Horror certainly has changed over the years. If you were to hold them side by side, it’d be impossible to see how Psycho lead to Hostel III. However, if you were to work your way through the various decades of horror films, you’ll be able to see just how the genre evolved (or devolved, depending on who you ask).
Here’s a quick breakdown for you though. While the 60’s focused on films like Psycho and Peeping Tom, horror was still mostly tame until Hershell Gordon Lewis came to town with Blood Feast and 2000 Maniacs. You’d think this would mark the start of gore, but it wasn’t. Lewis’ films mostly remained all his own. By the 70’s, horror became more psychologically driven. Films about stalkers, cannibals and revenge dominated the genre. This is where you started to get films like The Hills Have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween.
Enter the 1980’s. Suddenly there was a new horror movie every week. You had a nice blend of gore films, low-budget films from Full Moon Pictures and Troma, as well as plenty of Slasher flicks. Eventually, in a sea of sequels, horror died out in the 90’s.
It wasn’t until 1996 that Horror suddenly became important again with Scream, but within a few years, the self aware slasher became tiresome. While the late 90’s/early 2000’s produced a few decent surprises (Cabin Fever comes to mind), most horror fans were clamoring for the eventual release of Rob Zombie’s directorial debut, House of 1000 Corpses.
Rob Zombie created music for Metal-heads and Horror fans (which basically has a lot of overlap). His filmmaking career at that time had been minimal.. He did some animation for Beavis & Butthead Do America, as well as directed some White Zombie music videos, but that was the extent of it.
In the 90’s, he was instrumental in helping revive Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights which opened the door for him to make a film for Universal. What he ended up presenting them was a film so demented, dark and bizarre that Universal believed it would receive a NC-17 rating and refused to release it.
The film is a throwback to the gritty psychological films of the 1970’s blended with the modern day gore. It’s packed with winks and nods to The Manson Family, Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Marx Brothers. It begins with a group of 4 teenagers (Including pre-Office Rainn Wilson and fat Chris Hardwick) driving around, when they stop at Captain Spaulding’s gas station/Museum of Monsters and Madmen. It’s there that they find out about Dr. Satan, a local serial killer.
While trying to find the tree where he was hung, they encounter a hitch-hiker named Baby. Shortly after picking her up, they blow a tire and need a tow. Baby informs them her family lives near by and her brother has a tow-truck.
The group end up in a strange dinner/variety show performed by the family, and when they begin to leave the house after their tire has been replaced, they are attacked and held captive for Otis Driftwood’s (Baby’s Adopted Brother) demented experiments. It just gets dark, more deranged and in general unsettling from there.
The film was completed in 2000 but Universal refused to release it. It wasn’t until 3 years later, when Zombie was able to purchase back the rights that he managed to finally get the film released by Lionsgate on April 11th 2003. I remember seeing it the night it came out with a group of friends after work (listening to the movie soundtrack on the drive there). That same weekend, I went for an encore with my girlfriend at the time. The next week we found out her best friend hadn’t seen the movie yet, and I went and saw it a 3rd time.
I know many people who hated this film and consider it Zombie’s worst movie. While I know that The Devil’s Rejects (the films sequel) is a superior film, I have more fun watching this. The film grows in enjoyment ten years later. It’s still just as demented as ever before. Rob Zombie’s weird usage of various camera styles and filters, as well as his unrelenting gore and plain bizarre twists make the movie difficult to follow but still a ton of stupid fun.
Some people might not care, but I say Happy 10 Year Anniversary House of 1000 Corpses.