August 31st marked the 14th anniversary of Rob Zombie’s Halloween, the biggest hit of the musician / filmmaker’s directorial career – so this seemed like the perfect time to take a look back at all of the movies he has made, from House of 1000 Corpses, which is closing in on its 20th anniversary, to his most recent, 3 from Hell. As Zombie gears up to go into production on his next film, an update of the classic sitcom The Munsters, here’s a list of some of the Best Scenes from his movies to date.
HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003): HOME VISIT
Rob Zombie’s feature directorial debut House of 1000 Corpses had to overcome production issues, distribution problems, and lost footage on the way to reaching theatres two years later than expected, and the result is one wacky, choppy flick with some incredible performances. The best scene comes when police officers (Tom Towles and Walton Goggins) go to the home of the homicidal Firefly clan in search of a group of missing youths. If things went well, this could have been the happy ending – but instead, it’s a total disaster. As things fall apart and corpses are discovered, Slim Whitman kicks in on the soundtrack and Mother Firefly (Karen Black) and Otis B. Driftwood (Bill Moseley) bring out their guns. It ends with a long, silent crane shot as we wait… and wait… for the last bullet to be fired.
THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005): BANJO & SULLIVAN
House of 1000 Corpses did well enough for distributor Lionsgate that they asked Zombie for a sequel, and the result was the film that I still consider to be his masterpiece, The Devil’s Rejects. Otis B. Driftwood, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), and Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie) hit the road with a vengeful lawman (William Forsythe) on their trail, but while on the run they still take the time to torment innocent victims. This includes Otis leading country duo Banjo & Sullivan (Lew Temple and Geoffrey Lewis) out into the desert to execute them in one of the most disturbing of the film’s many disturbing scenes. The intended victims fight and pray, but don’t stand a chance against Otis, who taunts them the whole way.
GRINDHOUSE (2007): WEREWOLF WOMEN OF THE SS
This is a bit of a cheat, because Rob Zombie’s contribution to the 2007 Robert Rodriguez / Quentin Tarantino double feature Grindhouse wasn’t a scene, it was one of the faux trailers that was sandwiched between the two films. But given that it was one of his coolest filmmaking endeavors, it has to be acknowledged. Tasked with creating a trailer for a non-existent grindhouse movie, Zombie came up with Werewolf Women of the SS, revealing the truth about Project Pure Wolf, Hitler’s plan to create an army of werewolf soldiers. A lot of insanity was packed into only a few minutes of footage, and Zombie didn’t just drop werewolves into a torture-filled, Ilsa-style Nazisploitation set-up, he also gave Nicolas Cage a cameo as Fu Manchu. I kind of want to see Zombie turn Werewolf Women of the SS into a feature, yet at the same time I fear such a thing would melt our brains.
HALLOWEEN (2007): MYERS HOUSE CLIMAX
Rob Zombie’s remake of the 1978 John Carpenter classic Halloween is sort of an awkward mash-up; an attempt to give Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) a more “real world” serial killer background then makes way for a sped-up rehash of the Carpenter film. Still, there are some great, brutal slasher moments throughout, and it builds up to a lengthy climactic sequence set in the crumbling, long-abandoned house Myers lived in as a child. The killer takes his teen sister Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) – who has no idea she’s his sister – back to their home, then proceeds to scare and beat the hell out of her while pursuing her throughout the place. A standout moment involves Laurie hiding in a ceiling while Myers, on the floor below, uses a board to bust the plaster out from under her.
HALLOWEEN II (2009): BRACKETT FINDS ANNIE
The trippiest, most unusual entry in the Halloween franchise finds a raggedy, bearded Michael Myers, who doesn’t have much of a mask left to put on his face, seeing visions of his mother and a white horse while continuing to pursue his younger sister Laurie, who now has serious issues of her own. Zombie really wanted to focus on the emotional and psychological damage the Myers mayhem inflicted on his characters – and beyond the screaming and crying, the most effective moment comes when Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) finds that his daughter Annie has been attacked by Myers for a second time, and this time hasn’t survived. Brackett breaks down and cries out, then the audio is replaced by somber music as the father has flashbacks of his murdered daughter when she was a smiling, happy child. This is made all the more effective by the fact that Annie is played by Danielle Harris, who the viewer also remembers as a child, from Halloween 4 and 5. Zombie has done the “flashback to better times” thing multiple times, but this was my favorite example of it.
THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO (2009): GENRE ICON CAMEOS
The Haunted World of El Superbeasto doesn’t often get mentioned as part of Zombie’s filmography. It seems like it has either been forgotten, or people don’t realize he was so involved with the making of it that he received the sole directing credit on this animated feature about a monster-smashing luchador (voiced by Tom Papa). If it has been forgotten, it’s easy to understand why: there’s not much to it other than an onslaught of juvenile humor and a lot of cartoon nudity. The most fun thing about the movie is the amount of genre icons that make cameo appearances, and I’ll leave it up to the individual viewer to pick their favorite. Michael Myers being hit by a car? Leatherface, The Fly, Jack Torrance, and The Bride in a bar? Jason Voorhees and a xenomorph waiting in a line? Otis B. Driftwood hitting on Tura Satana? Captain Spaulding hitting on El Superbeasto’s sister Suzi X? Suzi busting up the Werewolf Women of the SS? My favorite icon is Jason, so I’m going with that one.
THE LORDS OF SALEM (2012): AUTHOR MEETS THE WITCHES
The Lords of Salem may be Zombie’s most underrated film, an attempt to do something very different from his previous work. The trippy visions in Halloween II were just a warm-up for the insanity on display in this one, in which a curse placed on a bloodline during the Salem witch trials comes to fruition in modern Salem. The key to it all is the music on a vinyl record delivered to troubled DJ Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) – and when author Francis (Bruce Davison) figures out what the music is, he goes to talk to Heidi about it. Unfortunately for him, Heidi’s landlady (Judy Geeson) and her pals (Patricia Quinn and Dee Wallace) happen to be witches, and this meeting doesn’t go well for him. But it is quite fun to watch these actors interact with each other for a few minutes.
31 (2016): IN HELL, EVERYBODY LOVES POPCORN
I guess it’s appropriate that a musician / filmmaker would put out a movie that feels like the cinematic equivalent of a greatest hits album, but 31 still isn’t very satisfying. Memorable elements from Rob Zombie’s previous films get mixed together and dropped into a very simple, Running Man knock-off story where people are hunted through a warehouse by hired killers while a group of weirdos make bets. The killer called Doom Head (Richard Brake) managed to become a fan favorite, and while I feel that he comes off as being more ridiculous than interesting, I do have to admit that his opening monologue is a great way to get things started.
3 FROM HELL (2019): THE BLACK SATANS
Speaking of greatest hits movies… 14 years after appearing to kill off the Firefly clan, Zombie resurrected Baby, Otis, and Captain Spaulding for 3 from Hell – a movie that mirrors The Devil’s Rejects in a lot of ways, but replaces Spaulding with long-lost family member Foxy (Richard Brake) along the way. The movie doesn’t fully prove its worth until late in the running time, when the titular three hole up in a small Mexican town and find themselves on the bad side of a crime lord called Aquarius (Emilio Rivera). Some Iron Butterfly leads us into a sequence where the three have to use blades, bullets, and arrows to battle machine gun-wielding luchadors called the Black Satans.
THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005): FREE BIRD
Looking back over Rob Zombie’s filmmaking career, one scene stands high above all others as the most memorable scene he has ever brought to the screen – and when his career is over, this scene will probably still be at the top. It’s the climax of The Devil’s Rejects, a five and half minute sequence set to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic “Free Bird”. Battered and bloody, the last three members of the Firefly clan take their final ride through the countryside, heading toward a police roadblock. This should have been the end for these characters, but their resurrection in 3 from Hell still doesn’t ruin the ending of The Devil’s Rejects.