First, a small note to begin with. You do not watch 'House fo 1000 Corpses' so much as it inflicts itself upon you.
That being said, the assault begins with four teenagers driving across country on a stormy night. The stop off at a roadside museum of the bizarre, shortly after the proprieters have killed some would-be criminals. At the museum, they take a small ride through a display of serial killers, and learn about the infamous Dr. Satan. Eager to explore the legend, they get directions to a local attraction, and set off to see it. On their way, they pick up a hitchhiking girl in the downpour, which is probably the last mistake they'll be making this night. Now cue a flat tire, a helpful hitchiker, a weird house, a weirder family, and a ton of gore, muddled action, and over an hour of your life you'll never have back.
The major problem plaguing 'House of 1000' corpses is mainly the manner of its execution. The movie plays like nothing more than a drawn out music video. This type of short media format applied to almost ninety minutes of film has the effect of looking like a bad college flick. It's complete with little montages where colours are rehued/oversaturated/inverted, bad music plays, and the characters silently prance around doing weird stuff. This doesn't go very far towards inspiring fear, and doesn't even work on an artistic level. It isn't helped by the fact that Zombie's shots are rife with poor photography and camera movement more suited to his music videos.
There's no actual suspense or atmosphere worked into the movie. It's pretty evident from the beginning that none of the characters are going to survive, so nothing after that comes as a surprise. The large amounts of gore, apparently for no other reason then the sake of gore itself, remove any need for imagination from the film. There's nothing wrong with copious amounts of blood and guts, but when it's overdone, it numbs the viewer and removes any shock value. Sadly, this happens pretty early in the movie.
The film is also hurt by it's frantic pace in the latter half. Too many things simply happen too fast. Not only does this hamper any efforts to create an ominous atmosphere, it has the effect of squeezing events so tightly together that the audience has little time to digest a first one before a second is being forced down their collective throats. One might argue that there's nothing wrong with a fast pace, but the events are too derivative and everything is compressed together, with the rest of the movie suffering as a result.
There are a few redeeming parts to this movie, chief among them excellent costumes and set design. Although Zombie apparently tries very hard to make this a visual feast, the best parts are in the contents of his shots rather than the manner of their delivery. Dr. Satan looks very menacing indeed, and his set in particular is one of the movie's finest.
Sadly though, the movie fails miserably as a whole, when many of it's parts showed promise. Although the plot and backstory is thin, there's good snippets of action and a strong potential for atmosphere. If the movie had been filmed with the intent of preserving these elements instead of crushing them altogether, we might have had a solid film here instead of a monstrous affront to dvd players the world over.
Honestly though, what where you expecting from someone who's last name is Zombie?