I have a long-standing and constantly evolving list of fantasy dinner party guests. There are the obvious ones-Stephen Fry, Sandi Toksvig, Sue Perkins-and there are the pretty ones-Leigh Whannel, Shiloh Fernandez, Christopher Ecclestone (swoon)-and then there are the ones whose brains I’d take great pleasure in picking. These vary from day-to-day (the only constant is Stephen King) but one definite introduction to the table is Rob Zombie.
I know shag all about his music-don’t care, don’t want to-but his films are a different kettle of giblets. He directed the pointless but very good Halloween remake, as well as the House of 1000 Corpses/The Devil’s Rejects duo and his recent release Lords of Salem. Now, House of 1000 Corpses is a film which I can understand issue with-hardcore mega-schlock bordering on jet-black humour is a difficult one to sell, but I loved it (for anyone who has seen it-“BEHOLD! FISH-BOY!”). The balls-to-the-wall energy of Sheri-Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, and Sid Haig sold it as the Chainsaw-Massacre-y Firefly family, and the greasy, sweaty aesthetic makes your toes curl. Then The Devil’s Rejects happened.
The Devil’s Rejects is one of my all-time top ten movies. It’s a gleeful subscription to every eighties exploitation flick you’ve ever seen and then some, carrying on the story of the brutal Firefly clan and their escape from the enroaching cops. It’s part road movie, part superviolent slasher, part police procedural, part revenge movie, with dialogue so sharp you could hunt deer with it and the sort of visuals Tarantino would piss himself for. The ending, too- no spoilers here, but suffice to say the ending flips the whole damn thing on it’s head and remains to this day one of the most kick-arse shootouts in movie history. Not for the faint-hearted but for those with sturdier cardiovascular systems it’s a riot.
I really loved Lords of Salem too, though I won’t say too much about it here-a much weightier role for the deliciously husky Sheri-Moon Zombie (Rob’s wife, by the way) but retaining the feeling of having dirt under your fingernails for the whole running time. I have watched every bloody, horrendous, twisted horror movie under the sun (well, the moon) and I can safely say that some scenes in Lords really got under my skin, and so I’d recommend it if only for that.
But what I adore about him most is that he represents a resurgence of dedicated horror film directors. No, not like Eli Roth, who desperately grabs at whatever bandwagon may be trundling by, or James Wan, who (Saw excluded) grabs at whatever bandwagon was trundling by in 1982, but people like Darren Lynn Bousman who nudge the boundaries of horror to test what we can do with the genre. We had a spate of them in the 70s and 80s- John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Sean S. Cunningham- and that set the tone for decades of slashers to come. Zombie is, along with a few other directors, making the films he wants to see, and the audience can either get on board or fuck the hell off. Will he start a horror revolution? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a damn good time of it keeping up with him while he tries.