Educated Horses: Ranking the films of Rob Zombie

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Written by J. Weagle

Rob Zombie has been a voice in film for nearly twenty years now, getting his start way back in 2003 with House of 1000 Corpses and with most recent opus 31 hitting soon I thought it would be good idea to take a look back at shock rockers career.

Zombie has become a staple of the horror genre proving that his artistic insanity works just as well on the big screen as it does in his music.  He has an an interesting career thus far with some solid hits and some obvious misses but threw the almost twenty years he has always made an iconic place for himself in the world of horror.

6. Halloween II (2009)

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Halloween II is far from the best Zombie film though I’d be lying if I said I outright hated it.  In fact some, probably most would agree that Zombie’s sequel to the Halloween remake is better then his first attempt.  More so than his original Halloween II feels one hundred percent more like a true Rob Zombie movie with little involvement from anyone else.  You can blame that on less involvement from studio heads or maybe the fact that he felt less pressure the second time around.  Regardless Halloween II had too many misses for my liking despite the terrific opening it fell flat in delivering the terror.

5. The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)

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Any fan of Rob Zombie will love The Haunted World of El Superbeasto because it is truly him at his most unleashed.  It’s also the one Zombie film that most people forget when discussing his filmography which is probably due to its limited release and the fact that it came out the same year as Halloween II.  In a lot of ways it does not fit with the rest of the films on the list based solely on how much fun it is.  That’s not to say it’s not trashy as it is perhaps his most vulgar and crude film to date, it’s how light and easy going it is when compared to the dark tones of his other films.  Full of fun cameos and a crazy soundtrack The Haunted World of El Superbeasto is truly a one of a kind adult cartoon that reeks of Zombieness.

4. House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

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Zombie’s breakout film is a lot of things.  It is funny in the darkest way possible, it’s completely twisted and insane and perhaps more then anything it is a mess.  That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it because I do and in fact it’s the messiness of the film that I enjoy the most.  Next to his animated effort it is his most bizarre and crude movie with batshit crazy characters.  With some great performances from the likes of Sid Haig and Bill Moseley, and combining obvious 1970’s film references together while adding in that Zombie flavour makes it one of most re-watchable films on this list.  Just don’t go in expecting a masterpiece.

All hail Doctor Satan.

3. Halloween (2007)

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Rob Zombie’s remake or reimagining of the beloved John Carpenter classic is not a very well liked movie and compared to the original I would say it doesn’t come close.  It took me along while to actually enjoy this film, but after three or four times viewing it I now considered it to be one of his strongest films in terms of storytelling.  He completely does the opposite of what John Carpenter wanted to achieve with his version and Zombie truly put his stamp on it.  Yes, some will consider this to be half a Zombie movie and half a studio movie based on the fact that he didn’t always get his way with this one but sometimes a little  constraint is a good thing and in this case I think it only helped the film.

The main complaint I hear most is that it digs too deep into the history and reasoning behind the Michael Myers character.  In Carpenter’s original Myers was nothing more then a shape, a force of horrifying brutality.  In the 2007 version Myers is a troubled young man who had a terrible childhood and spent his life in an institution but has never lost the love for his mother and has a father-son like relationship with his psychiatrist.  If you have yet to see the 1979 original go watch that instead, but in the long and mostly crappy history of Halloween films, Zombie’s version remains one of the best.

2. The Lords of Salem (2013)

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Like every other Zombie movie The Lords of Salem is a very divisive movie.  There are many who love it and many who just plain hate it.  I happen to consider it one of the most underrated horror films to come along in quite some time and unlike Zombie’s other films this one is legitimately scary at times.  It feels small compared to his other more over the top affairs and the intimate low budget feeling helps set a tone that separates Lords from all of his other work.

We don’t get horror films like this anymore, and where his other film take techniques or inspirations from horror of the 1970’s, The Lords of Salem feels as though it was made during that time period.  Zombie himself has stated a lot of inspiration for this film in the likes of Kubrick, Lynch and Polanski but to me it feels as though the greatest influence on this film was Argento’s Suspira (one of my all time favourite horror films).

1. The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

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The obvious choice for best Zombie film and the one you will hear no complaints from is The Devil’s Rejects.  The sequel to his debut film and continuing the adventure of the Firefly family, The Devil’s Rejects remains his best work in terms of direction, plot and characters.  This movie has some fantastic performances once again from Haig and Moseley but for the most part everyone else does great as well especially William Forsythe as Sheriff Wydell.  Upon release The Devil’s Rejects had positioned Zombie as a true master in the realm of horror and auteurism  with some even hailing him the “next Tarantino.”

Somehow he managed to take the over the top characters of House of 1000 Corpses and ground them into a reality that could only exist in a 1960’s Spaghetti western.  Not only that but he managed to make us root for a family of psycho murderers, no matter how sick they got or how many innocents they killed off.  It very well might be his masterpiece with every piece of the puzzle coming together perfectly it’s a movie worthy of the praise it receives.

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