Even viewers with no previous exposure to Rob Zombie should be able to pick up on his love of horror films within the first few minutes of House Of 1000 Corpses, his debut as a writer and director. Filled with allusions to past masters, it takes place over a Halloween weekend in 1977 in which four kids looking for a good time find themselves stranded at a backwoods gas station/fried-chicken stand/freak-show run by Spider Baby star Sid Haig. Elsewhere, a creepy midnight-movie host runs a dusk-'til-dawn festival of old horror classics on a local TV show. The setup almost needs footnotes, which makes it all the more puzzling that Zombie's obvious love for horror's past would translate into such a joyless, grisly rehashing. Borrowing especially heavily from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House follows its four interchangeable leads as they stumble into a creepy old house overseen by a brown-toothed Karen Black, whose family traps them and subjects them–and the audience–to all manner of tortures. Zombie has obvious gifts as a filmmaker, but knowing how to distinguish between the scary and the sadistic isn't one of them. After an atmospheric start, House Of 1000 Corpses plunges into gore and screams a-go-go, along with more bones than a KFC Dumpster. Early on, Zombie introduces a room filled with bound, gagged cheerleaders, and the film's progress can be checked according to their deaths, suggesting Peter Greenaway's Drowning By Numbers if the remake rights had been purchased by Richard Speck. House Of 1000 Corpses was originally scheduled for release a couple of years ago, but Universal, its original distributor, balked at the film's extreme subject matter. The content is less problematic than the context, which is neither clever nor particularly scary, just suffocatingly rank.
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