Rob Zombie, the risk-taking musician, writer and director of notoriously gory thrillers, is back for more with his latest movie “3 From Hell,” which opens next week through Fathom Events for three nights from Sept. 16-18.
“3 From Hell” expands on the notoriously brutal cinematic slayings inflicted on civilians by the crazed “Firefly” family. Over the past two decades, Zombie has built the deadly clan — characters Otis B. Driftwood (Bill Moseley), Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie) and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) — into a savagely ferocious trio of slashers wreaking havoc at every turn. He has worked with lower budgets for the family cult series, $7 million for “House of 1000 Corpses” in 2003 and “The Devil’s Rejects” in 2005 and around $3 million for “3 From Hell,” which he tells Variety leaves room for creativity, but constricts him to a time crunch for shooting his films.
His work is also seen in the 2007 remake of “Halloween” as well as the 2009 follow-up “Halloween 2.” Apart from film, he stays busy touring his decades-old discography and working on new albums — his last one released in 2016.
Zombie talked to Variety ahead of the release of “3 From Hell.”
What can you tell me about the difference between “3 From Hell” from the other two movies in the series?
With the first one, “House of 1000 Corpses,” I think it is very cartoon-y. And then, with “The Devil’s Rejects,” I tried to bring [the characters] into more of a reality with the way it was shot and the way it played out. And then with this one, I wanted to take it one step further where now the characters have their own mythology in real life and in movie life, so there’s now a whole backstory.
What is it like working with lower budgets?
Lower budgets can be two things: They’re a total drag because you’re always fighting the clock because time equals money, so you always think “oh, I wish we had more time so we have more days to shoot things, more time to shoot the scenes, more time to do this,” but at the same time, there’s so many movies that have so much money and you watch them and you go “eh, I didn’t see anything that exciting for $2 million dollars.” So, sometimes not having money forces you to be more creative than you would probably be if you had a lot of money. It’s a blessing and a curse, always.
How do you achieve all of the effects with low budgets?
With effects, you hire professionals to get it right the first time, and hopefully you don’t have to redo it again. The scene where the blood explodes in the woman’s face when they’re out in the woods [in “3 From Hell”], we only shot that once and luckily it was perfect. She didn’t flinch, she reacted as an actor, not as a person getting something blasted in their face. If we had to shoot it twice, [it would have been] like “okay, send her back to the trailer, clean her up, send her back two hours later and then the sun goes down and you’re f–ked.” Sometimes there’s a lot of luck involved.
Where do you get your gory ideas from for the kills?
With a movie like this, there’s gonna be a lot of things that happen. So, you go, “okay, I don’t want it to get repetitive, so how can we make this different from that?” Everything can’t be a knife and everything can’t be a gun, so what else can we do? I never want the deaths and the killings to be so big that they seem cartoon-y, that’s why I don’t chop people’s heads off and kick it around like a soccer ball because it would just be silly.
How do you pick the songs for your soundtrack to fit the scenes? I especially love the slo-mo scene in “3 From Hell” when Baby’s walking through the prison and Suzi Quatro’s “The Wild One” is playing.
All of them are just songs that I personally like. So, they have to hit me first. And then I just keep playing them against the scene. Some scenes, like the Slim Whitman song that’s playing in the house when they massacre everybody [in “3 from Hell”], that song I knew I was using from day one. We put it in the first day of editing and it never moved. But, say like the Suzi Quatro song that you mentioned, I tried a million different songs there and I was like “nothing would work” and I was like “Ah, it’s too slow, it’s too fast, it’s not right, there’s not enough attitude, the lyrics don’t fit” and then finally I hit upon that song and I go “Wow, it sounds like it was written for her” because the lyrics perfectly fit the look on her face and how she’s thinking and how she feels about herself and what it’s all about. And I was like “That’s it.”
What do you think about the state and quality of horror today?
Everybody will have their time period that they love more than another. For me, it’ll be like the 1970s or the 1930s and for some people it’s definitely the 1980s. But, it’s always kind of the same. Something original will come out that’s a big hit, and then you’ll get ten new movies just like it, you know? Until you can’t stand it anymore. That’s just the way Hollywood works.
What do you think about “The Hunt” getting cancelled?
As far as [canceling] “The Hunt,” that’s just a bulls–t sacrificial lamb that solves nothing in society, but they always do that. If it wasn’t that movie it would have been a video game or sometimes it was somebody’s rock album. “That was satanic and we have to ban that!” It’s always something and none of it matters. It’s all fake, it’s all a fake show.
Do you have any recent favorite movies?
I’ll tell you what I’m looking forward to is “Joker.” That’s probably the first movie in a long time that I’ve been really excited to see because Joaquin Phoenix is amazing and the movie just looks phenomenal.