In 2003, Rob Zombie wrote and directed House of 1000 Corpses, a film about four young adults who end up off the beaten path and in the house of an evil, murderous family. The film takes place in a small, run down rural town during the 1970s. In the director’s commentary, Zombie describes his motion picture as a “70s exploitation horror film.”(House of 1000 Corpses.) He also mentions that he was inspired by the alleged Manson family home videos. He makes subtle parallels between the Firefly family and the Manson family, and he effectively utilizes the mise-en-scene to incorporate his inspiration into the film. Rob Zombie’s fame is due to his music, and the film’s score is an important contrivance used to complement the theme, that there is hell on Earth and the house is the gateway. The actual lyrics to the songs played throughout the film suggest, and even sometimes foreshadow, the fate of anyone who enters the house. House of 1000 Corpses uses the mise-en-scene elements of setting, costumes, and film score, and the director uses Manson family references, in the “I Remember You” and “Run, Rabbit, Run” scenes, to stress the theme of the film.
The Manson family home videos and the killings in the LaBianca murders inspired the mise-en-scene in the “I Remember You” scene. In my research I found that the events leading up to the murders have been told in different variations. Susan Atkins and Charles “Tex” Watson have written their accounts of the incident nonetheless, the facts cannot be construed (Hoekstra.) The director has never actually been quoted saying that their versions of what happened leading up to the murders was an inspiration however, there are several instances in his film that are taken directly from the crime scene. The LaBianca’s were found naked, and tied up in their home brutally murdered. LaBianca’s wife was stabbed 41 times. Her blood was used to write “Rise” and “Death to pigs” on the walls, and one of the killers carved “War” on Mr. LaBianca’s abdomen (Atkins). Rob Zombie makes reference to the facts of this crime in the “I Remember You” scene as the police officer and the father of one of the missing girls break the chain and lock off the old, wooden shed doors. When the doors open, Zombie cuts from the reaction shot to the shot of the bloody, naked women who are bound, and tied with words carved into their abdomens. Also, you can see words written in blood on the walls behind the dead women. In addition, there are similarities between the alleged Manson family home videos and shots in House of 1000 Corpses. For example, Zombie cuts to “home videos” of the Firefly family torturing their victims or ranting about what’s wrong with society. In the alleged Manson family home videos, the camera is recording torture and grotesque licking of what seems to be blood. Manson also had videos of himself preaching his ideas of what’s wrong with society and why it is going to end (House of 1000 Corpses.) Furthermore, during the director’s commentary, Zombie states that the shot during the “Run, Rabbit, Run” scene was done with a cheap camera to give it the home movie effect. He wanted to incorporate this into the film because the Manson family had allegedly made similar videos that he thought they were “creepy.” Additionally, Rob Zombie based his characters and the setting to resemble the Manson family and Spahn Ranch. In the director’s commentary, Zombie mentions that Otis’s character is roughly based on Charles Manson and Baby’s character is based on Susan Atkins. In an article called, “Interview with the Zombie” Rob Zombie describes where he got the names for the characters in his film, and what inspired his development of the characters. Zombie wanted to make a Manson family movie without having it “based on a true story” so he decided to have the entire family named after Groucho Marx characters. Rob Zombie didn’t want a ranch setting so he chose a run down house (Ulmer.)
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