When Rob Zombie’s first feature film made its way into theaters in 2003, the state of horror cinema was in decline. Studios were busy pumping out sequels to past hits like Scream and Final Destination, but House of 1,000 Corpses was a new and different beast.
The film is gritty; it doesn't care if you like its main characters, and practically begs the audience to root for the villains. Viewers accustomed to the defanged horror of the 2000s didn’t know how to handle it, much to the delight of Zombie.
The making of House of 1000 Corpses was a tumultuous three-year roller coaster. Before filming wrapped, Zombie ran out of money, and the movie passed through multiple distributors before the director found a company brave enough to release it. This uphill struggle set the stage for the trials and tribulations of Zombie's followup films, and judging by how the director talks about the experience, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
All The Villains Are Named After Groucho Marx Characters
Rob Zombie has a deep affinity for the Marx Brothers, specifically Groucho Marx. While the horror director's decision to spearhead a Groucho Marx biopic shocked many slasher film fans, it's actually one of Zombie's lifelong dreams. In a 2016 interview, he openly gushed about Marx, saying:
I was a big Marx Brothers fan when I was a little kid because their movies were always on TV. A Night at the Opera, in particular, was on a lot. So I discovered the Marx Brothers movies around the same time I discovered any movie, really.
As of 2018, the biopic has yet to receive a concrete release date, but Zombie's Groucho love is apparent in several of his past cinematic works. Many the characters in House of 1,000 Corpses are named after famous Groucho parts: Captain Spaulding, Otis Driftwood, Rufus R.J. Firefly, Hugo Firefly, and Quentin Quale.
Initially, It Was A Very Serious Movie
Though the movie has come to be regarded as an over-the-top, candy-colored, kitschy, love letter to grindhouse horror, that's not how it was originally envisioned. Initially, Zombie intended to make a straightforward exploitation film, but as he began filming, the movie's campy nature became increasingly apparent.
The first film turned out a little wackier and campier than I originally intended... as we were shooting, that's the tone that it was turning out to be. Movies sometimes dictate their own course, so I just sort of went with it.
Despite All The Issues, Zombie Loved Making The Film
Even though budget constraints and squeamish studio executives constantly threatened the production, Zombie adamantly insists he loved making the film. He even went so far as to claim filmmaking is much more fulfilling than playing in a rock band:
It was 100% f*cking awesome. With music, I was like, wow, I'm on stage playing an arena with Alice Cooper... surreal. But movies were always the bigger passion and to be on the Universal lot, eating my dinner on the front steps of the Munsters house, ready to go back to work... I didn't want the days to end. Sure, problems ensued, but that's life.
The Film Was Ravaged By Critics
When the movie released in 2003. it was skewered by critics. As of 2019, the movie sits at 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. At the time, critics called the movie immoral and said it was narratively all over the place. Zombie chalks most of the critical backlash up to the hype that had accumulated in the three years between the film's announcement and release.
Just before the movie came out on DVD, Zombie explained:
Hype is always good, but sometimes it works against you. The internet feeds into this a lot. I would be reading quotes from myself that were things I never said. Like, 'Oh, great!' Rob says, 'It's going to reinvent horror.'