When we got offered a phoner with Rob Zombie for his remake of Halloween, I jumped at it. The publicist explained that they were hoping to get some preview pieces from journalists, especially since they’d be presenting some stuff from the film at Comic Con this week. For me this was an opportunity to cut through all the internet rumors and bullshit and get the man behind the remake on the record about things like why the hell you remake Halloween anyway.
I like interviewing Rob Zombie – I’ve done it a couple of times now – because he’s smart and generally straightforward and very nice. I liked a lot of what he had to say here, but I do have to admit that I’m a little confused about the differences between this version and the original John Carpenter movie – at times Zombie says the new movie is ‘incredibly different,’ while also saying ‘the story is the same.’ He has obviously, as he says here, shifted the focus of the story onto Michael Myers, which could alter the basic point of view of the movie. It’s an interesting choice, and I’m curious to see if it’s successful. After The Devil’s Rejects, I’m certainly rooting for him.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween opens August 31st.
I guess my first question has to be: what’s the point of a Halloween remake?
What’s the point of anything?
Well, for certain remakes I do feel like what’s the point, but Halloween’s a little different, I believe. At first when I thought of a Halloween remake, I thought, ‘What’s the point,’ but then I realized that one thing Halloween has in particular that a lot of other horror remakes don’t have, is that it has an iconic character at the center of it, Michael Myers. To me it’s like Frankenstein: what’s the point of remaking Frankenstein? What’s the point of remaking Dracula? When you have such a classic character, you can do it moreso, because it’s the retelling of a classic story. Some movies don’t have characters you want to see re-envisioned in the same way, it’s just the situation. This one was different, it was more about taking this iconic monster back to life.
We’ve seen a lot of remakes of Frankenstein and Dracula, all of those classic monsters, and many of the versions are quite different from one another. How different is your Halloween from John Carpenter’s?
It’s incredibly different. Right now people haven’t seen it, so they compare, but I swear to God after watching my version for about the first minute and you’ll say, ‘There’s no point in comparing these two, they’re so different.’
What’s the main point of difference? Where are you jumping off of Carpenter’s version?
Pretty much everything is different. The story is the same – it’s the story of this kid, Michael Myers, who does these things, and has a doctor named Loomis – the blueprint of the story is the same, like if you were remaking Tom Sawyer, but the look and feel and vibe is 100% different. I didn’t try to make it look or feel like John Carpenter’s version, because to me that’s what makes people say, ‘What’s the point?’ Because there is no point to that. But if someone has a classic story and you tell it in a way that’s completely different… And that’s the challenge; if you have a remake you want to make it different enough that people are excited to see it, because it’s a different movie that exists on its own, but you want to have elements that hearken back to why you love the original – but not so much so that you go, ‘What’s the point?’ I think we’ve completely succeeded on that front.
So much attention has been paid to the idea that you’re remaking Halloween, but realistically people have been doing that for decades with slasher film knock offs. How do you make a slasher film that is different from all the ones we’ve seen over the last thirty years?
I think the biggest thing you do different, and what’s really different about Halloween for the people who have seen it, is that with most slasher movies you don’t care about characters; characters are irrelevant. You’re not following the journey of a character, you’re just watching situations that are violent. In [the original] Halloween the character you’re really following is Laurie Strode, but the character I’m following is Michael Myers. They don’t even hardly call him Michael Myers in the original; they call him The Shape, he’s The Boogie Man, but this is the story of Michael Myers really. Dr. Loomis in the first one gives you the Cliff’s Notes version of his life: ‘Oh he did this, he did that,’ but in this one we experience it all. It’s a very character-driven movie – it’s incredibly violent, it’s incredibly intense, but it’s an incredibly intense character-driven movie.
Most of your cast was born after the original Halloween came out – had they seen the original, or was this a bunch of younger kids who weren’t aware of it?
It’s a combination of both. Even some of the older cast members hadn’t seen it – Malcolm McDowell hadn’t seen it. I’m not even sure who had and who hadn’t seen it; I know the girl who plays Linda, Christina, hadn’t seen it. I assume all the younger kids in the cast hadn’t seen it. I didn’t poll them.
You didn’t recommend them to see it?
I recommended them not to see it. I didn’t want them to do an imitation of the character that was in the original. Sometimes I wouldn’t understand that when people would say that – I interviewed Ving Rhames when he did Dawn of the Dead, and he said he hadn’t seen the original, and I thought that was kind of weird… but now looking back I see it was good. You don’t want him to do a Ken Foree imitation. You don’t hire Malcolm McDowell to come in an imitate Donald Pleasance – that would be completely stupid.
You said that this is an incredibly violent movie. The original Carpenter version isn’t that violent when you watch it through modern eyes, but it’s full of tension and suspense. Can you marry tension and suspense with graphic violence? It seems like most filmmakers go for one or the other but not both.
I think you totally can. There are so many definitions of what violence is. Intense violence, to me, is like what you see in Goodfellas or Taxi Driver, because you’re swept up in the characters so when Joe Pesci gets beat to death with a baseball bat, it’s intense to watch. But in horror movies you almost never even remember the character’s names – it’s like The Teenage Couple – and then some outlandish violence happens and you don’t care. I’m more about the intensity… it’s not like it’s overly bloody and there’s all these crazy special effects, because that’s not what it needs to be. It becomes distracting and it becomes a movie about that, and that’s not what it is. But when the violence happens, as with Devil’s Rejects, which isn’t an overblown effects movie, it’s shocking and intense as if it’s happening in real life.
