of uncensored interviews with most of the cast and behind the scenes footage, as well as a tomb’s worth of previously released materials, there’s a lot to love about Lionsgate’s new collector’s edition of House of 1000 Corpses, including a collection of beautiful artwork and a booklet packed with still photos. Most of it isn’t all that insightful, but it’s a pleasure to see the cast/crew as unfiltered as they are here. My one massive complaint? Rob Zombie’s new (and excellent) director’s commentary is only available through an included digital code, NOT on the disc. That’s a decision that is absolutely not tutti fucking fruity. Collector’s don’t buy these discs to add to their digital collection, they buy them because they support physical media. Aside from that scalp-scratcher, the House of 1000 Corpses 20th anniversary edition is one every fan of the film will want to devour.
The 20th anniversary collector's edition of House of 1000 Corpses is now available on Blu-ray and a Best Buy exclusive steelbook from Lionsgate. Check out the full list of special features below!
Cast and Crew Interviews
DISC 2 – Bonus Disc of Never-Before-Seen Special Features from Rob Zombie
Cast & Director Interviews
Behind The Scenes
Includes 5 On-Set BTS Segments
Dr. Satan Test
Electronic Press Kit
EXCLUSIVELY ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS: New Director’s Commentary
By Matt Konopka