Interview: ‘Lords Of Salem’ Director Rob Zombie Talks Making The Film, Studio Expectations, ‘Broad Street Bullies’ & More

Interview: 'Lords Of Salem' Director Rob Zombie Talks Making The Film, Studio Expectations, 'Broad Street Bullies' & More

There
are few genre filmmakers working today who are as exciting and unpredictable as
Rob Zombie. The rock musician (he
continues to make music – he just dropped a new album,  Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor) has a
singular love for all things horror, particularly the down-and-dirty chillers
from the seventies and early eighties, augmenting these earlier films with bold
stylistic experimentation and a kind of gleeful willingness to push the envelope
when it comes to sex and violence. His latest film, “Lords of Salem,” produced by Blumhouse Productions and
distributed by Anchor Bay, was released last week. A bold stylistic departure
for Zombie, it’s a leisurely paced descent into madness more akin to Roman Polanski‘s apartment trilogy than anything involving Texas,
chainsaws, or massacres.

Zombie’s
first film, the screechy “House of
1000 Corpses
,” was almost all influence and no authorship. Thankfully,
Zombie rebounded with “The Devil’s
Rejects
,” which placed the ‘House’ characters inside a galloping
revenge western; one of the finest films of the aughts, genre or otherwise.
Zombie followed that up with a pair of “Halloween” remakes for The Weinstein Company, these were movies that were contested in both
production and release but have rightfully gained a cult following (along with
a critical reappraisal). Somewhere in there he also directed “The Haunted World of El Superbeasto,”
a Ralph Bakshi-like animated sex
romp.

All
of these projects are wholly different from “Lords of Salem,” which
stars his wife, Sherri Moon Zombie, as a Salem, Massachusetts DJ who comes
under the spell of ancient witches. Or maybe she’s back on drugs. Zombie plays
fast and loose with what is reality and what is fantasy, with beautifully
languid shots that go past haunting into the world of sheer mesmerism. It’s one
of the boldest, most brilliant horror films released in a while and makes the
also-playing “Evil Dead” remake seem even more turgid and creatively
bankrupt. We talked to Zombie about what his inspirations for “Lords of
Salem” were, the status of his hockey drama “Broad Street Bullies,” and whether or not he’ll do a sequel
to “The Devil’s Rejects.”

You had a
bunch of things going on after the second “Halloween” – “The Blob” remake and more. What
happened to those other things and why did you do this?

There are so many projects that don’t happen,
just sometimes they don’t get announced so no one ever knows about them and you
don’t have to talk about them. “The Blob” was going to happen. I was
dealing with people on the movie, even though I was on the fence about doing
anything that was considered a remake again. I really didn’t like the idea of
that, but just as I went down the road further with the producers and the guys
that owned the property, I didn’t feel good about the situation and I just
walked away from it. My gut told me this was not a good place to be.

What was your take on that?
It
was different cause I thought just a giant blobby thing might just seem funny
so there was some twist on that.

So it was more of a horror-comedy?
No,
it wasn’t. It was dead serious. I was almost like a dark science fiction film,
but it was serious. To me, horror and comedy never work. Never worked for me,
anyway.

So “Lords of Salem” was a
song initially?  Did you always
want to do it as a movie?

Well,
it was several things. First it was a movie. I had an idea for this thing
called, “Lords of Salem.” I just wrote it down. I didn’t know what it would be.
It was right after I finished the first “Halloween” and I still owed Dimension
two more films and I came up with this idea for “Lords of Salem” and I may have
told them about it, I may have never even got that far. And then I filed it
away, but I always liked the title. I thought, “Ah, that’s a cool title.” So it
became a song, just because I liked the title and then six years later when
Blumhouse came to me to do a movie, they were basically like, “We want to make
these low-budget movies with short shooting schedules, but we want them to be
sort of psychological. Do you have anything you want to do?” And I just
remembered “Lords of Salem” – that idea and pulled it out and that’s how it
came back to life.    

What was it like working with
Blumhouse Productions?

Their
whole deal is sort of they don’t get involved, like “You have total freedom to
do whatever you want, call us when you’re done” sort of scenario. It was good…I set out to make a movie that I
knew under normal circumstances with a studio, you would never be able to do.

What specifically were you able to do
here that you think you couldn’t have gotten away with at a studio?

Everything.
The movie’s pace is very ’70s, almost like an Italian horror movie. So the
pacing and the structure and the fact that I wanted the movie to, at times, be
purposefully confusing. One of the main things when you get notes from a studio
is they don’t want anyone to be confused ever, everything has got to be so
obvious at all times unless it’s a twist ending. I just wanted it to unfold in
a sort of surreal dream-like manner. I mean it makes sense, but it’s not an
obvious structure and that would be hard to do in a conventional sense. That’s
what was best about it.

