When I first heard that Rob Zombie was going to make a horror film I thought, “What’s this singer doing making movies? I bet it’s going to suck.” Being the horror fan that I am, I watched a little film called House of 1000 Corpses anyway and, much to my surprise, it did not suck. It was released in 2003 and held its own against the likes of Saw, Freddy Vs. Jason, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre among other recognizable titles.
House of 1000 Corpses made me a Rob Zombie fan but he has been chipping away at my fandom ever since.
I recently watch 31, which is Mr. Zombie’s newest film in his filmography, and it made me finally realize something about Zombie’s legacy so far. Rob Zombie is similar to a comedian who tells a really funny joke, the kind that stops you from breathing it is so funny, but then keeps adding onto the joke until it isn’t funny anymore. The ideas behind his films are borderline brilliant, but the execution leaves something to be desired. Even his follow-up to House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects, fell flat from what it could have been. It was a continuation of the 1000 Corpses story, but it made the characters too human and felt more like a road trip movie than the brutal horror film it was supposed to be. It was like Britney Spears’ Crossroads except with a shootout at the end.
It leads one to question what Rob Zombie’s long-term legacy will be in the horror industry. Is it too late for him to redeem himself or can he right the boat? First, he needs to stop casting his wife in every movie. Sure, she is attractive and is not the worst actress ever to grace the screen, but so are most other horror actresses. It seemed like, in 31, Zombie went out of his way to cast older actors in order to make Sherri Moon Zombie, who is in her mid-40s, look younger.
The other thing Zombie needs to do is rely less on gore and flesh out his ideas more before filming starts. His ideas are great, House of 1000s Corpses was a Texas Chainsaw Massacre for a new generation of desensitized kids, his take on Halloween made Michael Myers more of an everyday serial killer than a supernatural night stalker, and even the idea behind 31 was a good one, but the execution was just not great. The plot centers around a group of people who are kidnapped and taken to some kind of warehouse to be hunted (original right?). The problem with 31 is that it just wasn’t explained well enough in the film. You get the who, you get the what, but you really don’t understand the when, why, and how. If he could have added another 5 minutes of background to the one hour and 42-minute runtime along with rewriting a lazy ending, this movie may have left me feeling entirely different.
It is not like Zombie has crashed and burned, either. His friendship with long-time horror legends like Sid Haig and Bill Moseley continues to deliver us spine-chilling performances. Zombie is also a master at the soundtrack. He loves to pepper his movies with light-hearted and upbeat songs from the 60s and 70s through his films, which creates a strange juxtaposition that you don’t immediately notice but makes the scenes stick with you just a little longer.
It is impossible to argue that Rob Zombie isn’t creative. His songs have a way of telling their own story, and his stories will leave an everlasting impression on you. At only 52-years-old, Zombie has plenty of time to right the ship and firmly plant his feet in the halls of horror immortality. At this time, Zombie does not have any projects announced but, hopefully, that means that he is taking his time to give us something really special.