Rob Zombie: 'I Love Stories About Dark, Damaged People'
Rob Zombie's 2007 remake of Halloween became a surprise hit, taking in $60 million at the box office and reinvigorating a stale franchise with a unique spin that explored the childhood origins of the Man in the Shatner Mask. Its sequel, Halloween II, opens today on 3,000 screens, and marks the fourth feature-film outing for the Grammy-winning metal maestro-turned-director. In a recent conversation with Movieline, Zombie talked about the nightmare of making the first Halloween and his hesitation in coming back for seconds: Pity the horror auteur contractually obligated to carve up a nubile teen once per reel, when all he really wants to do is get inside her head.
I understand you were reluctant to do the sequel for a while and then you changed your mind. What happened?
Couple things. I wasn't so much reluctant -- making Halloween had been a fairly miserable experience, for one, so I didn't really feel like, "Oh yeah, I wanna jump right back in and do a sequel." I kind of wanted to get away from it.
Why? What happened?
I don't know. Movies are weird things. Sometimes you have an experience on a movie where everything goes right, and it's a wonderful experience. And sometimes, it can be the same group of people, and everything goes wrong all the time, and it's a miserable experience. It's just weird -- like the movie gods weren't smiling on you those days.
The Terry Gilliam Curse.
Yeah! When I saw Lost in La Mancha, I was like, I know that feeling! What else could fucking go wrong?! You know. Literally when everything goes wrong all the time you don't even know if you're going to survive the day, let alone the movie. I mean that's always an extreme case. But then I got away from the movie for a year-and-a-half or so, and read that these guys were doing the movie. It was already gone, whatever, out of my life. And then it fell apart, and I had started reading what other people might do with it, and started feeling very protective. Like, "Hey -- that's my Dr. Loomis! That's my Michael Myers!" And I didn't want anyone else getting in there, and that's when I decided to come back and do another one. And in a way, right the wrongs of what I did last time.
What were your perceived wrongs of the first?
Well, it wasn't really a wrong so much as I pitched the movie as two movies. I was like, let's make the first movie young Michael Myers, up through Smith's Grove Sanitarium, he breaks out and goes home and boom, the movie ends. And if you do carry on a second film, that could be Michael Myers in Haddonfield doing whatever. And I really couldn't convince anyone at the time that was a good idea, even though I'd tried, so then I sort of felt the whole time I was trying to force two movies into one. And I think when you watch you kind of feel like it, 'cause it's all this, and suddenly it's that.
And another thing that's wrong for me is -- it seems insane to talk about what's wrong with something when it's a number one movie and was a big hit, but I can't help it, because that stuff doesn't matter to me -- the first half of the movie was so my world, and my thing, and I felt so invested in it. The second half was sort of me doing John Carpenter, and I never felt like I could sink my heart into it. Not consciously, but you realize, you know -- these are now characters that he created.
What are the differences in your approach to material like that?
Well, I don't know John well enough to know John, or what he'd do. But I usually write from what I know. There's almost never been a character in one of my movies that isn't exactly based on something that's happened to me, isn't what I think, or isn't somebody I know. No matter how disgusting or outrageous the characters are, I take them from my life, and what I know. And I didn't know Laurie Strode and those people. They were just, like, characters. I wouldn't have created those characters.
Whereas in Halloween II, I took Laurie Strode and Annie Brackett and bent them into people I know, and it was much easier to make them live and breathe on screen, for me. I guess I could have done that the first time around, but somehow I felt that I had to do a certain amount of "this is what Halloween is." Because if you're remaking a movie, you don't want to change it too much. Nobody made me. I could have not had Dr. Loomis, I could have not had Laurie Strode. They didn't care if Michael Myers wore the mask! But I thought like, well, that seemed like a little too much of the Halloween legacy to do that, so I didn't want to do that.
Does Halloween II spend more time following Laurie's psychological journey?
It's sort of about everybody. It's the journey of three people. It's the aftermath with the journey of Laurie, Dr. Loomis and Michael -- how they all collide. We really follow all three characters, and Laurie Strode's decent into madness as being part of the Myers family.
Are you finding it easier to make movies with each progressive movie? Did it come to you naturally to start with?
I don't know if it ever gets easier. Sometimes I think maybe things get harder, because each time you make a movie you feel like if it's not better than the last movie, you've failed? Like, you're always trying to make things better. That's why trying to do anything with art can drive you crazy, because you're never satisfied. You want to do it again. Then you throw yourself right back into it, and you're like, "Why am I doing this again -- it made me so miserable last time." But I can't help myself! But it's easier in the sense that, for me, the endgame is that once you get into editing, that's what you have. So you get better at knowing what you're going to need when you get there.
House of 1000 Corpses I didn't realize that, so by the time we got to editing, I was like, "Jesus Christ -- we barely have enough here to make a movie! What are we gonna do?!" So in The Devil's Rejects, I was like -- okay, not going to make that mistake again, so I had that. You just start learning how to do stuff, but you never master it. You see genius filmmakers, and every once in a while you're like, "Really? So n' so made that? That movie's horrible!" But, you know, it happens. There's so many, I don't know what the phrase is, but on a movie a thousand things have to go right to make it work, and only one thing has to go wrong to fuck it up. And you just find that every second of the day.
Where do you see yourself going next?
I love dark material, but not necessarily horror-related. I like dark, violent material, you know? More than anything else. So that's what I would like to do.
Do you think you would pull away from horror and actually just make a drama that has some very dark elements to it?
Yes. Definitely. Definitely, definitely, definitely. And a lot of times, even when I'm shooting horror movies, like this, I feel like I'm making this very dark drama about very damaged people, and I'm like, "Well, I guess we have to kill somebody now, because it's a horror movie." I get swept up in that.
It seems like it's the psychology that's driving you at this point more than gore or scares.
Yeah. I mean that's what I love. I love stories about dark, damaged people. Why, I don't know. I guess that's what I relate to.
So is there anything kicking around now?
Well I have a movie that I wrote called Tyrannosaurus Rex, that's about a washed-up prized fighter who goes to prison for killing somebody, and the story of him trying to put his life together when he gets out of prison, and that's what I want to do next. [Ed. note: Looks like T.Rex has been defeated by The Blob.]
That sounds pretty cool. Who would you put in it?
I don't know. I want to find -- well, I kinda know, but I don't want to say. Because if it doesn't work out I don't want that person to feel like, "Ohh...they didn't use me." But yeah.
How did you like The Wrestler?
See, The Wrestler is the type of thing that's so up my alley. That's the kind of movie that if somebody came to me and said, "We want you to make a movie about a washed-up wrestler and his girlfriend who's a stripper and he lives in a trailer," I'd be like, "Yes!" That's totally the type of shit I love. That's my world. That's where I come from.