Written & Directed by Rob Zombie
Starring Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Karen Black, Rainn Wilson, Sheri Moon Zombie, Erin Daniels, Chris Hardwick, William Bassett, Dennis Fimple, and Matthew McGregory
Two young couples take a misguided tour onto the back roads of America in search of a local legend known as Dr. Satan. Lost and stranded, they are set upon by a bizarre family of psychotics. Murder, cannibalism and satanic rituals are just a few of the 1000+ horrors that lurk within.
It was brought to my attention that I’ve never reviewed this film here at Left Hand Horror. I couldn’t wait until October, so I watched it again last night. People aren’t casual fans of Rob Zombie. Most either loved or hated House of 1000 Corpses – guess which group I lean towards. If you haven’t seen Zombie’s debut film, here’s a quick scene from the beginning. If this is too much right here, well, bad news for you regarding the rest of this perfectly twisted flick. Be warned, kids, all kinds of graphic stuff is a click away.
If you enjoyed that for any reason, I think you’ll enjoy the rest.
Set on October 30th, 1977 in a backwoods Texas town, four friends are traveling the country to compile a book about roadside attractions. They stop at a creepy gas station to find a man in clown makeup running an establishment that also serves a second role as the “Museum of Monsters & Madmen“. Zombie and his set designers deserve accolades for the remarkably created interior. Filled with bizarre oddities that would feel very comfortable at a circus freak show, Captain Spaulding’s (Haig) gas station is an electrifying piece of horror history. The infamously Zombie-friendly, Sid Haig, is a frightening version of a human being. His makeup, rotting teeth, and general vulgar demeanor made Captain Spaulding an instant horror icon that’s still gaining popularity as I type. The four friends eventually take Spaulding up on his offer to ride his famous Murder Ride. The shocked travelers both revel and cringe as the images of serial killers like Albert Fish and Ed Gein are recreated for the eerie ride. After much pestering, Spaulding draws the foursome a map to the reported location of Dr. Satan, a rumored local legend who was known for his sadistic ways at an insane asylum. The real fun starts here.
What harm can come from picking up a lone hitchhiker on a rainy Texas night? Against the two girlfriends’ wishes, the guys pick up Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), a beautiful blonde, and that’s when things get interesting. Zombie’s love of 70’s horror-exploitation classics are present in his art. The love for Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre isn’t exactly hidden in the graphically disturbing imagery. The big bad in this film is The Firefly Family. Unconventional might be a little understated. I’m thinking backwood-hillbilly-sadist-Satan-worshipping killers might be more accurate. Want to see Dwight (Rainn Wilson) from The Office get killed and transformed into “Fishboy“? Do you think killing someone’s father and wearing their skin as a torture tactic is too much? Zombie doesn’t.
Otis Firely: The Darth Maul of Texas throwback horror
My only complaint with the movie is the last part of the third act. I’ve seen this movie a dozen times and I’m still not sure what Dr. Satan and his transformed zombie cronies are supposed to be. Are we to assume the ritually dressed Firefly family are in league with Satan himself? Do the murders satisfy this dark master to the point of powers and sustainability exist beyond the grave? Before the grave? I just don’t know. Zombie admits not being satisfied with the film even as it was being shot, so he was constantly rewriting dialogue. This might contribute to the stunted narrative and over-the-top delivery at times. Regardless, Rob Zombie had a very clear vision of horror and evil and his ultimate goal is a major success. It’s too much for a lot of horror fans, and certainly not subtle by any means. Some films are much more effective with subdued lighting and misdirection – this film relies on in-your-face terror from beginning to end.
Overall, I love this one and think Zombie has a major gift for horror and twisted imagery. If this turned you off, you might like the sequel: The Devil’s Rejects. TDR features a more refined and terrifying Firefly family and they make the film a horror masterpiece worthy of being in my top ten. Look for that review in the very near future. If you love grisly and imaginative horror, I beg you to give this a watch. Bill Moseley is a freaking superstar as Otis.