I talked with a Zombie

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The busiest guy with an undead name in showbiz? Rob Zombie. Like a certain mask-wearing maniac, the man can’t be stopped – at least when it comes to doing press for Halloween, his latest film, which opens Friday, August 31 (giving you a full two months to prepare for the actual holiday). I zoomed into the office after an ill-advised night out for my 8:45 a.m. interview. My phone was lit up like Vegas – Mr. Zombie was running a bit late, could I hold on for a few minutes? Yeah, I could hold on to talk about Halloween – John Carpenter’s 1978 original is my go-to favorite film citation, and I’m anticipating the remake with every bloody bone in my horror-geek body. I don’t like doing interviews before I’ve seen the film, but again – it’s Halloween, dude. A movie that – let’s be honest – needs no enhancement to be scary, even in 2007. But I’m willing to see what Zombie has to offer. Which leads me to my first question …

San Francisco Bay Guardian: What do you think makes you different from other directors who’ve remade horror films (see: The Hills Have Eyes, Dawn of the Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Fog, etc. etc.)? I know you’re a huge horror fan...

Rob Zombie: It’s hard to say. All directors are different. And for me to assume I know who they are and what they do and what their motivations are would be presumptuous on my part. But the only thing that I know is that what makes this remake possibly different from others is that it’s not just a job. If you’re gonna take on something, you have to take it on because you have some passion for the project. Because I’ve been offered other things in the past and I’ve turned them all down because I was just kind of like, “Why would you remake that? Who give a shit?” So I mean, maybe that’s different. Sometimes people just take on jobs that they really don’t have a passion for, and it shows.

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Michael Myers doesn't like babysitters.

SFBG: In the original film, Michael Myers is presented as an enigmatic killing machine – he’s simply called “the Shape” in the credits. I’ve heard you delve into his psychological profile a bit more. Do you think it’s scarier knowing his motivations?

RZ:
You know, they made eight movies with Michael Myers. Eight. That’s ridiculous. So I was like, how do we take this character that pretty much they’ve sucked dry of anything, and make it fresh and new and exciting again? And I thought well, they’ve always played him as this boogeyman we know nothing about. Why don’t we start back at the beginning and show him as a child becoming this monster, and play it totally real, from all points of view? I thought that would be much more scary and much more intense than just, you know, always the boogeyman.

SFBG: Your cast (Malcolm McDowell, Brad Dourif, Dee Wallace, Halloween IV-V star Danielle Harris) is pretty diverse. Was it simply a matter of calling people up that you had in mind for particular roles?

RZ: Pretty much. Obiviously, some of the people I never heard of [before] that are in it are the younger cast members -- we did a casting call and went through a bunch of people to find new people who would be exciting to work with. But for a lot of the other roles, it was like, you know, just finding people that I have enjoyed in other movies and thought were really great, and contacting them.

SFBG: What was the hardest part for you, when it came to updating such a classic film?

RZ: I think the hardest thing was finding the balance between how much new you wanted to bring to it, and how many elements of the original I wanted to retain. You want it to be a completely different moviegoing experience, or it’s pointless. But you want to harken back to some key elements that are the essence of what Halloween is. So that was always the tightrope that I was walking.

SFBG: Did you consult with John Carpenter at all?

RZ:
I’ve known John Carpenter for a long time, so I called him up before I started to just tell him it was happening. Then I talked to him when I finished and just said, “Oh, I’m done.” And that was about it.

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Image from www.filmedge.net.

SFBG: The original Halloween was made on a super-tight budget and is, overall, pretty bare-bones. How will your movie be different?

RZ: I wanted to make a totally different movie. I didn’t want it to look or feel or be like John’s movie at all, because that movie already exists. Any time you re-tell a story, you want it to be different. You want to retain what’s great about it. Batman Begins is totally different from Tim Burton’s Batman or Adam West’s Batman on television. But, you know, it can totally be done. John Carpenter did it with his version of The Thing.

SFBG: Does your film use Carpenter’s Halloween theme music?

RZ: We redid it. Tyler Bates re-scored it, but we used a lot of [Carpenter’s] classic themes, yeah.

SFBG: The original film is actually pretty bloodless. Will your Halloween have more gore?

RZ:
Not really, no. I don’t like gory movies, so I didn’t want to make this gory. There’s a few moments, but people keep thinking – you know, it’s the thing I’m always fighting against, “Oh, gory movies.” But I don’t give a shit about that stuff. Gory stuff is silly. It never was my thing, because then I feel like you’re just watching special effects, when things get really gory. Obviously, [my Halloween] is more intense and a little more bloody than the original, to play it more realistically. I mean, more happens in this movie, too. The original was, young Michael kills his sister, gets locked away; when he escapes, he basically kills Annie, Lynda, and Bob. And that’s really it. More happens in this movie than that.

SFBG: So you used the original film as a backbone, and added more scenes.

RZ: Yeah, just took the basic story, because Dr. Loomis [Donald Pleasance in the original, Malcolm McDowell in the remake] always talks about things, but we never saw any of it, about how he tried to keep [Michael Myers] locked away, and this and that. In John Carpenter’s film, we basically pick up with Dr. Loomis after everything’s happened. After the shit hit the fan. But [my Halloween] starts before. When we first meet Dr. Loomis in this film, when he first meets Michael Myers, it’s before anything bad’s happened. And we watch Dr. Loomis’ life sort of unravel by being intertwined with Michael Myers. Because clearly, when you watch Carpenter’s film, Dr. Loomis seems like he’s a little bit nuts. So we see how he got to that point.

SFBG: Do you think fans of the original will like your version?

RZ: I think they should love it. Michael Myers never looked so fuckin’ good. The way they’ve tortured him and destroyed him throughout the course of these horrible sequels, people should be fuckin’ thrilled.

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Halloween opens Friday, August 31 in Bay Area theaters.

Another good website on Rob Zombie's Halloween here.

And Michael Myers' official site -- hey, even a cinematic killing machine's gotta have a web presence -- is here.

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