Tag: rob zombie

31


31 (2016)
★ / ★★★★

In the middle of this interminable and pointless exercise that writer-director Rob Zombie considers to be a movie, I couldn’t help but wonder why the filmmaker felt compelled to make it. Yes, it’s gory and ugly, but it isn’t like “31” strives to push to genre in any direction. It simply wallows in its own misery like a rotten thing, a sad sight and a real stinker. You’re better off losing brain cells by holding your breath for an extended amount of time than having to sit through this picture. At least holding your breath takes less than a minute. This one demands nearly two hours. You could’ve gone to the gym during that time and felt good about yourself. This movie strives to make you feel bad.

The setup is as formulaic as it gets: carnival workers (Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Meg Foster, to name a few) are kidnapped, taken into an abandoned building, and forced to participate in a sick game. A voice via loudspeakers claims that whoever manages to survive for 12 hours, this person, or persons, will be free to go. Within this time span, however, clowns of various shape and sizes (with quirky names like Death-Head, Sex-Head, Schizo-Head, Psycho Head, and the like—no Meth-Head, sadly) will enter the facility and try to murder them. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, old people dressed in aristocratic clothes (Malcolm McDowell, Jane Carr, Judy Neeson) place bets on who, if any, will make it to the end.

If it sounds like it’s trying way too hard, that’s because it is. Perhaps even the writer-director, consciously or subconsciously, is aware of the wafer-thin material. And so he decides to fill it up with splashes of color, loud noises, wild costumes, and a whole lot of shaking the camera. It becomes so desperate that at one point—as if shaking the camera weren’t enough—we are inundated with seizure-inducing flashing lights. I guess people who are prone to epileptic fits are the lucky ones in this grim scenario because they will be compelled to shut off the movie.

There are no characters here, just sheep to be slaughtered. The story takes place on Halloween 1976; the dialogue is so cartoonish—the southern accents, its portrayal of African-Americans, of blonde women/objects—that it is borderline parody. Again, because the screenplay offers no substance, it relies on exaggeration to mask the fact. Not only is it a one-trick pony on screen, it is also a dead horse on the page. Perhaps the writer-director believes it is enough to have something—anything—on film, like a twenty-page essay written the night before that’s completely devoid of insight, sense, and spell checker.

In the opening sequence that shows the gruesome murder of a priest, we come to meet Doom-Head played by Richard Brake. His monologues are a bit much, more comic than horrific, but I liked his energy; he is the most believable out of all the psychos introduced. However, since he makes an appearance in the very first scene, we already know the trajectory—there is no end in sight until the sheep face this wolf in clown-face. And so the movie becomes waiting game.

“31” is without nutritional value or a point. “Here’s what I can do!” is not a good enough reason to make a film—not in this day and age when so many movies are being released in theaters and streaming services per week. It’s survival of the fittest out there. Ironically, this movie would be one of the first to drop dead, be forgotten. It’s that inconsequential.

3 from Hell


3 from Hell (2019)
★ / ★★★★

The third—and hopefully last—entry in writer-director Rob Zombie’s “Firefly” trilogy looks and feels like a swan song. Fourteen years has passed since the second installment and this film’s rickety old bones can barely sustain the already skeletal plot. What results is a horror movie that spends nearly half of its two-hour running time spewing tedious exposition surrounding Baby’s (Sheri Moon Zombie) experiences in prison and eventual escape in order to join her equally murderous brothers (Bill Moseley as Otis, Richard Brake as Winslow). Sure, it delivers the expected violence and gore, but the filmmaker made the incorrect assumption that the fans of “House of 1000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects” did not mature. Wouldn’t it have been too much to deliver something unexpected, something other than constant noise and mayhem? Because it is apparent during the first fifteen minutes that Zombie is capable of so much more. For instance, I enjoyed the recreation of ‘70s news reels and there is some morbid energy put forth in reminding the viewers of the subjects’ monstrosity—evil personified. But the rest of the work feels unnecessary; Zombie did not even have the sense to realize that the story has ended around the seventy-minute mark. The rest of the time offers nothing of value, no consequences.

The Lords of Salem


The Lords of Salem (2012)
★ / ★★★★

After signing off from the air, Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie), a night DJ, is informed by the receptionist that there is a package waiting for her. It is a wooden box that contains a record. There is a note saying that it is from “The Lords” which Heidi and her co-worker, Whitey (Jeff Daniel Phillips), assume to be a band. Back in her apartment, the record is played. Heidi begins to feel tired and sick to her stomach just as the song starts playing. Despite this, the next night the song is broadcasted for everyone to hear and a handful of women are induced into some sort of catatonic state.

Written and directed by Rob Zombie, “The Lords of Salem” is a trial to sit through. While the first few minutes hint at a possible decent horror movie about witches and satanic rituals, there is not enough material in the screenplay to produce a full-length picture that is worthy of our time. A lot of the scenes run for too long which diminishes some of the tension generated by disgusting and disturbing images.

The writer-director has an eye for capturing snapshots that demand attention, from masked figures holding a woman down and putting a creature with tentacles inside of her to the darkly lit hallways of an old apartment complex. Because what we see on screen range from subtle less-is-more approach to ’70s drive-in gorefest, it is like peering into a house of horrors. Some of the camera angles employed are eye-catching, too. They complement Heidi’s increasing out-of-body experiences.

