The Horror Honeys: So a Director You Hate Made a Movie You Love... Now What?

So a Director You Hate Made a Movie You Love... Now What?

A Revenge Honey Defense of a Generally Hated Film by Linnie

I've never made any secret of the fact that I have no use for Rob Zombie in any capacity. His music has never appealed to me on any level, as I always felt it was more about style than substance. Then when Zombie released his first film as a director, House of 1000 Corpses (2003), I felt it was very much guilty of the same offense. Yes, the movie was interesting to look at, but it just felt like a pastiche of about a hundred other, significantly better, horror films.

When House's sequel rolled out in 2005, The Devil's Rejects, I was more convinced than ever that Zombie wasn't capable of a truly original idea. Everything about Rejects made it seem as if he had spent the last two years watching nothing but 70s road/crime dramas and gritty revenge horror, which resulted in another patchwork of recycled ideas. Was The Devil's Rejects effective? Of course. It was violent and grotesque, featuring some genuinely memorable performances. But nothing about it felt authentic. I was beginning to feel like there was no chance that Rob Zombie would ever create a product that was entirely his own. And then he remade Halloween.

Listen, I am NOT an anti-remake freak. I don't automatically flip out just because a director is remaking a film that I love. But if you're going to remake an absolute classic, you HAVE to do something amazing, even better, with your version. And nothing about Zombie's Halloween said "new or improved" to me. We were provided a backstory that explained away anything truly frightening about Michael Myers and that was the total lack of explanation for his psychopathy (and let's be honest... that story was likely written just to provide a role for Zombie's wife, Sherri Moon. NEPOTISM!). But worst of all, it was nearly impossible to connect to any of the main characters because everyone unlikable, yet Zombie's Myers was so utterly deplorable and awful that it felt viscerally wrong to root for him. By the end of Halloween, I vowed that I was forever done with the films of Rob Zombie.

Ahhh, feels good to be done.

However, it's funny what going all squishy about a person will do to you. And when the object of my squishiness insisted that I watch Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem (2012), I was powerless to resist. So I watched Lords. Then I watched it again to be sure. And while every fiber of my being is screaming out in protest, it has to be said: I truly believe that The Lords of Salem is an art house masterpiece that has been rejected by critics because of its director and rejected by (most) of Rob Zombie's fans because... art house masterpiece.

None of this is to say that Zombie's influences aren't once again readily apparent: shades of Cronenberg and Kubrick and Polanski are urrrrrverywhere in The Lords of Salem. From Rosemary's Baby and The Shining to The Tenant and The Brood, much of Zombie's film does feel eerily familiar. But in this case, it's all familiar in the best possible way. It helps that Lords is supported by a phenomenal cast, including Dee Wallace, Patricia Quinn, Judy Geeson, and Bruce Davison. Even Sheri Moon's shall we say... minimalist acting style... is perfect for this film, in which she portrays a hippie, free-spirited alt rock DJ with a past tied to that of Salem's witches.

Much has also been made of the fact that The Lords of Salem is highly anti-religion and to that I say...

This shot gives me a nerd boner.
Yes, it is blatantly obvious almost immediately that Rob Zombie isn't lining up for Sunday mass. But what of it? A hell of a lot more so-called "religious" films come out every year and I sure as shit am not buying tickets for those, because they don't interest me. But with The Lords of Salem, Rob Zombie has crafted a gorgeously skeptical piece of atheist cinema that not only calls out Christianity for its hypocrisy, but also for its centuries of institutionalized murder. If that offends you, then don't see the damn movie. At this point, I'm quite sure that those who get their fur all ruffled when a movie about WITCHES craps on the Bible don't even blip on Rob Zombie's radar. Frankly, that is one area in which he and I have a lot in common.

Plus he has them. I want them too.

So yes, I love The Lords of Salem. I think it's terrifying and beautiful and so chock full of brutal and existential imagery that my black heart fluttered with joy. But I also truly believe that Zombie will probably never, EVER make another movie like this again. Why do I believe that? You. Us. Everyone. We have made it impossible for him to ever make a piece of truly experimental cinema ever, for fear of receiving the kind of bitter and bile-soaked vitriol that was hurled at him upon The Lords of Salem's release. Basically, on the day this movie came out, this is how I picture Rob Zombie:

Critics ripped it apart for not being scary enough, or laziest of all, boring. As if every film made by a horror director has to be a Friday the 13th sequel. Fans crucified Zombie (ironically, if you've seen the film) because apparently they only wanted another Firefly family film and weren't willing to think or be challenged. All of this unnecessarily negative feedback is enough to beat the creativity out of even the most seasoned experimental filmmaker, but when you are a director making your first tentative baby steps into the world of art film? I'd probably run screaming back to crappy slasher films and (shiver) a clown movie too.

But I know you're capable of MORE now, godsdamnit!

So no, I don't have high hopes for 31. And given my clinically diagnosed case of coulrophobia, it's highly unlikely that I would see it anyway. But the fact is, now that I KNOW Rob Zombie is capable of more, it breaks my heart a little that he will probably never be able to make a film like The Lords of Salem again. Do I still think Rob Zombie is the worst? A little. But The Lords of Salem might be one of my new favorite films. So in the future, when YOUR favorite director decides to try something new, don't be an ass about it. Every director, even when they're the worst, deserves a chance to be truly creative.