And in Rejects the violence is very personal.
That’s how it plays in Halloween too.
Have you submitted it to the MPAA yet?
We have our R-rating.
How was that process?
It was easier than it was with Rejects. I think because one thing this movie doesn’t have which was a big problem with Rejects is that one of the big sticking points with the MPAA is they don’t like when violence and sexuality are mixed. That doesn’t go down well with them. The big scene in Rejects in the motel with Priscilla Barnes and [Bill] Moseley was the big problem I had with the MPAA, and there’s nothing in this film that crosses those worlds, so we had an easier time.
One of the rumors is that you guys went back and did reshoots. What were those?
We did. We didn’t necessarily do reshoots – the real story is pretty great. We had a preview of the movie in New York and what happened is that the movie scored really, really well and Bob Weinstein came up and said, ‘Rob I so believe in this movie, if there’s anything you feel you didn’t get the first time I’ll give you the money to go back and get it now.’ I was like, ‘Fucking great.’ There were a couple things that… one in particular was the character that Danny Trejo plays, who isn’t a major character in the film, but in a way I could never predict he sort of jumps out more than I thought he might, so I always felt that never resolved himself – you get swept up with things and then he’s gone. So I shot another scene with Danny. And another thing was that when I was editing the film, I wanted to restructure the timeline of the movie and have events happen in a slightly different order, so I had to reshoot a couple of things that took place in the day that I now wanted to take place at night.
So the rumors that you shot six new deaths…?
I don’t know what that’s all about. I don’t even know how many deaths are in the movie. We didn’t go back and add all this blood and guts, which is what everybody seems to want to think.
The relationship between this film and the internet has been a difficult one at times. Your script leaked and got reviewed, people snuck into test screenings, there’s been a ton of rumors about problems – has this soured you on the internet?
Not really. It is what it always has been. I guess most of it comes from people being enthusiastic – if they weren’t paying attention to what you’re doing it would mean they didn’t care. It’s only annoying when you read things that are 100% not true. Sometimes you read things and you go, ‘Well, there’s an element of this that’s true, but of course they’ve misconstrued all the facts.’ And sometimes you read things and go, ‘That is 100% false. Someone is obviously doing this in hopes of hurting the movie.’ Someone says, ‘I heard shooting got delayed.’ 100% false. ‘I heard the release date got pushed.’ It’s a bummer when you read something 100% false. I think IMDB seems to be the breeding ground for 100% false. People write, ‘I saw the movie last night!’ and then they go on a tirade and well, you may have seen a movie last night, but you certainly haven’t seen this movie. I have to laugh at it.
You’ve said that you’re not interested in coming back for a sequel. Is there something else you have lined up?
I have a couple of things I’m working on, but I don’t like to announce things early because it seems like you jinx the project.
When you’re preparing a project, do you have a bunch of things simmering, or do you focus on one thing?
I only do one thing at a time, which everybody hates, because it’s not the way people do things. Everybody announces five different projects and they have a million things in development – they like to take the attitude that nine of these ten things won’t work, but I like to focus on one thing, and that’s the one thing I’m going to get done. I don’t even have an agent anymore for that reason, because they were always trying to get me [on to a number of projects at once]. I was like, ‘Fuck it. You’re fired.’ I’d rather have one movie that gets completed than 25 projects that never happen.
Speaking of getting completed, what’s the story with Superbeasto?
That’s been on hold. That project, unfortunately got caught up in weird limbos. I started it when I was editing Rejects; it was at Film Roman, and the Film Roman got bought by this company called IDT, which got bought by this company Starz – I swear every two months the company would change hands. And they would always say, ‘We want to focus on Superbeasto, as soon as the dust settles from the new merger.’ That happened like four times in, I swear, a year. And in that time Halloween started going, and I said, ‘Guys, when Halloween starts I don’t even want to hear the word Superbeasto.’ And that’s basically what happened. They’ve been working on it, animating it, but I haven’t paid any attention because I don’t like to split my time between projects. You don’t do any good work that way.
It’s been an interesting year for horror. We’ve seen the ‘torture’ genre possibly bottom out – where do you think the horror audience is these days?
People say to me, ‘Do you think it’s a new wave of this or that?’ and you know what, it’s always been the same. A couple good movies come out and a whole bunch of crap. It’s always the same. It was like that in the 70s, in the 80s, in the 90s. It’s like that now. If something comes out that’s fresh and cool, there’s going to be 25 crappy knock-offs of it. How many great horror movies were we ever flooded with at any time? Back in the heyday for every Halloween you got there was a My Bloody Valentine. It’s always the same thing.
Thanks for taking the time to talk, Rob. I have to tell you that Devil’s Rejects is a movie that has really disturbingly grown on me since it hit DVD. Every time I watch it I like it more and more.
It’s a funny movie, and I hope people kept the patience, because Halloween is like that. They come in thinking they know what they’re going to see, and I don’t want them to miss what they are going to see based on it not being what they thought it was. And it’s one of those movies where there are a lot of layers that become apparent on multiple viewings.