It seems like you were calling back
to “Repulsion.”

It
was sort of like Ken Russell films or like Polanski
or some Argento films or Kubrick. There’s only certain
filmmakers who really do this – and David
Lynch
does it – where just the vibe of the movie is odd all the way
through. A David Lynch movie is just odd even when people are doing normal
things. You’re like, “Why does this feel so weird? What’s happening here?”

How did you choose the music for “Lords Of Salem”? That seems to be a great part of all of your movies. I know that “Devil’s Rejects, ” you got the rights before you shot the movie so nobody could say no after they saw it. 
A big mistake a lot of filmmakers do is they like, “We cut our whole ending to a Rolling Stones song.” You better find a new ending then, because unless you have $2 million for that song…. I made sure I had the rights to “Freebird” before I put it all together because I knew that’s how I wanted to end the movie cause I couldn’t think of a bigger, more iconic American song to use. That’s pretty much the same with all of the movies. The new movie ends with “All Tomorrow’s Parties” — the Velvet Underground song is really important and I locked down the rights to it in advance. I do that with everything just because.

You said something earlier about one
of the actors dying and that kind of screwing up what you had planned to do. Can you elaborate on what happened?

There
was a big opening sequence that takes place in 1692 that explained a lot more
about what was going on in the backstory of this movie. Richard Lynch was a lead character in those scenes and when he
showed up to work, he was very old. I had worked with him on “Halloween” a few
years earlier and he was fine, but he was basically blind by this point. I
could tell he wasn’t doing well, so I tried to work with him to work through
it. It just wasn’t really happening, but I thought somehow we’ll come back and
finish this on another night or at another time. But he passed away not that
long afterwards. So all the stuff I had shot didn’t really make sense. So then
I had to go back and restructure the movie and literally change character’s
names. “Okay, you’re that character now.” Without even telling the actors. That
made it a little trickier.

So, it was all the flashback stuff?
It
became flashbacks because originally it was a different chunk of the movie, but
I didn’t get enough content to do that so I had to make it flashbacks.

Was there anything you didn’t get to
do in this that you wanted to?

There
was tons. This was tricky because I had never made a movie this quickly for
this little money so that was something that made it hard, because we shot the
whole thing in 4 ½ weeks. “Devil’s Rejects” was the fastest I had ever made a
movie and that cost $7 million, this cost like $2 million. On paper, I’m like, “Yeah, we can get this done.” In reality, every
day was like, “Fuck, we’re never going to get this done.” So everyday was a
weird compromise. Probably worked out better that way, but at the time it was
stressful.

What have you thought of the
re-assessment of the “Halloween” movies as sort of one entity? Have you read
any of that stuff online?

No.
In what sense?

That you have to watch them together
as a “Kill Bill” kind of thing?

Well,
that’s one way to do it. I wanted it to be like that in a sense that’s why one
ends and essentially picks up, starts with the end scene of the other one. I
really like those films. I didn’t have a good time making them. It was actually
a kind of miserable experience. Anytime they vary from the format is when I
really like them.

Do you still owe the Weinsteins
something?

No,
I don’t.

Would you ever work with them again?
Yeah, if the project was right I would, sure. I’ve come to the conclusion now cause I’ve made six movies, every movie you go into thinking, this is going to be the one that’s super easy and it’s going to be super cool and there’s always something. It’s just a crazy business and a crazy situation.

Would you ever go back to animation?
I loved “The Haunted World of El Superbeasto.”

I
would love to. I was just with Tom Poppa last week shooting a comedy special for him and he’s dying to do another
‘Superbeasto,’ but I would love to. I would like to make more animation like
that, that’s more like a dark weird thing cause animation now is so, not
highbrow, but the expense level at which it’s made has to be so stiff and they
do amazing stuff. But there’s something about that type of animation I like.

What happened with that? It would
seem like it was much more low budget then sort of had a bigger budget.

That
was a really weird one cause the way it started was I had done the comic and I
had thought this would be a cool cartoon. I pitched it to Film Roman and they’re like, “Great, let’s
do it.” And it was always conceived as a direct-to-video little movie. They
thought, “Oh, we’ll spend a million bucks on this and it will go direct to
video.” That would be cool, since I never saw this as a big thing. And then the
project kept going and going. And then Film Roman got sold to another company.
There was another company in between and they got sold to Starz. It kept
changing hands and we just kept working. It’s almost literally like we were in
a backroom working and no one knew we were there. So two years goes by and $7
million dollars go by and a hundred animators go by and it sort of just bloomed
into this thing. By the time it ended up with the final company that owned it,
they were sort of horrified by the content because they didn’t even know what
it was and then they sort of seemed like they just wanted to hide it. They were
like, “We can’t put up this superhero-sex romp.” So that’s what happened. It’s
funny. I feel bad now because people seem to really love it and it’s really
gathered a following after the fact. But that’s to be expected. I guess most
things like that do.

Do you take solace in the fact that
knowing that this audience is there?

Yeah.
Especially more now than ever because the theatrical’s almost becoming irrelevant.
I like having it because if you don’t have a theatrical release people always
feel like, “Oh, the movie must not be good.” But the theatrical release is so
quick even if you have a blockbuster. I remember when I was a kid, like when “Raiders of the Lost Ark” came out, it
would sit in the theater for like nine months. Now even with “The Dark
Knight Rises,” six weeks it’s gone. And for most movies it’s like one
week. Even if it’s the number one movie, it’s like, “Boom! Gone.” So it’s
almost like it doesn’t matter. 99% of the people that watch this stuff will
discover it later on DVD and home video. I don’t even really hear about the
movies until they hit HBO. It seems like that’s when everyone starts talking
about them.

Is “Broad Street Bullies”
the next thing? When might it shoot? 

Yeah,
“Broad Street Bullies,” as far as I know, is the next thing. But
every time I thought I knew what was the next thing, it always becomes another
thing. So all signs on that are looking great to be the next thing. Ideally,
I would start shooting it next fall. That would be the plan because I have a
record coming out so I have touring plans all through the summer so I’m already
booked up for a while, but that would be the plan.

The
story’s crazy, but it’s a true-life sports story of the Philadelphia Flyers and
how they literally sat down one day and had a plan to, “Let’s build a team
that’s so tough that other teams would literally be afraid to play us.” I’ve
been researching the script for over a year and when you read the script,
there’s no way this is true. It sounds like such a bunch of bullshit, but it’s
all true. It’s just the craziest fucking stories.

Do you see yourself going back to
more genre-oriented stuff?

I
don’t know. I love all kinds of movies, obviously, and I like breaking away
because I don’t like getting pigeonholed about things and I feel it gets
limited, but I’m not changing because I dislike what I’ve done. It’s just good
to do something different.

“Lords
of Salem” is in theaters now.

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Comments

Tara Lundrigan

I will NEVER understand the Rob Zombie hate…it seriously boggles my mind. I am a horror movie JUNKIE, I watch all sorts of horror from mainstream to foreign, old to new, I LOVE IT. I am a horror photographer as well…
I also am a huge fan of ALL of Rob Zombies horror films, YES, even his Halloween remakes. ;)
Why? BECAUSE they have everything a good movie has!? Great filming techniques, great story lines, great acting, great score, great lighting, the mood is there, and to top it off they have always been more artistic then a lot of movies I watch. Yet they have all of this hate surrounding them and I have NNOOOO IDEA WHY.
Little angsty fuck Leih Richert, OBVIOUSLY "The Lords" really was nothing like "Repulsion" – It was made in the 60's and is a COMPLETELY different story line…but Zombie is clearly influenced greatly by these old school directors and if you deny that YOU ARE A FOOL who is out to hate for no reason.
"Unwatchable" movies Observer Status?? OH REALLY? They are that bad are they?? Please enlighten me, and give me a list of some movies that are watchable then? Because Zombie makes the type of horror that I will watch more then once and that's a fucking good thing. He inspires me more then a lot of artists, and he stays true to himself which should be respected in this industry, not shit on.

Fred

Personally, Drew, I would agree with you that the movie was great but we must be wrong if people are using petulant tantrums and the cheek pinchingly cute non-phrase "ugh" to detract.

Leigh Richert

This movie was atrocious. For you to compare it to Polanski's "Repulsion" signifies you are the one who must be the one on drugs, or delusional, or maybe both, because something ain't kosher about your noodle. I cannot be alone in this conclusion.

But then again these are weird times, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you're really a genius, just like you claim Rob Zombie to be. Maybe you will get a Pulitzer like the late great Roger Ebert. Then again maybe you'll go home tonight and a bunch of arms will pop out of your apartment walls and consume you. After all, you must be fucking nuts, right?

Observer Status

Ugh, this guy makes unwatchable movies but has a great musical past.

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