csaBe warned in advance: this interview ends on a cliffhanger! At the very end of this interview, Rob Zombie confesses that he has not yet seen Oldboy, and on my urging says he will watch it tonight (that’s November 9th, for you at home – CHUD.com, turning around interviews faster than anybody else!). Did he? And if so, did he like it? I hope to one day find out.

I had the chance to talk to Rob Zombie today because of this week’s release of the packed to the gills 2-disc set of Devil’s Rejects, which you can buy from CHUD.com by clicking right here. It was an un-rock star 10:30 am in California when he got on the phone, but it’s obvious that no matter what this guy’s hair looks like or what tattoos he has, he’s a huge professional – and really smart, too. It’s a pleasure to interview someone who isn’t just speaking in sound bites, but is delivering long, thought out answers.

Q: To me, Devil’s Rejects is a better movie than House of 1000 Corpses in a lot of ways. I assume that’s because you learned a lot doing your first film. What was it that you learned?

Zombie: That’s a tough question because the answer is really everything. The first one is the hardest – everything, no matter what you think you know, is the first time it’s happening. Some of the key things I learned was just how to prepare for what’s going to take place. Pre-production is key, and having great people around you who are there to make happen what you need to happen is the other thing.

On the first film there were a lot of inexperienced people in the departments, pre-production was a little bit loose, and it just made for problems on set. Where in Rejects, and I think you can see this on the documentary that comes with the DVD, I just hammered everything in pre-production endlessly. So that when we got on set the only surprises I wanted to see were from the actors giving me better performances than I ever expected. I mean, something’s always going to go wrong, but the more you can lower that percentage of things going wrong, the better.

That was really the main thing, because it’s amazing how much time can be wasted in a day with a problem you didn’t expect. You have to stay on time – that’s the thing, too, that a lot of people don’t realize: you’ve got to stay on time and you’ve got to stay on budget. Maybe if it’s a huge hundred million dollar movie they can do that. But a lot of times you have that actor that day and then he’s gone. If you don’t use him, you’re screwed. So you have to hammer out each day, there’s no going back to it; you’re moving to another location, you’re losing actors, so anything that throws you behind schedule is a complete nightmare.

Q: This couldn’t be any more different than being a musician and making a record, could it? Is there anything you could take from making a record and apply it to making a movie?

Zombie: The only real connection that I can figure is the constant battle between art and commerce. The difference that a lot of people don’t get is that you’ve accepted a large amount of money and you need to deliver that product – and you need to make it as good as you can. No one wants to hear any excuses about anything. It’s the same thing when you take the money to make a record – you have to deliver that record and it better be fucking good. Any excuse will be – no one will even hear any excuses, no one cares. They don’t care if you’re half dead, if you’re sick, if you get hit by a car, none of it matters. You deliver that record and you deliver the movie.

csaBasically it’s the pressure of doing those things is what’s similar.

Q: I read that you’re moving into being a full time filmmaker, that making movies is your job from now on.

Zombie: I say that sometimes, and sometimes I don’t say that. Right now it’s both. Right now I’m in the studio recording and in the middle of working on an animated movie, so I’m still splitting my time between the two at the moment.

Q: Besides the animated movie is there something else you’re working on? I know you’re a fan of westerns, and I see a big western influence on Rejects – is it possible that you would do a straight ahead western?

Zombie: Possibly. I don’t know what the next movie is besides the animated film. There are several scripts – some I have written and some I haven’t written. I just don’t know what’s next. Hopefully in the next month or so I’ll have it figured out, but right now it’s up in the air.

Q: Do you consider Rejects a horror film?

Zombie: It kind of depends on how you want to look at it. What is a horror film becomes very sketchy sometimes, because someone will say, ‘Rejects is not a horror film!’ so I have to go, ‘I guess Last House on the Left isn’t a horror film either.’ What are we calling a horror film? Are there monsters? No. Is it violent and vicious? Yes. I don’t know, it all depends on what your definition is.

Q: Rejects seems really informed by crime and outlaw genres, westerns and vigilante stuff. It does seem more removed from traditional horror stuff than 1000 Corpses.

Zombie: I didn’t want it to have the trappings of a horror movie, but I think it plays – some of the characters, like Otis, are some of the scariest characters in a long time. He’s as scary as Hannibal Lector, and that clearly seems to be a horror movie in everybody’s minds, Silence of the Lambs, when it’s truly just a crime film. So I don’t know, it all depends.

