Thursday, May 11, 2023

20 Years of Movies: Ranking All 8 of Rob Zombie’s Horror Movies

Love him or hate him, Rob Zombie has become one of the prominent and unique voices in the modern horror landscape. His style is immediately recognizable, his choices in aesthetics, casting, and music practically codified. I say this not to criticize Zombie; he’s one of my favorite current filmmakers, and I like or love nearly every single one of his movies.

With two of his films celebrating an anniversary this year – Lords of Salem turns 10, House of 1000 Corpses turns 20 – it seemed like the right time to revisit his filmmaking career so far.

Today we’re ranking Rob Zombie’s entire filmography to date…

8. 31 (2016)

Rob Zombie ranking 31

If I’m being totally honest, this is the one movie on the list I’m not entirely crazy about because, after the relative box office disappointment of Zombie’s experimentation with The Lords of Salem, it feels like he retreated artistically back to a place he knew fans wanted him to go. Set on Halloween night 1976, 31 is about a Running Man-style game in which humans (including Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Meg Foster, and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) are hunted for sport at the behest of a Victorian-garbed aristocracy.

There’s a lot to like in the movie: it features some of the best action Zombie has ever orchestrated and Richard Brake gives an all-timer villain performance as “Doom Head,” the nastiest and most deadly of all the hunters. It’s just hard to fight the feeling that the director has covered all this ground before, from the Hellbilly aesthetics to the brutal violence to the classic rock soundtrack. When his critics accuse him of making the same movie over and over, 31 might be the film they’re talking about.

7. THE MUNSTERS (2022)

The Munsters teaser trailer

Rob Zombie’s most recent effort, a big-screen adaptation of the beloved 1960s sitcom of the same name, is also the only outright comedy he’s ever made. RZ company members Jeff Daniel Phillips and Daniel Roebuck play Herman Munster and Grandpa, respectively, while Sheri Moon Zombie steps into Yvonne De Carlo’s shoes to play Lily.

This undeniably silly movie is rough around the edges – the budgetary constraints show and not all of the jokes land – but it’s such a joyful labor of love that its charms become difficult to resist. The Munsters is a boldly colorful tribute to Zombie’s love and affection for the classic Universal Monsters, his love of kitsch, and, most of all, his love for his wife. I never thought I’d be describing a Rob Zombie movie as “sweet,” but here we are.

6. HALLOWEEN (2007)

Arguably Rob Zombie’s most controversial and polarizing film, his 2007 remake of John Carpenter’s slasher classic Halloween feels like it’s only half his movie. The first half offers backstory for Michael Myers (played as a child by Daeg Faerch) and reimagines the origins of his evil, taking the story in new directions and making it his own. Many horror fans have a problem with this because Michael is “scarier” when there is no explanation for his murder rampage. The second half of the movie functions as a truncated, near beat-for-beat remake of Halloween as Michael attacks and kills babysitters and their boyfriends, leaving only Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) to fight back. Many horror fans have a problem with this because it’s too close to Carpenter’s movie. Halloween ends up satisfying neither audience completely, though I still find a great deal in it to like.

I suspect if the names were changed, it might be better received as Zombie’s fictional study of a serial killer, but because it’s part of the Halloween brand it had raised expectations.

5. 3 FROM HELL (2019)

Rob Zombie ranking 3 from hell

The final (?) film in Zombie’s Firefly trilogy finds Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby (Sherri Moon Zombie), and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) impossibly surviving the ending of The Devil’s Rejects and being sent to prison. They break out, of course, and with a new member in tow (Richard Brake as Winslow Foxworth “Foxy” Coltrane), they escape down to Mexico and get into even more blood-soaked trouble. It’s almost impossible to rate 3 From Hell alongside House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects because Sid Haig’s illness and subsequent passing forced Zombie to rework the entire movie late in the process, making for a film that’s very different than what he originally envisioned.

The results feel a little compromised, especially in the early going, but once you get past that there’s a lot of nasty fun to be had. Sheri Moon’s turn as a Baby Firefly that might be losing her grip on reality is particularly great, as is Pancho Moler (returning from 31) as a sensitive new friend she makes in Mexico. This one is probably for Zombie purists only.

4. HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003)

House of 1000 Corpses ending

The first movie written and directed by Rob Zombie (recently re-released on a 20th anniversary Steelbook Blu-ray) pretty much feels like what a movie written and directed by Rob Zombie should feel like: it’s messy, it’s colorful, it’s profane, it’s funny, it’s gory, it’s production designed within an inch of its life, it’s comprised of multiple film stocks and video formats and feels not totally unlike one his music videos. It also announces a clear and exciting new voice in the horror genre, one with a clear vision and sense of self. That it rescued Sid Haig from relative obscurity and made him a modern icon of horror as Captain Spaulding is just a bonus.

Zombie’s debut is a throwback to 1970s-style horror before that became commonplace in the 2000s.


Surprise! The Rob Zombie movie I suspect is most horror fans’ favorite lands in the number 3 spot not because there’s anything wrong with it – The Devil’s Rejects is pretty much a masterpiece – but just because there are two other Zombie movies I prefer (and this is my list, dammit). The sequel to House of 1000 Corpses finds the Firefly family causing more mayhem and running afoul of a sheriff (William Forsythe) who’s out for revenge.

Borrowing from the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre aesthetically (whereas House of 1000 Corpses borrows more from TCM 2), Rejects is a grainy, dusty, and savage road picture that feels like the great rediscovered drive-in horror film of the 1970s. Zombie makes a huge leap forward in his sophomore effort, playing some very tricky and sophisticated games with audience identification here by turning the Firefly family into the de facto “heroes” of the film.

2. HALLOWEEN II (2009)

Rob Zombie ranking halloween

With Zombie’s 2007 remake of Halloween a huge hit, Dimension was going to move forward with a sequel with or without his participation. Zombie decided to step back into the director’s chair for the follow-up, knowing full well he planned to burn it all down on his way out the door. Picking up a year after the events of the first film, II continues the story of Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris), Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), and Michael Myers (Tyler Mane, never more hulking and menacing), all of whom have responded to the tragedy of Halloween in very different ways. This is pure Zombie unleashed; no longer tethered to having to “remake” a previous film (though a lengthy prologue set in a hospital certainly pays tribute to 1981’s Halloween II), the filmmaker is free to make the sequel his own thing. Does he ever.

While the first film remains polarizing to this day, Halloween II has been reassessed and appreciated much more now than it was back in 2009 when it was as detested as the rest of his work. I have always been a fan, and while it’s an incredibly unpleasant watch, I admire the way he truly tries to continue the story of the first movie and considers the impact those events had on every character. It’s the rare slasher film that considers PTSD as its major guiding force. The performances are quite possibly the best of any Zombie movie (in particular Danielle Harris and Brad Dourif), and the movie is brutal and haunting in a way that most horror sequels aren’t willing to be. What could have been an obvious cash-in turns out to be a great horror film.

All this and a Spirit Horse, too.


Lords of Salem

My favorite Rob Zombie movie is also the one I consider to be his best. In many ways, it’s a departure from the rest of his work; it’s still grimy, sure, but mostly does away with the Hellbilly aesthetic in favor of a slow-burn tribute to filmmakers like Mario Bava, Ken Russell, and Lucio Fulci. Sheri Moon Zombie gives her best performance to date as Heidi, a radio DJ who discovers she’s a descendant of a Puritan who accused women of being witches in the 17th century. Under the influence of a coven of witches living her building (Dee Wallace, Judy Geeson, and Patricia Quinn), her mind and her world begin to unravel in a way she is powerless to avoid.

In trading the raucous immediacy of, say, his Firefly films, Zombie instead comes up with a film that’s not just dread-inducing, but tragic and sad as well. Heidi’s fate is inevitable, and the movie works as both a horror film and as a metaphor for her struggles with addiction. This isn’t just one of the best witch movies of the 2000s; it’s one of the best horror films period.

What’s YOUR Rob Zombie ranking? Let us know in the comments below!

The post 20 Years of Movies: Ranking All 8 of Rob Zombie’s Horror Movies appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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