When it came to my faovurite monster of villain, my first thought was Dracula. I grew up watching the old Universal Bela Lugosi flicks, moving on to the Hammer films with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee later on. I’ve had a thing for vampires as long as I can remember. But upon deeper thought, it occurred to me that my favourite monsters aren’t the ones that I go back to regularly. Instead, they’re the ones that I tend to not see so often, except for special occassions. Sort of like family.
The Firefly Family – I met them first back in 2003 in Rob Zombie’s controversial debut as a film director, House of 1000 Corpses. The film, as you may recall, almost didn’t get released, thanks to the excessive gore and grindhouse style filmmaking Zombie utilized. Instead, after shooting completed in 2000, Universal, who paid for it, were worried it would receive the dreaded NC-17 rating and opted not to release it. Instead, House of 1000 Corpses sat on the shelf for three years, until Lionsgate stepped up to the plate and unleashed the film, and the Firefly family on the unsuspecting masses.
We had Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Tiny (Matthew McGory), Mama Firefly (Karen Black), Rufus (Robert Allan Mukes) and Hugo (Dennis Fimple). Believe me – they’re one of the most crazed families ever in film history. Psychopaths through and through. And what goes on in their house is mass murder and crazy experiments. Depending on how you like your movie monsters, you either love House of 1000 Corpses a lot, or you can’t get past the first 25 minutes.
I don’t think I really loved House of 1000 Corpses the first time I saw it. I found the film and the Firefly family way too disturbing. And to be honest, I’ve never been into the whole torture horror thing. It’s one of the reasons I absolutely despise the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre film. It’s too unrelenting meanspirited for my own tastes. But, having watched House of 1000 Corpses a few times over the years, I grew to seriously appreciate both Rob Zombie’s style as a director (quick cuts, awkward lighting) and as a writer. And really, in terms of violence, it’s far less gratuitous than the torture porn films that would come after. The Firely family are seriously crazed, but at times hillariously so. You don’t find yourself liking Otis, the true madman of the bunch, but you can’t help but be compelled to watch Bill Moseley in action. He’s as badass as Sheri Moon Zombie’s baby is sexy. With so many memorable characters, House of 100o Corpses and the Firefly family worked their way into some sort of pop culture conciousness. I mean, someone even did a Muppet parody of the film.
While I would never say that House of 1000 Corpses is played for laughs, it’s a comedic masterwork when compared with its sequel, The Devil’s Rejects. The straight horror and fantasy styling of the first film are gone, instead replaced with a low-budget, road trip to hell feel covered in grit rather than neon. In my opinion, it’s not only Rob Zombie’s best film, but it’s one of the best of the past decade. Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley and Sid Haig are back playing the same characters from the previous film, but in a far more realistic setting. Which makes their characters all the more frightening. Lunatics on the run will have that effect on you. At the same time, Zombie makes a clear effort to demonstrate that these killers are indeed an actual family like anybody elses. Sort of.
The Firefly family – you wouldn’t want to mean them in a dark alley. Or a brightly lit alley. Or on a farm or at a motel. But to me, they’re Rob Zombies greatest creations. Right after More Human Than Human and Dragula.