The Films of Rob Zombie
House of 1,000 Corpses (April 17/03)
The movie that no studio wanted... and with good reason. Rob Zombie's directorial debut is a mess, plain and simple. This wretched film is clearly meant to evoke the spirit of '70s shock flicks like Last House on the Left and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but Zombie doesn't seem to know a thing about ambience or tension; he revels in excess. The storyline is simple enough - four kids driving across the country wind up terrorized by a maniacal family - but Zombie's determined to pack in as much as he possibly can. It's as if he knew he'd never get another opportunity to direct a film, so instead of creating a movie that's actually about something, he's taken a variety of ideas and mashed them together - without a worry about coherence. Everything about House of 1,000 Corpses is over-the-top - from the acting to the dialogue to the set design - to such an extent that the film eventually becomes an annoyance. For a movie that purports to be a return to terrifying horror, there's absolutely nothing here that's even remotely scary. Zombie knows how to shock an audience, there's no denying that, but he hasn't a clue how to create believable characters or an atmosphere of fear. House of 1,000 Corpses is, in the end, like a funhouse ride that refuses to end - it may have been initially interesting, but after about ten minutes of excessive visual stimulation, enough is enough.
The Devil's Rejects (July 20/05)
Though The Devil's Rejects is undoubtedly a much better film than House of 1,000 Corpses - writer/director Rob Zombie's first effort - the movie suffers from distinctly uneven pacing and occasional bursts of comedy that just come off as silly and unnecessary. Picking up where House of 1,000 Corpses left off, The Devil's Rejects follows the Firefly clan - Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), and Mother Firefly (Leslie Easterbrook) - as they continue their reign of terror and mayhem. Meanwhile, Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe) - whose brother was killed by the Fireflys - is hot on their trail and doesn't intend to let a few pesky legal issues stop him from putting an end to their murderous shenanigans. While The Devil's Rejects does contain a number of genuinely creepy moments - particularly the sequence in which a hapless maid stumbles upon the mess left by the Firefly family - Zombie bogs things down with a plethora of broadly-played, overly wacky supporting characters. As a result, the vibe of gritty realism that Zombie's clearly striving for is consistently undermined by these idiotic digressions that don't seem to serve any real purpose other than to pad out the film's runtime. Having said that, Zombie's quirky directorial choices and effective use of '70s rock songs - coupled with some exceedingly effective performances among the central cast members, particularly Haig and Forsythe (this is despite a few really bad choices the latter makes towards the end) - ensure that The Devil's Rejects remains somewhat engaging throughout. Should Zombie attempt to turn the exploits of the Firefly family into a trilogy, here's hoping the filmmaker drops the needless emphasis on humor and instead focuses on the inherently horrific aspects of these characters and their shenanigans.
Halloween (October 13/07)
Rob Zombie's utterly misguided take on John Carpenter's seminal horror flick is entirely devoid of any of the elements that made the original such a memorable piece of work, and indeed, there's little doubt that the movie ultimately fares even worse than any of Halloween's seven sequels (those druids are looking pretty darn good right about now). The now-notorious decision to focus on Michael Myers' abusive upbringing proves to be disastrous, as Zombie infuses such scenes with precisely the sort of sleazy sensibility he's become known for - ensuring that the majority of Halloween's first half plays like an over-the-top parody of a Rob Zombie flick (right down the casting of William Forsythe as a redneck idiot). One might've been able to overlook such shenanigans had the movie's second half - in which Myers' embarks on his inevitable killing spree - contained even a single effective sequence, but there's little doubt that Zombie's uniformly poor directorial choices (his use of shaky camerawork is just out of control) firmly cancel out Halloween's few positive attributes. That Myers has inexplicably been transformed into a hulking psychopath stands as Zombie's most poorly-conceived innovation, though Malcolm McDowell's entirely underwhelming work as Dr. Loomis is extraordinarily disappointing in its own right (Loomis as a hippie? Really?) The inclusion of a finale that feels absolutely endless certainly doesn't help matters, and - bottom line - there's no denying that the movie will force even the most ardent Halloween fan to question what it was about this series they ever liked (it's just that bad).
Halloween II (November 25/13)
The nadir of both the Halloween series and Rob Zombie's filmography, Halloween II picks up immediately after the events of its predecessor and follows Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) as he resumes his pursuit of Scout Taylor-Compton's Laurie Strode. It's clear immediately that Zombie isn't looking to offer up a conventional slasher picture, as the writer/director has infused Halloween II with a pervasively (and persistently) avant-garde sensibility that's nothing short of disastrous - with the film's proliferation of head-scratching elements (eg what's up with that white horse?) transforming it into a seriously interminable experience virtually from the word go. The movie's unwatchable atmosphere is perpetuated by Zombie's stunningly inept directorial choices, with, in particular, the filmmaker's inability (or refusal) to offer up a single coherent action sequence ranking high on the movie's list of transgressions (ie such moments have been suffused with needless instances of cinematic trickery, including shaky camerawork, rapid-fire editing, and choppy slow motion). There is, as a result, never a point at which the viewer is even partially drawn into the proceedings, and it goes without saying that Halloween II is completely and utterly devoid of the qualities that made John Carpenter's 1978 original such a superlative piece of work. By the time the laughably misguided "twist" ending rolls around, Halloween II has definitively established itself as a thoroughly reprehensible waste of time that, one can only hope, marks the end of this once-promising horror franchise.
no stars out of