As a youngster, I was fortunate enough to have a mother that kept classic horror flicks on the tube every single day of the week. I was introduced to the Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser and other beloved horror franchises before I had even hit middle school. By the time I had reached high school I was a full-fledged horror fan, and two filmmakers who helped turn a passion for horror into total obsession were Eli Roth with Hostel and Rob Zombie with House of 1000 Corpses. All these years later, both films still hold a spot on my list of favorite horror films of all time.
With Rob Zombie's 3 from Hell, the third film in the Firefly saga, on the horizon, Umbrella Entertainment have decided to bundle House of 1000 Corpses and its follow-up, The Devil's Rejects, in one complete Blu-ray package, which they were kind enough to send a copy my way to review.
Now I would be shocked to meet a horror fan who hasn’t seen these films, so I'm going to keep plot details on each film to a minimum and mainly focus on the presentation of each film and their supplements.
In House of 1000 Corpses, four intrepid youths (Chris Hardwick, Rainn Wilson, Erin Daniels, Jennifer Jostyn) travel across the American landscape, researching a book on unusual roadside attractions. During one pit-stop they encounter petrol station owner Captain Spaulding (the legendary Sid Haig) who introduces them to "The Museum of Monsters & Madmen", where they learn the local legend of Dr. Satan. In search of the particular tree from which Dr. Satan hanged, they pick up hitchhiker named Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) and are lead to a mysterious house that will be their ultimate undoing, wherein resides a family so morally depraved that death is considered less an end and more of a vacation.
As I previously expressed, I've had an immense love for this film from the first time I saw it, and even though I've viewed it at least twenty times over the last 15 years, it never gets old. Inspired by 1970s cult horror classics The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, House of 1000 Corpses features stellar performances from each and every one of its cast members. In addition to the actors mentioned above, you've got genre icon Karen Black as the nympho-psycho Mother Firefly, the late Matthew McGrory as the somewhat gentle giant Tiny, renowned character actor Dennis Fimple as the dirty joke-telling Grandpa Hugo, Robert Mukes as the hulking, tow truck driver Rufus, Sid Haig as the insult-spewing clown Captain Spaulding, and of course, Chop Top himself, Bill Moseley, as the philosophical maniac Otis Driftwood. Walton Goggins and Tom Towles also have memorable performances as Steve Naish and Deputy George Wydell, respectively.
I may be a bit biased when it comes to House of 1000 Corpses, but Rob Zombie created some eternally memorable characters with this one and brought together a cast that delivered unparalleled performances. The film also features top notch practical effects, productions design and costumes that still hold up really well, even by today’s standards! In my opinion, House of 1000 Corpses is a classic horror film and one hell of a directorial debut for Zombie. It's an atmospheric and relentless bloodbath of torture and mayhem, and an annual Halloween season watch for me.
House of 1000 Corpses is presented in 1080p high definition in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, and I can guarantee you that this is the very best the film has ever looked! Rich, vibrant colors pop off the screen throughout. Black levels are excellent, even in the dark, gloomy scenes. Detail is also extremely high, with only a few speckles here and there, but that just adds to the overall grindhouse feel of the movie. The audio design on this disc is just as praiseworthy as the video presentation, featuring a DTS HD 7.1 track that really allows the wonderful sound design and great soundtrack, both integral to the film, to come through crystal clear. The track features excellent, well-defined bass and dialogue that never gets lost in the rest of the track. Although this is a throwback to '70s horror, we most certainly get flawless, 21st century sound design here.
The supplements are all ported over from previous releases with the only new feature being an interview with William Bassett, who played Sheriff Frank Huston. Bassett details what it was like working with Zombie and his on-set memories. It was nice to see a new feature for this film, as I'm only accustomed to the bonus contents included on US releases. Other features include one of my all-time favorite audio commentaries with Rob Zombie, wherein the director dishes out a plethora of details regarding the creation of the film, a must-watch (listen?) for any fan of the film. A making-of featurette and a brief behind-the scenes featurette shows the cast and crew mingling and talking between shots. Casting takes, rehearsals featuring several cast members, and interviews with Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, Sheri Moon, and Wayne Toth round on the supplements on this disc, aside from a theatrical trailer.
