Rob Zombie on The Devils Rejects

Rob Zombie talks about following up House of 1000 Corpses

After the hell he went through to get House of 1,000 Corpses into theaters, his follow-up film The Devil's Rejects was a relative cakewalk. This time, after House made enough money, Lion's Gate simply commissioned a sequel. Quite the validation after the original was almost buried for good.

"That was a movie that was dropped by one studio, picked up by another, dropped again, moved to another," Zombie recalled. "It's a long, involved, boring story, but it bounced around so much and everyone was like, ‘Look, man, just forget about it. It's dead. House of 1,000 Corpses will never leave the Universal vaults. It will rot there.' And, eventually, we squeezed it out of there and sold it, it did well and we're still here."

Taking place about a year after House, Rejects opens with a police raid on the Firefly house. Though opening text establishes that the title characters are murderers, nothing specifically tells you what happened between the end of House and the beginning of Rejects, and Zombie likes it that way.

"I have a story that I concocted in my head, but I never really attempted to put it into the movie because I figured there's only so much time. You just have to think, ‘Okay, he's the avenging brother. Good enough.' I think everyone can relate to that. I didn't really want to get into too much back story because I just thought it might bog the movie down. A lot of times, I see movies and I think, ‘Yeah, we get it. You don't have to keep explaining it to us. We get it.' Everyone's like, ‘Well, what's their motivation for being serial killers?' I'm like, "What is anyone's motivation? They're insane, obviously.' Sometimes, people are just insane."

Even though the moniker "Devil's Rejects" was never uttered in House, neither is it explained in the second film. "Every once in awhile, I'll just have titles of things in my head, and I'll go, ‘Oh, that's a good title. I'll save that someday, for something.' And, that was one of them."

Still set in the ‘70s, Zombie's film borrows stylistically from the masters of the golden age of cinema. "I've just always loved movies. I've always been obsessed with movies. But, it's easier to just go, ‘Oh, he's the gore, horror guy,' and I've never looked at it that way. In fact, gory horror movies don't rank on the [list of] movies that I like. Good horror movies are great, but I just like good movies. I don't just watch grade Z garbage. That bores me to death. So, some of my favorite movies, growing up, and the movies that had the greatest impact on this film were Bonnie & Clyde, or even a movie like Charly, the Cliff Robertson film, because the use of the split screens and the camera work really affected me, as a kid. The movie owes a lot more to The Gauntlet than it does The Hills Have Eyes or Once Upon a Time in the West because those are the movies that I sat down with the cinematographer and said, ‘I want to play this out like an Italian western.' That's why the pacing is a lot slower. I wanted to switch it from nighttime to a lot of desert scenes, so everything's just right out in the open."

Yet the ‘70s setting is now less a function of homage and more an issue of practicality. "Well, I set the first one in the ‘70's, so I sort of stuck to that with this one. But that's just my favorite time period for everything. I didn't do it to pay homage to anything because that seems silly. It was because I love the music from the ‘70's more than any other music, I love the movies of the ‘70's, the fashion, the look, the feel. And, I think it's probably because, at that point, I was at the right age to just be bombarded by it. I just remember, as a kid, every movie I went to, at that time period, just seemed mind-blowing. You could see Jaws, the next weekend you'd see Close Encounters, then you'd see The Godfather and Taxi Driver. Every week, your mind was exploding. I just took that experience for granted. Now, I go to the movies and I come out feeling like, ‘Oh, yeah, more of that again.' Then, it just seemed like everything was genius. Maybe I'm reliving it in my mind better than it was."

That's not to say Zombie condemns all of modern cinema. There are still some filmmakers who excite him. "There's always great stuff, all the time. American Splendor is a good example of a movie where, when it came out, I was like, ‘I have never seen that before.' I was always a big fan of Harvey Pekar. Years ago, I interviewed him as a fanzine guy, writing for a fanzine. And, Paul Giamatti is so amazing. And, just the way it integrated the live-action with the animation, and the real people with their characters, was just mind-blowing. I was like, ‘Finally. That's genius.' I would have never thought of that and, obviously, no one else did either."

With such diverse tastes, Zombie does not wish to remain a horror director, nor does he want to forsake his success in the genre. "I just want to continue making movies. Not for good or bad reasons, I just don't want to get boxed in and have someone think, ‘Oh, that's what he does and that's all he's ever going to do.' I like directors where you don't know what they're going to do next. If someone said, ‘Oh, Spike Jonze is doing a horror movie,' you'd be like, ‘Oh, that sounds insane, I want to see that,' just the way that, if someone said, ‘Oh, I'm doing a comedy next,' you'd be like, ‘Oh, that's bizarre, I want to see that.' I don't really want to get pigeonholed into doing one thing."

So far, Zombie wrote the scripts for both House and Rejects, but he still solicits other scripts in hopes of discovering genius. "I definitely would [direct someone else's script], if something came to me that I was great. That's only happened a couple times, and those projects just never got rolling."

The Devil's Rejects opens July 22.