House of the Seven Corpses

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Bury 'em, Already.

Jan 3, 2001
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Um, not remarkably incompetent

Cons:The seven corpses are named Logic, Coherence, Plot, Characterization, Suspense, Dialog, and Me Caring

I love picking up the random movie on eBay -- even random collections of movies. For in these collections are often little gems of movies, atmospheric old horror, clever sci-fi, or just plain fun flicks. Unfortunately, when I brushed off the dust, what I'd hoped was a gem turns out to be a cinematic turd.

That's what happened with The House of Seven Corpses. The title sounds atmospheric, the setup has promise, and there's an appearance by John Carradine. And Rob Zombie's upcoming film, The House of 1000 Corpses takes some obvious influence from it. But, like a Ford stalled out on the freeway, you find that promise was merely a sucker play as this puppy ain't going nowhere.

Eric Hartman, a director (John Ireland, with eyebrows like disco caterpillars), is filming his movie about the doomed Beal family in the very house where the Beals met their tragic and mysterious ends. We know that these were all mysterious murder because the opening credits play out over a montage of the Beals getting offed in various Clue-like ways. John Voight look-alike David (one movie wonder Jerry Strickler) decides it would be cool to recite some passages from The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which, before Timothy Leary rewrote it, apparently was a necromancy how-to manual. So after reel after reel of watching them film their crappy B-movie, we finally see them accidentally raise the dead. Oops.

It seems that no one's irony gland was functioning throughout production. Casting a bunch of mediocre B-movie actors (and some washed up B+ movie actors) as the B-list cast and crew of a crappy B-movie in a crappy B-movie should have raised a few hackles in the production department. Methinks that there was no production department, though. In fact, me tends to believe that there was little production involved at all (and acting, script, and effort, but those are whines to be read further down the page).

The director of the movie within the movie likes to slap down the acting takes where nobody blatantly blows it. Sounds like a carbon copy of Paul Harrison, director of The House of Seven Corpses. Granted, it's his first feature, but no wonder he spent the next fifteen years without a directing credit, instead directing silverware layouts. The camera movement is unremarkable, the audio sounds like they connected the boom to a tape recorder using twine, and the actors are given free reign to utterly suck. But that's too film school of an approach for this movie.

I really liked the setup for this movie. Call me a sucker, but I really dig the promise inherent in doomed family stories, a la Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher." Yeah, we know that every member of the family since whenever has died in a suspicious way, but the story is in the why and the how of it. But this setup ends up as a bait-and-switch; besides the opening montage and the basis for the ironic film within the film, there's little mention of these poor, doomed Beals. Mr. Harrison, however, decided that, with the success of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead six years earlier, zombie killers were much more interesting.

Our zombies here are pathetic latecomers. At about the seventy minute mark, when insistent Morpheus was beginning to convince me that even a pan in the morning wasn't worth watching boring actors portray boring people, our zombie shows up and strangles someone. Then, our ruthless, ferocious killer stumbles off towards the house like a drunk from a car accident. Remind me again about zombies. Don't they just take the direct approach towards killing people? Just bite them, eat some brains and move on? Not according to Harrison; his zombies cut throats, drop heavy objects on people, and have enough manual dexterity to tie a hangman's noose. I hate to sound like a parody here, but what's the zombie's motivation?

While we're on the topic of patently ridiculous tripe that The House of Seven Corpses insists you swallow like a goldfish in a beer funnel, what's with using The Tibetan Book of the Dead as a necromancy manual? It seems laughable that the book that Tim Leary used as part of his LSD spirituality would call upon Charon, Erebus, and "all the other lords of the dead" in a pseudo-Latin language to summon corpses to murder everyone around. With this movie coming out after the bulk of the hippie movement, you'd think someone would have suggested that they use an alternate text or, since they made up the text in the book, why not make up the book title as well? Open your mind, man, and stop oppressing the Tibetan people.

A sure sign of lazy filmmaking is the nighttime shot taken on a sunny day. I mean, the least they could have done was to picked a cloudy day instead of cutting from a shot of the moon spooky among the cloud to two characters traipsing through the sunlit garden. And then, the kicker. They cut from this remarkably sunny night shot to a shot of actual nighttime action. I looked at my watch and wondered if it was gonna sprint towards the ninety minute mark, where all half-assed films collapse and die. True to form, it didn't.

But that's enough out of me. Avoid trying to polish off this one to find the hidden gem. As they say, you can't polish a turd.

PS: I'll sell you this movie for five bucks. Cheap. Great movie. No, really, great.


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