So–seriously, guys–why is all manner of internet Haterade directed at Rob Zombie? I’ve been pondering that question for some time and yesterday’s post on Electronic Cerebrectomy which, in turn, linked over to Hunter Stephenson’s two-part /Film interview with Mr. Zombie (Part One and Part Two, respectively, for the lazyvolk), contained some really similar thoughts to mine on the topic. All that hott compound-complex sentence action is circling around a single statement:
I dig Rob Zombie’s films.
The controversy surrounding Zombie’s flicks seems to focus on his lack of originality and his depiction of so-called “white trash” characters. Yes, he’s working in genre tropes and yes, he has a New York City art school background. But… isn’t it part and parcel of making a horror movie to traffic in cliches and develop something engaging from that source material? That’s the very definition of genre entertainment, in my mind. As to Zombie’s perceived lack of firsthand knowledge of rural Caucasian serial killers, well… I’m fairly certain that Jean Rollin is not, in fact, a lesbian vampire, and this in no way diminishes my enjoyment of his films.
I know–I’m getting snarky here, but I really do have a hard time grasping why so much ire is directed at Rob Zombie’s films. I really enjoy watching “House of 1,000 Corpses,” a film that stands up very well against my repeated viewings. It’s a movie whose brutality is balanced with a black sense of humor, brimming with psychedelic visuals and employing a saturated color palette that place it in a different league from the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” rip-off that many have dubbed it. Zombie is a horror fan, and as such, he references the movies, characters, and stories that he loves–his work is connected to the horror genre from a fan level, rather from the perspective of a cynical cash-in.
Regarding his “Halloween” remake and the upcoming “H2,” I’ll confess I’m a bit torn. My gut reaction to the whole Remake/Reboot phenomenon is one of Generalized Fangirl Dismay. Why not position the film as a sequel and not just claim the same title? It smacks of plagiarism more than homage, and borders on a major marketing misstep. Once I’m over my initial hot-blooded scorn, however, the Remake/Reboot phenomenon isn’t some new, unprecedented, postmodern, Film-by-Committee thing. The emotional connection a lot of folks feel to characters like Michael Meyers, Freddy Kreuger, and Jason Voorhees is pretty similar to the one that’s been established to Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, and the Wolf Man. I don’t have the same kind of ZOMG SACRILEGE feeling when I encounter a new representation of one of the Classic Monsters, and while it’s productive to discuss the relative merits of each interpretation, it seems kind of silly to rail against their very existence. The slashers of the late 70s and early 80s are really just the newest crop of Classic Monsters, and in this context I don’t have a particular problem with filmmakers taking a stab (har har) at this source material.
Looking at Rob Zombie’s films objectively, it’s hard to deny that he has a true consistency and thoroughness of vision. His visual landscape is colorful, weathered, and macabre–a gruesome All Hallow’s Eve populated by sinister characters who speak in a distinctive patois. Whether or not it’s a flavor of vision that a particular film-goer enjoys is open to debate, as is the degree to which Zombie is able to convey his intended look and feel, but to deny its existence seems kinda disingenuous to me.
Or maybe that’s just my crush on Sheri Moon Zombie speaking…