Summer of Horror: House of 1000 Corpses, The Orphanage, Creep

House of 1000 Corpses

House_of_1000_Corpses_poster

In preparation for a larger editorial I’ve been planning for some time on the directorial career of one Robert Cummings, AKA Rob Zombie, I thought it time to verse myself on his small filmography. First up, his debut as a movie maker, House of 1000 Corpses.

Here’s a little teaser for the editorial I’ll be writing. It’s about how there seems to be a bit of a consensus, or at least a common opinion, that Rob Zombie has the potential to make a great horror film, but hasn’t done it yet. He dabbled in music video directing before moving on to films, and his flair for visuals is inarguable. What’s also inarguable is that Rob Zombie has a “thing”, and he won’t downplay or step away from that thing for any reason. The dude likes crazy rednecks, filthy environments, twisted sexual humor, 1970’s southern rock music, and screaming. And he intends to stuff all his films to the brim with those things.

So as for House of 1000 Corpses, it sets the tone for exactly what you’re in for any time you see a Rob Zombie film. Plot-wise it’s an entry in the storied “redneck torture family” sub-genre, and borrows liberally from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with a dash of creepy carnival and a dusting of literal monsters. Of course, you have the screaming, filthy rednecks and their cringe-worthy sexual humor. You also have atrocious, profanity-laden dialogue that’s over the top in a bad way, obnoxious lead characters that you actually look forward to seeing murdered, and avant garde nightmare-esque cutaways. All this adds up to an arduous viewing experience, to say the least. It’s extreme, sure, but it just feels like too much. Like an entire 3 course meal that’s nothing but fried cheese and bacon. You long for just a tiny bit of normality to act as a contrast. 

But then, there are those avant garde visuals… There are shots in this movie that I will never, ever forget. Surreal, horrific dreamscapes filled with hellish creatures, human remains, and unnatural lighting. Like the Halloween party scene in his own Halloween 2, it’s just enough to make you start to doubt that you’re watching a bad film.

Hence, why everyone seems to think Rob Zombie has a masterpiece in him.

The Orphanage

The Orphanage

You might actually consider The Orphanage, a gothic haunted house tale from the mind (or producer’s desk) of Guillermo del Toro, to be one of the seeds of what would become Summer of Horror. Back in ’07 or ’08, when I first started getting really serious about this Halloween/horror stuff, I made a list of horror movies I felt like I should see, and The Orphanage was one of the first. But for whatever reason, year after year, it never happened. In fact, it was in consideration for both previous Summer of Horror marathons, but got cut due to availability concerns. I finally cut to the chase and picked up a used DVD copy at Zia Records.

It was good.

 

 

 

 

 

OK OK, I’ll say more. But what can really be said about this movie? There isn’t a twist, per se, but the elements about this film that work the best, that really linger with you after it’s over, only work if you don’t know about them in advance, so it’s tough to review.

Guillermo del Toro’s prominently displayed name on the box should tell you a lot. At this point he’s had his name and visual signature on far more horror films than he’s actually directed himself. That name should clue you in that there will be ghosts, slow-building tension, old houses, a vaguely Victorian feel, and tragedy involving children (the title of the movie will give that one away). And a slow burn it is. The film’s entire first act, and much of the second is pretty light on scares. I worried the entire film would end up feeling toothless and anti-climactic like Session 9. But it does pay off. It has an ending that is deeply, deeply unsettling.

Watch this film with as little advance knowledge as possible, and let it reward your patience.

Creep

Creep

There are actually several horror movies named Creep out there already. Not a huge surprise; that’s a very simple and possibly obvious title to use for any number of human-based horror plots. This one was released just this year and has recently hit Netflix for your instant streaming consumption.

Guess what? Creep is a low budget found footage movie. Guess what else? It’s really frikkin’ good. And it isn’t even so much that Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass – the two guys that pretty much, um, double-handedly created this film – do anything particularly innovative with the style. There’s still a lot of necessary, “WHY are you still filming this?” suspension of disbelief involved, but the story is just simple, engaging, and has a ribbon of black comedy running through it. It also builds suspense masterfully, working up from subtle yet palpable hints of something being not quite right, and doling out more and bigger pieces of evidence that tell you, much LESS subtly, that events are on the verge of turning very very bad. And the ending – often a tough nut to crack in found footage – is a knockout that lingers with you after it’s over.

I’m purposefully being vague in this review because the fun of Creep is in slowly learning what this Josef character really is. Mark Duplass carries the movie, bringing an effortless creepiness to go with the Ron Livingston/John Krasinski/mundane white guy look he has going. He had a similar thing going on in Safety Not Guaranteed. Patrick Brice is our POV cameraman, so you don’t even see that much of him through most of the movie, but he plays the straight man adequately.

IMDb lists Creep’s official release date as June 2015, and I think that’s also when it hit Netflix, so this may have been one of those simultaneous limited release/on demand things. In which case, it could leave streaming services soon (depending on the deal they worked out). At a scant 82 minutes, it’s well worth your time. Check it out while you can.

 

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