A superior sequel to House of 1000 Corpses. Returning writer/director Rob Zombie eschews the first-film’s nightmare house scenario and opts for an Empire Strikes Back plot that sees the murderous Firefly clan hunted by a vengeful Texas Sheriff.
The film wastes little time. After a sun bleached daylight opening announcing the larger budget, we get a bullet-riddled stand-off from which the clan escape and head for a downstate brothel safe-house.
Along the way, the film veers into home invasion territory. Otis and Baby ambush two couples in a highway motel. Unlike the first film’s interchangeable victims, this entry provides the couples with distinct personalities. But the superior writing doesn’t extend to the couples’ self preservation skills. At one point, two men overpower Otis and force him to drop his pistol. Instead of securing the gun, the men dawdle and gawk. Later, a woman has Baby held at gunpoint. Rather than shoot her and escape, the woman hems and haws. You can guess how both scenes ended.
But I appreciated the persistent stream of in-jokes and black humor. An early cut to a coffee cup elicited a wide grin, as did Zombie’s peppering the dialog with various Danny Trejo titles. And Sig Haig manages to both charm and menace in a memorable performance highlighted by a laugh-out-loud scene involving a small child in a car.
Perhaps most of all, I enjoyed the Peckinpahesque finale, which provided a sense of melodramatic grandeur while also serving as an elegy for this type of film. Zombie may not be charting fresh courses as a filmmaker, but one can do worse than revive the styles of Peckinpah, Tobe Hooper, and Jack Hill.