House of 1000 Corpses – 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Steelbook Review)

It’s been 20 years since Rob Zombie’s directorial debut, House of 1000 Corpses. As Zombie has said himself, it wasn’t made with the intention of being a cult movie, but it has certainly amassed a cult audience. Part of that comes from the one-two punch of this film and its (superior) sequel, The Devil’s Rejects. Regardless, the film’s long journey coming to life has resulted in a grimy little black comedy fright flick that is nowhere near perfect but has enough elements to make it worthwhile as an entertaining ode to 70s horror. Now, Lionsgate has delivered a 20th anniversary release in both elaborate box set form and the fancy Best Buy-exclusive steelbook being reviewed here, both of which featuring a second disc containing a ton of never-before-seen production videos and interviews.


The story is very straightforward. Two young couples (pre-fame Chris Hardwick, pre-fame Rainn Wilson, Erin Daniels, and Jennifer Jostyn) are traveling across the backwoods of Texas in search of offbeat roadside attractions regarding urban legends and crazies. They eventually become prisoners of a bizarre and sadistic family of serial killers who spend the next few days torturing their new prey.

These teens do not matter, and Zombie was well aware of this, so it’s hardly a big deal that we do not learn much about them. The film makes that pretty clear by spending more time in its opening act focused on the late Sid Haig’s Captain Spaulding than any of these “normal.” Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, Matthew McGrory, and Karen Black (as Mother Firefly) end up the true stars of this film, with the sequel wisely focusing almost exclusively on them.

With that in mind, it shows in Zombie’s direction that he only knows so much of what he needs to accomplish on this first time out. Working with limited experience, a lack of means, and a script that’s not quite there, this may have been a very difficult production for Zombie to deal with, but it’s still somewhat miraculous that it’s coherent as it is. Part of that comes from how much the film enjoys leaning on the weirdness of it all. Zombie may not be the strongest writer, and mileage will vary on how much one enjoys the people he routinely works with, but he has a knack for creating an oddly compelling atmosphere.

Now, plenty can’t stand Zombie’s features, and others fully buy into what he’s offering. However, if there’s something that’s generally accepted about House of 1000 Corpses, it’s that the film just kind of falls flat by the end. There’s a good build-up to get characters into a certain state of affairs, and the second act concludes with a violent climax good enough to show promise for future endeavors. Still, the actual conclusion lacks more of a punch.

That certainly hurts the overall film, but as a wacky, violent, offbeat house of horrors type film, there’s enough for this film to get by on. Production and costume design are key, as the 70s aesthetic still feels pronounced in a way one could associate specifically with Zombie. Plus, the brutality of it all plays well into the idea that we are dealing with sadistic murderers who operate entirely on their own level – another concept explored much more successfully in the sequel.

There’s not a lot to House of 1000 Corpses, but its obvious limitations do not do enough to hold it back from being effective enough. There’s an interesting cast in place here, with a lot of freedom being given for them to really find their characters (as annoying as some of them border on being). Combined with a no-holds-barred approach to the severity of the actions that occur, it may go out with a whimper, but it’s a decent intro to the Firefly family.



Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  There’s nothing to indicate House of 1000 Corpses has received a brand-new transfer for this release, but as an upgrade from the original 2007 release, we’ve at least gone from a VC-1 to a MPEG-4, which allows for more consistency. Fortunately, as cheap as the film may have been, Zombie has loaded this film with so much production value that there’s quite a bit of detail to observe throughout. Despite being an ode to the 70s, this is a very bright and splashy movie, and you get a great sense of clarity regarding the distinct locations visited.

Depth: Depth is fine. The character spacing registers as well as it needs to, which is helpful for an ensemble cast.

Black Levels: Black levels do enough to add to the atmosphere, with no sign of significant crushing.

Color Reproduction: As easy as it is to highlight the quirky cast, House of 1000 Corpses boasts colorful cinematography that benefits the feature. This video transfer, as old as it may be, does a solid job of bringing out the different color tones seen throughout the film, depending on the setting. A real sense of warmth comes through indoors and near fireplaces, while the outdoor scenes do well to reflect the stylized lighting.

