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House of 1000 Corpses

For the song of the same name, see House of 1000 Corpses (song).
House of 1000 Corpses
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Rob Zombie
Produced by Andy Gould
Written by Rob Zombie
Starring Sid Haig
Bill Moseley
Matthew McGrory
Sheri Moon Zombie
Karen Black
Erin Daniels
Chris Hardwick
Jennifer Jostyn
Rainn Wilson
Walton Goggins
Tom Towles
Michael J. Pollard
Music by Rob Zombie
Scott Humphrey
Cinematography Alex Poppas
Tom Richmond
Edited by Kathryn Himoff
Robert K. Lambert
Sean K. Lambert
Robert W. Hedland
Spectacle Entertainment Group
Universal Studios
Distributed by Lions Gate Films
Release dates
  • April 11, 2003 (2003-04-11)
Running time
88 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $7 million
Box office $16.8 million[2]

House of 1000 Corpses is a 2003 American exploitation horror film written, co-scored and directed by Rob Zombie, and starring Chris Hardwick, Rainn Wilson, Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie and Karen Black. The plot focuses on two couples who are held hostage by a sadistic backwoods family on Halloween. Zombie's directorial debut, the film drew from a multitude of influences, particularly American horror films of the 1970s, including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes.[3]

Filmed in 2000, the film was originally purchased by Universal Pictures, and a large portion of it was filmed on the Universal Studios backlots, but it was ultimately shelved by the company in fear that it would receive an NC-17 rating.[4] The rights to the film were eventually re-purchased by Zombie, who then sold the film to Lions Gate Entertainment. It was released theatrically on April 11, 2003.


On October 30, 1977, Jerry Goldsmith, Bill Hudley, Mary Knowles and Denise Willis are on the road in hopes of writing a book on offbeat roadside attractions. When the four meet Captain Spaulding, the owner of a gas station and "The Museum of Monsters & Madmen", they learn the local legend of Dr. Satan. As they take off in search of the tree from which Dr. Satan was hanged, they pick up a young hitchhiker named Baby, who claims to live only a few miles away. Shortly after, the vehicle's tire bursts in what is later seen to be a trap and Baby takes Bill to her family's house. Moments later, Baby's half-brother, Rufus, picks up the stranded passengers and takes them to the family home.

There they meet Baby's family: Mother Firefly, Otis Driftwood, her adopted brother, Grampa Hugo and Baby's deformed giant half-brother, Tiny. While being treated to dinner, Mother Firefly explains that her ex-husband, Earl, had previously tried to burn Tiny alive, along with the Firefly house. After dinner the family puts on a Halloween show for their guests, and Baby offends Mary by flirting with Bill. After Mary threatens Baby, Rufus tells them their car is repaired, and Mother Firefly makes them leave. As they leave, Otis and Tiny attack the couples in the drive way and take them prisoner. Otis kills Bill and mutilates his body for art, while Mary is tied up in a barn and Denise is tied to a bed, while dressed up for Halloween. Jerry is partially scalped for failing to guess Baby's favorite movie star.

When Denise doesn't come home, her father Don calls the police to report her missing. Two deputies, George Wydell and Steve Naish, find the couples' abandoned car in a field with a tortured victim in the trunk. Don, who was once a cop, is called to the scene to help the deputies search. They arrive at the Firefly house and upon finding other bodies, are quickly killed by the family. Later that night, the three remaining teenagers are dressed as rabbits, and taken out to an abandoned well. Mary attempts to run away, but is stabbed to death by Baby moments later.

Meanwhile, Jerry and Denise are lowered into the well, where a group of zombies pull Jerry away, leaving Denise to find her way through an underground lair. As she wanders through the tunnels, she encounters Dr. Satan and a number of mental patients; Jerry is on Dr. Satan's operating table being vivisected. Dr. Satan tells his mutated assistant, who turns out to be Earl, Mother Firefly's ex-husband, to capture Denise, but Denise outwits him and escapes the chambers by crawling to the surface. She makes her way to the main road, where she encounters Captain Spaulding, who gives her a lift in his car. She passes out from exhaustion in the front seat, and Otis suddenly appears in the backseat with a knife. Denise later wakes up to find herself strapped to Dr. Satan's operating table.


The names of the villains were taken from the names of Groucho Marx characters (Animal Crackers‍ '​ "Captain Spaulding", A Night at the Opera‍ '​s "Otis B. Driftwood", Duck Soup‍ '​s "Rufus T. Firefly", and A Day at the Races‍ '​ "Hugo Z. Hackenbush", among others). While this was left as a subtle allusion in the first movie, the sequel The Devil's Rejects brought it out into the open, with the names becoming integral to the plot. Dr. Satan was inspired by a 1950s billboard-sized poster advertising a "live spook show starring a magician called Dr. Satan" that Zombie has in his house.[5]

Development and production

Rob Zombie had a very small list of credits in film at that point — he had done animation for the 1996 film Beavis and Butt-head Do America, tried to write a script for The Crow: Salvation and directed some of his own music videos, but little else. Zombie had designed a haunted maze attraction for Universal Studios; Bill Moseley, who later starred in the film, presented Zombie an award for his design in 1999.[4] Back in the late 90's and in 2000, Rob Zombie was instrumental in reviving Universal Studios annual "Halloween Horror Night", which led to a friendship between him and the company.

