Although she's headlined both blockbusters and indies, Karen Black has had a frightful time convincing thrill seekers that she's more than just the scream queen from Trilogy of Terror and It's Alive III. So, naturally, when she received an invitation to play a Midwestern madwoman in shock-'n'-roller Rob Zombie's screenwriting and directing debut, House of 1000 Corpses, there was little chance that she'd drop dead from excitement. "I didn't even read the script very well," she admits to TV Guide Online. "I didn't think I wanted to do it.

"But," she continues, "then Rob saw me looking beautiful at the Oscars and said, 'Oh... I'll make your character a nymphomaniac.' I said, 'Well, that's quite a challenge... an Okie nymphomaniac.' So I had to do it!"

Unfortunately, the former White Zombie front man soon would discover that his leading lady was to be neither his last nor his hardest sell. Both Universal and MGM buried Corpses before Lions Gate finally resurrected the project. "I thought Universal's reasons for pulling out were a little bit arbitrary," says Black. "When they were dismissing our movie because it was 'ghastly,' they had a tremendously horrible movie [in release] about the fellow that eats faces [the Silence of the Lambs sequel Hannibal].

"But the week [the suits killed our movie], there were a bunch of kids shooting each other," she adds, "so [the execs] somehow thought it would be politically correct [to dump us]. Our movie is not that ghastly, anyway. It's very humorous."

Horror aficionados will be able to judge Zombie's magnum opus for themselves when at last House opens on Friday. Black, for one, is confident that critics will shriek with enthusiasm as well as fear. "It's going to be a real surprise that Rob is so incredibly gifted," she says. "This isn't just a singer doing a horror movie, it's a man who should be a director and will always be a director now."