However, story-wise, though it tries, it fails to take off. As Heidi’s mind and body start to give into the effects of the record, two subplots arise. First, there is an author, Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison), who has recently published a book about the infamous witch trials. He is convinced that there is something evil about the song and so he investigates. Second, Whitey suspects that the decline in Heidi’s health has something to do with her taking drugs again. As a friend, possibly more, he wishes to help her through it.

These two strands are underwritten and so when they are front and center, they feel forced. Neither Francis nor Whitey are interesting enough to be worth rooting for. Their subplots function pretty much like band-aids on and around an increasingly leaky story. The film might have been better without any subplot.

It is not short of overacting especially during the final twenty minutes. There is a lot of anger expressed through screeching, praying to Satan, characters looking directly to camera, and things of that sort. It felt silly, like I was watching a rehearsal for a play that is fated to bomb. And then the movie just ends.

“The Lords of Salem” is a music video stretched long enough to resemble a movie. Though it has some level of artistry when it comes to the visuals, the screenplay is a tired jambalaya of influences that were executed much better, bolder, and with more creativity in other work.

Jennifer’s Body


Jennifer’s Body (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

I decided to see this horror-comedy about demonic possession and female sexuality not because of Megan Fox but because it stars Amanda Seyfried (“Mean Girls,” “Mamma Mia!”) and it was written by Diablo Cody (“Juno” and columnist on “Entertainment Weekly”). Seyfried must defend her town from a man-hungry Fox after an emo band (led by Adam Brody) who dabbles with the occult kidnaps her. At the same time, she must deal with her sometimes jealous boyfriend (Johnny Simmons) because he thinks there’s something unhealthy about his girlfriend’s relationship with Jennifer. The set-up is very simple and very clean but the journey to the finish was quite rough and sometimes unconventional (but in a good way). Apart from the whippersnapper and often downright clever and funny dialogue, “Jennifer’s Body” reminded me of the horror movies from the 1980s because it had a certain B-movie quality to it. Not to mention that the climax happened during a school dance. At times, it did surprise me because it offered certain insight regarding the dynamics between best friends; how one needs the other in order to feel better about herself, which begs the question on whether they were truly friends or if they were more like “frenemies.” The movie straddles that line really well so then there was this constant conflict between the two best friends even before Fox was turned into a demon. But the star here is not Fox (or her body), but Seyfried. She was able to be this character who was kind of a loser but a great person at heart, be sensitive and tough all at once. One main concern about this movie is that audiences will simply choose not to see it because they either hate Megan Fox for whatever reason (I think she’s one of the worst actresses in Hollywood right now but that’s not news) or label it as another “Juno” because of the modern pop culture dialogue. It’s really more than that because it’s a horror-comedy with a brain, which is very unlike straight (supposed) horror movies like Rob Zombie’s “Halloween II” or Patrick Lussier’s horrid “My Bloody Valentine.” If I were to throw out one major problem I had with this movie, I say it wasn’t scary enough to truly make classic horror fans to be impressed with it. Nevertheless, I still think “Jennifer’s Body,” directed by Karyn Kusama, is a good popcorn flick that lives up to its first line: Hell is a teenage girl.

Halloween II


Halloween II (2009)
★ / ★★★★

Written and directed by Rob Zombie, “Halloween II” is a complete waste of time. What I really liked with Zombie’s 2007 interpretation of the 1978 classic was that it really tried to tell a story. The 2007 film spent a third of its time explaining Michael Myers’ psychology as a child–something that other “Halloween” movies that came before did not do. With this 2009 sequel, we’re back again on the level of wait-and-kill without any sort of plot to drive the story forward. Basically, Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) wanted to hunt down Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) a year after they had a showdown in Haddonfield. Meanwhile, Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), Michael’s ex-psychiatrist, wrote a book about the killings and tried to wrestle with the media’s barrage of questions and his conscience (or lack thereof). In my opinion, Dr. Loomis’ storyline should totally not have gone in that direction. Instead, we should have followed Dr. Loomis’ mission (or downright obsession) to hunt down Michael and protect Laurie from him. That’s much more interesting (and relevant) than scenes of him signing books and being interviewed on some television shows. As for Michael’s rampage, although I still thought that the stalking and violent scenes were very gruesome, none of it was particularly scary. Well, except for that scene in the hospital which occured during the first twenty minutes (the only effective scene in the whole movie). I also hated the fact that Zombie decided to inject Deborah Myers’ ghost (Sheri Moon Zombie as Michael’s mother) into the storyline. Not only was such a decision poorly executed, the scenes were downright laughable. If I wanted to see a ghost story with a psychological aspect to it, I’d watch “The Others” because that one was actually chilling to the bone (not to mention clever). Slasher fans simply do not pay ten bucks or so to watch a slasher flick with ghosts roaming about and supposedly instigating the broken mind of a killer. I went into this movie with an above average expectations because the 2007 version was very enjoyable. But after watching this movie, I think Zombie should just stop. He doesn’t quite grasp the idea of the brilliance that comes with simplicity and a truly terrifying soundtrack, which defined John Carpenter’s 1978 “Halloween” classic.