When a horror director makes a string of subpar movies, fans are usually quick to cry out in agony, "THEIR FIRST FEW MOVIES WERE SO GOOD. WHY DO THEIR LATER MOVIES SUCK SO BAD? WHY DO THEY SUCK SO BAD?" Well, first off, it's not because horror directors hit 45 and decide "I know that I used to make good stuff, but maybe I should try making bad stuff." It's because the biography of every horror director is filled with the remains of the fresh projects that they wanted to make and the terrible films that they were saddled with instead.
And for the most timely version of that classic tale, let's look at the recent news surrounding Poet Laureate Robert W. Zombie.
Yesterday, the world learned that Zombie, famous for his divisive horror films and growling over industrial metal, was thinking about making another film in his House Of 1000 Corpses / The Devil's Rejects series. Most Zombie fans believe that The Devil's Rejects is his best film. (It's not. That honor goes to the first half of his Halloween remake.) So understandably, they're excited about this news. And I kind of am, too. Sure, 90 percent of the speaking roles were killed by the end of The Devil's Rejects, but this is Rob Zombie we're talking about. The Devil's Rejects 1.5 will probably deal with Elvis J. Bruckley, the homicidal owner of a horror movie antiques store, and his wife Vampira Addams Munster, played by Sheri Moon Zombie. I'll be there opening day.
However, this news does not come without a twinge of sadness. What a lot of these sites fail to note is that when Zombie considers a new film, it usually comes after the death of a more interesting project. It's been this way for the past decade. When Zombie finished Halloween, he wanted to do Tyrannosaurus Rex, a road movie which I can only imagine would be a Fireball-whiskey-soaked Mad Max. But nope, he was prodded into doing Halloween II. He wanted to make The Broad Street Bullies, a film set in the '70s about the notoriously brutish Philadelphia Flyers hockey team. That fell through, and so he made 31, which he was forced to mostly crowdfund. If you haven't seen 31, I don't want to spoil it, but I will say that it plays like someone drunkenly describing Rob Zombie's 31 to you, vomit breaks and all.
Then we got this Devil's Rejects sequel news, right when I assumed Zombie was making a Groucho Marx biopic about the last years of Groucho's life. That's so, so, so much more interesting than a House Of 500 Corpses movie. As a filmmaker, Zombie is flawed but not totally irredeemable. He has a fantastic eye for memorable visuals, but his dialogue either comes out as garbage or hillbilly catchphrases. But you absolutely cannot say that he isn't at least trying to be an intriguing filmmaker. Imagine if he'd gotten to do Tyrannosaurus Rex, or The Broad Street Bullies, or this Groucho Marx movie. Our discussions wouldn't be the same, tired "Does Rob Zombie suck now?" debates. People would give him the same grace that they give non-horror filmmakers.
Sadly, horror directors all get lumped into a "You do horror? Okay, that's all you do now" box, and then the public shits all over them when they're given no room by Hollywood to make anything original. They rarely go down in history as complicated artists. The ups and downs of their careers aren't explored with any kind of curiosity or empathy. They get no grand achievements for providing a lifetime of entertainment.
Instead they're just "Horror guys who used to be good." And that sucks.
Daniel wants to talk to you about Rob Zombie on his Twitter.
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