I am going to be honest. Prior to a unseasonably chilly night in April of 2003, all I knew of Rob Zombie was his hit single Dragula and that he looked like he desperately needed a decontamination shower ala Meryl Streep in Silkwood. It was Tuesday night and my mom and I had gone into town to rent DVDs since Tuesday was when the new DVDs are released. The new release section like many big box video stores prior to the advent of Netflix and On Demand, had walls of new releases with entire rows dedicated to copies of each new film. There were three rows of cases for a movie called House Of 1000 Corpses.
In the pre-Youtube era, one usually would only see trailers for more obscure movies in the previews before other obscure movies. Suffice to say, I had never heard of it. I went to grab a copy (you would grab a security case with the DVD you take home which was behind the case the for the DVD). Thing is every single one of the cases didn’t have anything behind them. It was just several rows of House Of 1000 Corpses with no rental copies to take. We went over and asked about why there were no copies? Turns out the store was keeping all of the copies of the actual DVD behind the desk for security purposes because they felt that the explicit content combined with the delinquent nature of Rob Zombie fans made it an exceptionally high risk for theft.
Obviously I had to see this movie! A movie so violent and gory that the corporate buttholes that owned this chain video store felt the need to keep it behind the desk. I took it home and (for reasons I later question) watched it with my mother. Suffice to say watching it with my mom was a bad idea. Overall I thought the movie was bizzare, violent and not out and out bad like some other horror flicks I had the displeasure of viewing. But I wasn’t sure that it was very good either.
A couple of years later I came across The Devil’s Rejects and figured I would give it a go. I didn’t really catch on that it was a sequel to House, but figured I had grown in the subsequent years that I might feel differently about Zombie’s style and gave it a shot. Suffice to say I was utterly blown away, and rushed to rent his first flick again to give it a second chance.
By 2005 I had become much more well rounded in my tastes and understood movies a lot better then when I had originally viewed Zombie’s debut effort. While I wasn’t about to go out and declare House the greatest horror movie ever. Not by a long shot. It had many flaws. But at that point I understood more of the references, understood a lot more about grindhouse, exploitation, and 1970s horror. I would however definitely say that the Firefly movies were among my favourites for movies released post 9/11 which marked a turning point in horror. This was when the remake machine really kicked into high gear, and also the era of “torture porn” which many apply to Hostel and Saw but was more aptly applied to movies imitating them like Turistas and Captivity.
So when word got out that Rob Zombie would be helming the remake of John Carpenter’s masterpiece Halloween I stayed far far away from it. I was at this point decidedly against remakes since it was apparent the success of remakes like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn Of The Dead and Amittyville Horror were beginning to herald in shitty attempts at cashing in on beloved classics. The theatrical release came and went. My good friend’s older brother, a devout horror fan and the person who introduced me to Halloween and it’s sequels when I was 13 told me that the remake was actually an incredibly interesting and enjoyable film. It didn’t try and rehash the original with a bigger budget and gorier effects. Instead it played out almost like a fanfic. Telling a possible origin story as to why The Shape return to Haddonfield after killing his family 15 years prior.
At this point the Halloween franchise had given us The Cult Of The Thorn, The return and death of Laurie Strode Tyra Banks being murdered by Myers. What more could possibly be done to shit on the legacy of the original. But still quite scarred by the bullshit that was Resurrection, I avoided it. In fact the second film in Zombie’s Halloween sequence came out to theaters and hit video and I still hadn’t checked it out. Finally years later in 2009 I decided to check them both out.
After watching both films I have to say I was blown away. I really fucking enjoyed them. The key to my enjoyment was pretty much zero expectations. They were never going to be better then Halloween and Halloween II. It was never going to happen. Having accepted that I really enjoyed the movies. They were pretty much an imagining of what would actually happen when a little boy pick up a knife and kills his sister. Having grown up in a small town with plenty of white trash in it, I don’t tend to find many of his characters as unrealistic as many people do. I knew plenty of families where there was a hard working well meaning mom and scum bag father. I loved the origin story aspect.
And by taking the plot of the original and creating an ultra violent redux, the movie created it’s own original spin on the story. The same can be said for the opening of the sequel. While in the original Halloween II we take off exactly where we left off and spend pretty much the entire movie in the hospital, instead we are treated to an ultra violent redux which is revealed to actually be a dream. I mean I am sorry after all Laurie had been through in the original, she wouldn’t have then been taken to a hospital so poorly secured that it was easily over taken by Michael.
People’s opinions of his films pretty much seem to center on the fact that his movies have been given enough publicity and staying power because Rob Zombie is a brand since he has spent so many years in the public eye as a musician. But at the end of the day, these films are all still heads and tails above other genre faves in respect to acting, production value, effects and style.
I mean I am sorry but horror fans hold so many 1970s Italian horror movies up to be classic cinema. Can you really tell me that his movies are better then half the crap produced in the 90s? Can you really say that Sherri Moon Zombie’s acting is so bad it detracts from the film? I mean even the acting in untouchable classics like Suspiria are no better then any of the work done in Zombie’s ouvre (not that I am comparing his movies to Suspiria just the acting).
Rob Zombie never set out to be Hitchcock. He set out to make movies he loves. And while he may not be the crowned king of genre homage like Tarantino, he is still doing work that is 1000 times more stylish and interesting then pretty much 75% of the horror produced in the past 10 years. Everyone bitches now because we have the internet and a place to do so. But in 25 years, his work will be touch stones for many of the directors working. And everyone who keeps hating on him will be the proverbial Comic Book Guy…
NOTE FROM HOMODROME: I didn’t include The Lords Of Salem in this because I have yet to see it. And I didn’t include Super Beasto because
No T No Shade realistically it is more of a special feature on steroids, then a proper feature film on it’s own.