Two couples traveling across country and working on a book on bizarre roadside attractions stumble across a filling station / theme park run by a vaguely evil clown with a bad attitude - Captain Spaulding. Spaulding teaches them of a few local legends, including a mad surgeon who worked in a local insane asylum and came to be known as Dr. Satan for the grotesque surgical procedures he applied to mental patients in secret. They pick up a pretty blonde hitch-hiker on their way to see the tree where Dr Satan was hung, and run into some car problems, so the hitch-hiker invites them to her family house. The family, apparently headed by the phenomenally weird Karen Black, makes The Addams family look like the Brady Bunch.
My narrative has described the first 20 minutes or so of the film, and at this point the film, much like RZ's songs, is so campy that it seems a straightforward horror comedy. However, once our protagonists are in "the house", the plot takes a decidedly more sinister spin, and never lets up from that point forward.
This film successfully and entertainingly portrays all of RZ's themes in about the same proportions as his music. Of them all, sex is the least explored, and I, for one, am thankful for that. The film also walks a delicate line between Hannibal Lector grotesque art realism and supernatural forces. For example, at one point, one of the bad guys turns on a cassette player with low batteries so that the voice recorded on it sounds extra-satanic.
If you have problems with blood and other bodily fluids, and utterly repulsive surgically induced variations on the human body, you might want to avoid this film. If you don't have any great objections to standard hardcore horror imagery, or if you like it, you might want to see this. It is masterfully visualized and does a much better job of making horror into art than the standard Hollywood horror fair. This is Rob Zombie's art, and he does it much better than most. This first major effort in film bodes well for his future use of the medium, and I will look forward to his next.