Onto the sequel! The Devil's Rejects kicks things off without missing a beat, as we witness the Firefly family ambushed at their homestead by Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe) and a squad of armed men. A firefight erupts, Rufus (Tyler Mane) is killed, Mother Firefly (this time played by Leslie Easterbrook) is arrested, and only Otis (Bill Moseley) and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) manage to escape unharmed. Taking refuge and hostages in a back-road motel, the wanted siblings rendezvous with Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), killing whoever happens to be unfortunate enough to stand in their way. As the body count grows higher, Sheriff Wydell hell-bent on revenge, decides to take the law into his own hands, paving the way for one of the most depraved and terrifying showdowns you'll ever see.
Rob Zombie managed to create movie magic once again with his follow-up to House of 1000 Corpses. Bringing back the now-iconic characters from the first film for a nerve-shredding, violent road trip through the darkest corners of your mind. Joining the cast members mentioned above, Zombie filled his sophomore feature with even more talented individuals, including genre legends Ken Foree, Danny Trejo and Michael Berryman, as well as Lew Temple, Geoffrey Lewis, Priscilla Barnes, and Brian Posehn, among others. Once again, the acting is fucking fantastic, with Moseley, Haig, and Sheri Moon absolutely killing it in their respective roles. The same can be said for the entire cast, especially Forsythe, who steals every single scene he's in.
Where House of 1000 Corpses gave fans a story similar to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with bright colors and an overwhelming sense of all things Halloween, The Devil's Rejects strips all of that away for a movie featuring a pure exploitation and grindhouse aesthetic. It's just as graphic and dirty feeling as the first film, but is an entirely different experience in comparison. Gone are the typical horror staples of monsters, mutilations and helplessness found in Corpses, this time it's the horror characters on the run, not their victims. Rejects stands on its own as type of storytelling never before seen in cinema, and many could argue that it improves upon every aspect from the first film. Myself, I absolutely love both films and it's practically impossible to pick a favorite!
I really admire the sequel's ability to turn the three iconic horror villains into anti-heroes of sorts while the film’s authority figure, Sheriff Wydell, takes on the role of villain and becomes the true terrifying presence in the film. We see Otis, Baby, and Captain Spaulding doing committing horrible acts, and still feel sympathy for them in the latter half. Now that's a shining example of great storytelling and phenomenal acting, which is something Zombie has yet to recapture since. Finally, the practical effects are top notch! The effects team really out did themselves, as the film is brutal in every sense of the word. Overall, The Devil's Rejects is undoubtedly an iconic horror film. It's so effective at being scary and dispiriting, but also has its moments of being heartfelt with a few laughs thrown in for good measure. To this day, the film holds up as one of the most well-crafted horror films ever made. It also features some of the most quotable lines in horror movie history!
The Devil's Rejects is presented as Rob Zombie intended in its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio and in stunning 1080p. The film features drab, gloomy look throughout, and perfectly captures the look and feel of a film made in the '70s. It's meant to look old and gritty, employing a muted, washed out color palette. The Devil's Rejects is such a stylistic oddity and this disc captures the aesthetic perfectly.
Much like House of 1000 Corpses, this disc also features pristine sound quality with dialogue, yells and screams all coming through clearly and naturally. Zombie's use of classic rock tunes such as the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird", which are an integral to the plot and pace of the film, also sound crystal clear.
Sadly, this release of The Devil's Rejects is lacking quite a few features found in previous US releases, including the two audio commentary tracks found on Lionsgate's Blu-ray release and the extensive "making of" documentary included on a separate disc within the DVD release. The included supplements consist entirely of ported extras from old releases, nothing new here. We're given a "Bloody Stand-up" skit with Brian Posehn, a Matthew McGrory tribute, Buck Owens "Satan’s Got to Get Along Without Me" music video, "Mary the Monkey Girl" commercial with Captain Spaulding, as well as Captain Spaulding’s Xmas commercial. Rounding out the bonus features are "Otis’ Home Movies", a handful of deleted scenes, a fairly entertaining blooper reel, some make-up test footage and a segment from the fictional "Morris Green Show".
All in all, this is another extremely solid release from Umbrella Entertainment. Both House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects are presented with standout transfers and impressive audio. Even though there are some supplements that I would've like to have seen included in the package, there's still is a long list of extras included on both discs, so I can't complain too much. If you've yet to upgrade your DVD copies of these films, I can't recommend this release enough! It's a no-brainer for horror fans and fans of Zombie's films alike, especially with 3 from Hell nearly upon us!