Nicholas White , a freelance journalist here in Los Angeles, is back with another Hero Complex contribution, this time a conversation with Rob Zombie, the rocking Renaissance man of horror, whose new film “Halloween II” lands in theaters with a splatter this Friday.
What horror lurks in the mind of a pop nightmare maker?
“I think it’s kind of a sickness I suffer from,” Rob Zombie, director of “Halloween II,” said on the eve of his new movie’s release. “I cannot relax and settle down. My brain is always racing with ideas. I can’t calm down. I’m like that all that time. My wife [actress Sheri Moon Zombie] knows how to relax. I don’t so much sometimes. So, I drive her insane with it.”
On closer look, Zombie’s practiced professional insanity — whether through bloody bodies onscreen or macabre imagery in his music — appears more of a character than the real guy.
Strip away the stringy, cobwebby hair and caked-on white makeup, and Zombie (whose given name is Robert Bartleh Cummings, born in 1965 in progressive working-class Massachusetts) is just another very hard-working performer in the Hollywood industry.
In addition to directing movies, creating comic books (his 2007 “The Haunted World of El Superbeasto” was made into a still-unreleased movie voiced by Paul Giamatti), and a platinum-selling recording career, Zombie is, simply, a painter.
“Drawing and painting are always one of my first loves — that’s what I have always done,” Zombie, a onetime painting student at New York’s prestigious Parsons School of Design, says. “That’s always been the thing that’s fallen away. Now it’s something I’ve gotten back into. And I love it.
“Movies, music — I love all that, but it plays on a different scale,” he says. “It’s millions of dollars, you’re expected to make back millions of dollars. You have millions of people come see it. Painting
is much purer. I’m not doing it to set up a show and sell things. I just do it to do it.”
While he has no plans for another comic book or graphic novel, Zombie is painting “gigantic figure-study” paintings of people at his house, he says. “Kind of classic stuff.”
“The reality of the business now is that if you have an idea for a movie and if you have done it first as a graphic novel, it really makes trying to sell that idea to somebody much easier,” Zombie says.
“That was the hope with ‘The Haunted World of El Superbeasto.'”
Zombie’s fourth film in seven years, “Halloween II,” bearing the name but not the plot of the 1981 original movie, hits theaters Friday. Opening against the similarly themed “Final Destination 3-D,”
“Halloween II” has big expectations.
Its distributor, the Weinstein Co., is said to be in financial straits after a string of unprofitable movies. While Zombie’s 2007 “Halloween” grossed more than $80 million worldwide for the Weinsteins, the production company could use a hit.
The Weinsteins’ other big late-summer horse, “Inglourious Basterds,” had a surprising $38-million opening weekend, buoyed by Brad Pitt’s star power and a kamikaze marketing campaign. Quentin Tarantino’s last collaboration with the Weinsteins, “Grindhouse,” a double-feature ode to raw B-movies of the 1970s, grossed less than half its nearly $70-million production budget.
Does Zombie feel pressure to keep the Weinsteins on life support?
“I have never heard that from them, they have never said that to me,” Zombie says. “I have only read that on a couple of Hollywood websites. But, no one has ever said it to me personally, like, ‘Oh, this film
has to do this for us.’ The only pressure I feel is to make the movie great.” As for working with the Weinsteins, which he has now twice after “Halloween”?
“I don’t know,” Zombie says, succinctly. “It is what it is. Everything is a difficult process, and this can be a very difficult process at times.”
Zombie, by most accounts, has shown a progression in ease with the camera since his rocky, cultish 2003 debut, “House of 1000 Corpses.”
The narrative-lite “Corpses” (which dragged in mostly subpar reviews) had a distinctive brutality reminiscent of early 1970s Wes Craven, even if Zombie’s aesthetic wasn’t completely developed. His next film,
2005’s “The Devil’s Rejects,” was a more polished effort.
“It doesn’t really get easier, but you get more confident in what you can accomplish,” he says. “There is a moment in every movie where the whole thing can come crashing down. Movies are funny because you need a thousand things to go right everyday, and you only need one thing wrong to derail the whole thing.”
How many filmmakers have howled at the moon in front of sold-out arenas and huge festival crowds? Zombie proved himself both as a solo artist and as front man for the 1990s rock band White Zombie. His new album is finished and hits stores Nov. 10, he says, and he returns to touring in Japan on Oct. 1 and circles back to the U.S.stage on Oct. 15.
“I love music and I love movies, but they’re so opposite, the process, that it’s such a great release,” Zombie says. “I can tour the whole world and meet thousands of fans on a daily basis, and get the vibe of
what’s going on. That’s a great luxury.”
— Nicholas White
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