Zombie initially took his script for House of 1000 Corpses to Universal Pictures with his manager Andy Gould to pitch the project in January 2000. Aesthetically and in the film's script, Zombie drew from a number of influences, particularly from 1970s exploitation horror films and monster movies of the 1930s. With the company's interest in the film and past collaboration with Zombie, production began in May of that year.[4] The film was shot on a 25-day shooting schedule in 2000. Two weeks were spent filming on the Universal Studios Hollywood backlots — the house featured in the film is the same house used in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), and can be seen on Universal Studios' tram tours.[4][6] The remaining 11 days of the shoot were spent on a ranch in Valencia, California.[4] The starting budget was $3–4 million, but finished at $7 million.[4]


The film was completed in 2000; Stacey Snider, then-head of Universal, called Zombie up for a meeting. Zombie feared Snider would give him money and say "go re-shoot everything". Snider feared the film would receive an NC-17 rating, which led to the company refusing to release the film. After several months of the film being shelved, Zombie was able to purchase the film rights back from Universal, and sell them to Lions Gate Entertainment.

Box office

The film grossed $3,460,666 on its limited opening weekend and $2,522,026 on its official opening weekend. The film grossed $12,634,962 domestically and $4,194,583 in foreign totals. Altogether the film made a worldwide gross of $16,829,545.

Critical reception

The film opened on April 11, 2003 without being pre-screened for critics. Those who viewed it gave it generally negative reviews. Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the film "lives up to the spirit but not the quality of its inspirations" and is ultimately a "cheesy and ultragory exploitation horror flick" and "strangely devoid of thrills, shocks or horror."[7] said "[the film] slaps together just the right amount of creepy atmosphere, nervous laughter, cheap scares, fun rides and blood and guts to satisfy any major fan of the macabre."[8]

Clint Morris of Film Threat slammed the film as "an hour and a half of undecipherable plot" and found the film to be "sickening" overall.[9] James Brundage of wrote that the film was simply "hick after hick, cheap scary image after cheap scary image, lots of southern accents and psychotic murders," and was "too highbrow to be a good cheap horror movie, too lowbrow to be satire, and too boring to bear the value of the ticket."[10]

It currently has a 19% "Rotten" on the film review website Rotten Tomatoes.[11]


Main article: The Devil's Rejects

Zombie produced a sequel in 2005, The Devil's Rejects. Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie and Matthew McGrory reprised their roles from Corpses. Karen Black demanded a higher salary (which Zombie could not afford) to return as Mother Firefly; Leslie Easterbrook was approached and later cast as her replacement. Tyler Mane (who would later play Michael Myers in Zombie's Halloween and Halloween II) took over the role of RJ. The character of Grampa Hugo was removed entirely as Dennis Fimple died before Corpses' release. The sequel received mixed reviews, but the critical reception was generally better than its predecessor.

The film's three leads, Haig, Moseley and Moon Zombie, also appear as voices in Zombie's animated film The Haunted World of El Superbeasto. Haig and Moseley made cameos as their characters from both films, Captain Spaulding and Otis B. Driftwood, respectively, while Sheri voiced one of the lead characters, Suzie X.


Zombie composed the film score with Scott Humphrey. It is isolated on the DVD as a separate audio track.


  1. ^ "HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 2003-07-08. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  2. ^ "House of 1000 Corpses (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  3. ^ "House of 1000 Corpses". IFC (The Independent Film Channel). Retrieved 2012-07-08. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Szulkin, David. "Death to False Horror". Fangoria (199): 20–25. 
  5. ^ Ulmer, Gary (Summer 2003), "Interview with the Zombie", Dark Realms Magazine, issue 11: 14–16 
  6. ^ "The Chicken Ranch". The Studio Tour: Universal Studios Hollywood. Retrieved 2012-07-08. 
  7. ^ Scheck, Frank (2003-04-14). "Frank Scheck Movie Reviews". RottenTomatoes, Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  8. ^ Garabedian, Berge (2003-04-07). "Review: House of 1000 Corpses". JoBlo.Com. Retrieved 2013-09-28. 
  9. ^ "House of 1000 Corpses review". Film Threat. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  10. ^ House of 1000 Corpses Movie Review, DVD Release –
  11. ^ "House of 1000 Corpses - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 

External links