Rob Zombie movies are ... divisive, to say the least. Scroll through any batch of comments, whether they be in articles about his movies or trailers for his films on YouTube, and you'll find people either passionately defending the man's work or passionately decrying him as the death of cinema. Me, I float toward the former category.
He's not a perfect filmmaker, but when I was a teen I saw his episode of MTV Cribs and watched this relaxed weirdo talk about loving horror and horror movies, and not caring about what anyone thought. That SPOKE to me, as usually "be yourself" advice came from typical celebrities, and very rarely felt applicable to me, a skinny kid who really liked 1930s Universal Monster flicks. And I just happen to really like some of Zombie's movies, so that helps my opinion of him as well.
In the spirit of Halloween, let's take a look back at Zombie's odd oeuvre, and see which films are worth revisiting in this most sacred of seasons, and which films might be better left alone.
The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)
The Haunted World of El Superbeasto is Zombie's most disappointing film. It's got a huge array of voice talent (Paul Giamatti! Rosario Dawson! Tom Kenny! Basically every Rob Zombie cast member ever!) and the animation is fun and colorful, but the script is lackluster and the jokes don't land as much as they need to, turning the brisk 75-minute runtime into a slog at points.
However, the production history for Superbeasto was a hassle and was plagued by animation delays and legal issues. So it sounds like Zombie had anything but a superblasto making it.
Partially the result of an extensive crowdfunding campaign, 31 is a mess. It's got a great performance by Richard Brake (who, after Halloween II and 3 From Hell, is becoming a Zombie film staple), and there's some impressive gore. Also, it's got Malcolm McDowell, Judy Gleeson, and Jane Carr dressed like Victorian-era aristocrats with powdered faces and wigs talking about death games. I would watch way more movies if they all just cut to that every once in a while.
But, for the most part, 31 feels like someone drunkenly describing a better Rob Zombie movie to you. The script is mostly split up between lackluster heroes, villainous monologuing, and redneck shrieking, and it attempts to find a Devil's Rejects-esque mix of gruesomeness and midnight movie charm, but falls drastically short.
Werewolf Women of the SS (2007)
For years, I thought that Werewolf Women of the SS, Rob Zombie's fake trailer in the middle of the Planet Terror/Death Proof double feature, was too ludicrous to be actually based on anything. It just seemed like a goofy excuse to have Nicolas Cage yell about his "Mecca."
And then I began renting movies from a video store near my college campus, and after sifting through DVDs in the cult horror and exploitation section, oh boy, I was totally wrong. Werewolf Women of the SS takes those movies up to the next degree, but Zombie does a nice job of honoring some of the weirdest stuff that "grind house" theaters had to offer.
3 From Hell (2019)
3 From Hell, the long awaited sequel to The Devil's Rejects, doesn't really need to exist. The "Freebird" infused climax of Rejects was the perfect send-off for the Firefly Clan, and so 3 From Hell never rises above being a sort of epilogue to that movie. At its worst, it seems redundant, but at its best, it's Rob Zombie DLC.
That said, Zombie's decision to see what would happen to his famous creations when put behind bars is probably the most inspired part of the movie and leads to its most memorable scenes. The second half of the film, however, plays like a Rejects remix, and makes you wonder why he bothered resurrecting Otis, Baby, and Captain Spaulding at all.
House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Zombie's feature film debut is a mess, but it's a good kind of mess, blending styles and tones together in a way that seems ridiculously jarring when it doesn't work, but fresh and fun when it does.
The whole film feels like a carnival ride, with bizarre characters popping up to threaten and eviscerate the group of teens that sadly happened to cross their paths. And in the end, it showed that Zombie definitely had a vision for his work, even if he didn't quite know how to put all the pieces of that vision together.
Rob Zombie's Halloween remake, which has become the go-to flick to point fingers at whenever you want to prove why horror remakes are often useless, is a conflicted work.
The first half, which features Michael Myers' killing spree as a child and his time spent in an asylum as an adult, is obviously the more engaging half, even if a portion of it is mostly spent on unlikable people cursing at each other. And the second half is basically a remake of John Carpenter's original film, where Zombie seems to be checking off Michael Myers bullet points rather than creating an original film that he enjoys.
So half of it is good, but the half that you find good depends specifically on what you want out of a Halloween remake.
The Devil's Rejects (2005)
First of all, I'm sorry. I love The Devil's Rejects, and I know that it's in the #1 spot for many Zombie fans. And a few years ago, I would've put it in that slot, too. Because it's a legitimately good horror film, filled with tense, terrifying moments, quotable dialogue, and three of Zombie's most macabre, wonderful characters in their prime. However, my tastes in Zombie's movies have shifted, so it's not that I like Rejects any less. It's that, right now, I like these next two films more.
The Lords of Salem (2012)
The final two films on this list stand out in Zombie's filmography for their thematic (and visual) similarities. After spending the first decade of his movie career crafting epic odes to colorful murderers and vicious monsters, Zombie took the time to create two films about healing, or at least attempts by his characters to heal.
The Lords of Salem deals with a woman that's a recovering drug addict and the sinister, supernatural forces that plague her. And for the most part, it's a quiet, beautifully shot story about recovery and how difficult that can be. After seemingly using everyone that isn't a deranged killer as cannon fodder for said deranged killers, Zombie shows real empathy for his fictional characters and gives us a movie that, even at its most clunky moments, is fascinating.
Halloween II (2009)
The first of Zombie's two movies that deal with how people attempt to move on from trauma and their personal demons, Halloween II is a brutal, tear-and-blood-soaked installment in the over 40-year-old franchise. It ups Michael Myers' penchant for gore and sees the behemoth crushing heads, stabbing copiously, and flipping cars. And it also plays with Zombie's interest in supernatural horror, an interest that would seemingly culminate in the aforementioned Lords of Salem.
With dreamlike imagery, fantastic special effects by Wayne Toth, a ripped mask that, frankly, looks rad, and an adamant effort at actually diving into Laurie Strode's mental state following her horrendous attack, Halloween II has become my favorite Rob Zombie film. You'll likely disagree with its placement here, but I at least hope you'll consider giving it a rewatch. It's not bad, y'all.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBCUniversal.