We talked to the musician and director about his film '31', creepy clowns, and what his Christmas movie would be like.
Rob Zombie directing during the filming of '31.' Photos courtesy of '31'
Rob Zombie is a gore-covered renaissance man.It seems he always has something on the go. When he's not ripping around the world performing the music he's been creating sine the 80s, well, he's making a film. Since the turn of the millennium, Zombie has released five studio albums, two live albums, and directed six feature-length films.Like, seriously, that's a ton of shit to be spearheaded by one man.His most recent film, 31, premiered at Sundance this year and tells a gory-ass tale about carnival workers and is, frankly, all sorts of fucked up. The film premieres on Shudder, an online-streaming service that focuses on horror flicks, on December 15.
We caught up with Zombie to chat about the new movie, Christmas, and creepy clowns.
VICE: How would you classify 31 among your other movies?
Rob Zombie: It's really a down and dirty throwback movie for me. I wanted to do a really simplistic, violent, just gritty move. The last movie I did was just a slow burn sort of opera, and I just wanted to do a down and dirty, nasty movie.
To celebrate 31 hitting Shudder, you curated a film list for them. You have Herzog's Nosferatu, the original Assault on Precinct 13, Cannibal Holocaust, and a few others on there. How did you choose the films for this list?
I just looked at the list and picked what jumped out at me. I love Herzog, and I always loved Kinski's Nosferatu, and I remember seeing Assault on Precinct 13 and just thought, What a cool movie.
Cannibal Holocaust, I remember seeing that for the first time on 42nd Street in New York back in the early 80s when it opened, and I was just not prepared for that move. I had never seen a movie that was remotely as violent and as insane as that, not that you still can basically, that movie is just nuts.
I remember the first time I saw it, I was like 15, it was on some weird channel or something, and it just floored me.
Yeah, it's pretty intense. Especially, you know, the movie was pretty new, and back then, a movie like that would take forever to get someplace, so it's at this really shitty theater and you just go see it and it's like, What the fuck? Is this real? What am I fucking watching?
Earlier, you said that you wanted to make a down and dirty violent film and Cannibal Holocaust certainly falls into that category. What makes you gravitate toward those types of films?
Well, there has always been two factions in the horror genre I've always gravitated to, and the first is the super classic stuff from the 30s. That is what I first ever was exposed to, like Frankenstein and Dracula and King Kong and things of that nature. I love that stuff.
Then the next wave that really hit me was the 70s when things got really nasty like [Texas] Chainsaw [Massacre] and Last House on the Left and Hills Have Eyes and Dawn of the Dead, because they just grabbed me at just the right time. One was when I was in kindergarten, and one when I was in high school, and, yeah, they just stuck with me.
What's the difference between making a slow burn like your last film and an extremely violent film like 31?
When something is high-tension and action-packed, I feel that the pace on set, and people get it. Everyone is like, "OK, the camera is moving, everyone is moving, people are swinging chainsaws." People get caught up in adrenaline and what's going on. But when we're doing something like Lords of Salem, and I would say things like, "No, you're dollying too fast, slow the camera down." I could tell the camera department didn't feel like they were doing anything.
I found a piece of music, and I played the music out loud, so they could pace the camera move, and suddenly everyone could feel it. It is a different mindset. The faster, grittier stuff feels more like real life; it's the other stuff that you kind of have to twist the perception to get into the groove.
Some people tied in the marketing of 31 with the recent spur of creepy clown sightings. Any truth to that?
There is truth that people tied it in with their own minds, but there is no truth it was tied into the marketing, you know what I mean?
I mean, clowns have always been there. I don't know what the whole clown thing is all about. I was so busy working on stuff that I didn't pay any attention to it. It almost becomes one of those things that the more people kept bringing it up, the less I wanted to know about it.
It feels like every little thing becomes like mass hysteria. This new wave of internet news mixed with fake news mixed with everything else, I just can't take it anymore. It's just a nonstop overload of bullshit all day long.
Does your love for horror ever make its way into your Christmas?
I guess not, no. [Laughs]
Sometimes, I feel like I want to make a Christmas movie, but then I feel like after making two Halloween movies, I feel like I ruined Halloween for myself for a while because it was three straight years of Halloween—Halloween every day—and, honestly, I'm not a big Christmas fan.
I'm not big on Christmas. It sounds terrible, but the nonstop onslaught of commercials and consumerism is just nauseating. Christmas is the most bullshit fucking holiday ever created.
You did say sometimes you want to make a Christmas film. Would this be like a straight-up Jingle All the Way–like film?
I don't know what it would be. I never get there. I think it would be something where it is incidental, where like you have a movie like Devils Rejects, that same type of movie happening, but it just happens to be Christmas time.
Like Die Hard?
Yeah, like Christmas has nothing to do with the movie really, but it's cool that it takes place at Christmas.
Do you ever have trouble balancing music with film?
It's challenging, because everything takes a lot of time. Movies are very time-consuming to make, even low-budget movies, from the moment you start to the moment you finish, you know, it's two years.
I don't like to stay off the road and stay out of the music business for two years, so I kind of jump back-and-forth. Like I'll finish shooting the movie and maybe I'll go out on tour for a while, come back and edit the movie, go back on tour, come back and colorize the movie and do post production. I just constantly bounce around.
It's a little hectic to be sure.
There are a couple different scripts that I'm working on, and there are some other scripts we finished that are bouncing around town. I got to make a new record at some point, so I'm not sure what's next. Right now, I just came off the final shows of the year a couple weeks ago, so I'll be taking it easy for the next month, trying to figure out what's next.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.