Flesh Tones: There’s a good level of facial detail to be found as the film focuses more on panicked faces.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.


Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 Dolby Surround EX Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: This edition goes lossless with a typical Lionsgate choice of applying a 7.1 track to the proceedings. It’s enough to add to the film’s horrific atmosphere, even if it tries to balance the brutal theatrics with a dark sense of humor. That doesn’t stop the soundtrack from coming through as well as it does, as it’s heard loud and clear.

Low-Frequency Extension: With a couple of moments that rely on going big, the LFE channel delivers a little extra when needed.

Surround Sound Presentation: There’s a lot going on to help immerse the viewer into the film, including music and various sound effects. The rear channels come into play well enough to make the lossless track feel more worthwhile.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone registers as they should, swears and all.


When given the option, Zombie has never shied away from putting out all he can to detail the production of his films. That means commentaries, interviews, lots of behind-the-scenes footage, make-up tests, effects tests, and more. This new release packs all of the old features and a second disc filled with another 3 ½ hour’s worth of stuff. I can only hope The Devil’s Rejects receives a similar courtesy. This Best Buy exclusive packaging is pretty slick, like many of the Lionsgate releases, but I’ll note that the box set version features additional goodies, such as art cards and a photo book.

Features Include:

  • New Director’s Commentary – A digital exclusive featuring Rob Zombie’s recent thoughts on the film. Zombie has always been an engaging speaker when discussing his films and others, and while this track repeats a lot of what can be heard in the previous commentary, there’s still plenty of solid new insight and some neat stories.

Disc One

  • Director Commentary – Recorded back when the film was initially released, Zombie talks about his difficulties fairly candidly.
  • HOTC Zombietron (HD) – An actual game you can play that’s basically a twisted Pac-Man-type arcade game.
  • Making of Featurette (SD, 4:15) – A brief look at the making of the film.
  • Behind the Scenes (SD, 2:35) – An even briefer look at the making of the film (but the 2nd disc expands on this extensively).
  • Tiny Fucked a Stump (SD, 3:08) – This appears to be some promo footage where the core trio tells each other jokes.
  • Casting (SD, 2:07) – Old audition tapes for some cast members.
  • Rehearsals (SD)
    • Bill Moseley & Jennifer Jostyn (3:44)
    • Rain Wilson, Chris Hardwick & Erin Daniels (2:15)
    • Chris Hardwick & Erin Daniels (0:56)
  • Interviews (SD)
    • Bill Moseley (4:30)
    • Sid Haid (5:43)
    • Sheri Moon (1:33)
    • Wayne Toth (3:33)
  • Trailers (HD)

Disc Two

  • Cast & Director Interviews (SD) – New to this release, but all recorded back during production.
    • Rob Zombie (4:27)
    • Sid Haig (9:20)
    • Bill Moseley (10:53)
    • Sheri Moon (11:53)
    • Karen Black (11:10)
    • Robert Mukes (13:51)
    • Rainn Wilson (8:49)
    • Chris Hardwick (8:53)
    • Erin Daniels (13:02)
    • Irwin Keyes (7:04)
    • Jennifer Jostyn (6:17)
    • Wayne Toth (10:19)
  • Behind the Scenes (SD) – An extensive collection of fly-on-the-wall footage of the 25-day shoot of the film.
    • BTS 1 (17:02)
    • BTS 2 (20:14)
    • BTS 3 (8:22)
    • BTS 4 (21:44)
    • BTS 5 (22:37)
    • Dr. Satan Test (1:31)
    • Professor Test (2:24)
    • Electronic Press Kit (4:21)
    • Teaser Trailer (1:09)
  • Digital HD Copy of the Film


House of 1000 Corpses began production in 2000 and wasn’t released until 2003. It was a tough time for Zombie, but he ultimately prevailed, and we have the movie we have, which is ultimately decent enough. While there’s no real excuse for this not to be a 4K release for the film, I can’t deny this being the ultimate version of what is available. Die-hard fans will love having hours of new content to look at, and the mild upgrade in the transfer is nothing to scoff at either. As I’ve alluded to, I only hope a new release for Devil’s Rejects comes soon as well, but for now, Dr. Satan and Captain Spaulding welcome you to this new version.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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