But I don’t really care how it’s classified. I’ve never been that thrilled with classifying things anyway. I like all kinds of stuff. It was always funny to me when people would argue, ‘I just like heavy metal, I can’t like punk rock!’ Whatever. You stupid shit, if you like, you like it.

Q: Speaking of Otis, Bill Moseley gives such a great performance in this film. How did you work with him to get there?

Zombie: Me and Bill are friends, so I had the luxury of working with him on the first film and discussing what we liked and didn’t like, and being friends, those years in between the films we were spending a lot of time together. We were always talking about it, which is helpful. Even right up to the shooting, we were always trying to take the Otis character, who the first time out is a cool, interesting character, but to me is never believable enough – not that it’s his fault, that’s how I felt every character in that film was, cool characters that weren’t particularly believable – and we talked about how to make him real.

A lot of it was visual. I changed his look because we did make-up tests and tried going with acas look that was similar to what he had in the first movie, and taking him outside of a confined horror movie spooky house setting, it looked kind of stupid. It looked ridiculous. It didn’t look like a real person. It was more distracting than anything. Bill does well getting into his groove when his look starts to change, and I think the beard really – strangely enough – really helped him feel different.

I really wanted him to play it more low key at times, not yelling and screaming and being crazy, because I thought his character was scarier when he was calm and cool.

Q: This summer was interesting because we have this horror resurgence going on, and there were two films that went back to some of the nastier, almost grindhouse stuff, more than we had seen in a long time. One was Devil’s Rejects and the other was High Tension. I’m curious what your take on that film was.

Zombie: I thought it was great. I watched it like a year before it came out – I got to see the French version. I never saw the dubbed, R version, so I can’t comment on it. I thought it was great. I hadn’t seen a movie that vicious and violent in so long that it was really refreshing.

Everything these days, these PG-13 movies like House of Wax (I don’t know if that was PG-13 but whatever), they feel so clean and safe. To watch High Tension, it felt so nasty.

Q: It’s interesting that you mention safe, because one of the things that ties together the nastier films of the 70s is that you never knew if the director really was a crazy person, if the stuff you were seeing on screen was real – not because of the effects, but because of the attitude. Can that kind of feeling be reached anymore, when we know so much about films and filmmakers? Can people ever really feel threatened by a Rob Zombie movie, or will they just say, ‘Oh there’s Rob Zombie off being Rob Zombie again’?

Zombie: I don’t know because none of these people know me, or know anything about me. It’s all pre-conceived notions. Who knows?

Perception changes with time, too. A lot of these movies that are great movies get changed with time. I find that even just four years down the road with House of 1000 Corpses – people react to it differently over time.

Q: Is the response getting better over time?

Zombie: It’s getting a lot better. I don’t know what that is. I think the movie ages well because when it came out – a lot of times people review things based on what they thought it would be, or what they thought it should have been. I always find that funny. I remember going to see movies when they first came out – people have too much information now, too, and too much information can be dangerous. I remember I went to see Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead when it first came out and I knew very little about them. Evil Dead I saw the one sheet and I thought, hey I’m going to go see that. I didn’t know anything about that movie. I didn’t walk out of it thinking, ‘I thought it would be this, it should have been this,’ I just accepted it for what it was. But I think now with so many websites and so much information, almost nobody is walking into a movie anymore getting a true experience. They know way too much about everything, and even when people like it, they say, ‘I thought it was going to be like this, and there wasn’t enough of this, and there wasn’t enough of that.’ Jesus, way to ruin it for yourself.

That happened big time with House of 1000 Corpses, but four years later the people who paid no attention to it are catching it on HBO and watching it fresh with no idea of what it is and going, ‘That was a weird little movie.’

Q: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the newer generation of film fans and how easy things are for them. You have a famous anecdote about biking all night to see Night of the Living Dead, but today no one has to go that far out of their way to see a movie. The most difficult it gets is hitting Amazon or Ebay. Do you think that changes the value people place on films?

Zombie: I think it does. But things change, and if that’s how your life is, that’s just how it is for you. There’s so much of everything that it maybe does change it.

What it changes for me is that so much of seeing these films the first time out was where I saw them and how I saw them. It always added to the experience. Seeing Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the first time in a really shitty drive-in theater really adds to the experience. The drive-in itself seems sketchy and scary. You’re there as a kid and you think, ‘Jeez, just this place seems horrible.’ Then you watch that movie in that place and it becomes something else in your mind. Now, I don’t know.

But things change. There are people who say, ‘When I went to the movies there were newsreels and a cartoon and a live stage show!’ So it’s always going to change, but I think that’s why some of these movies are always going to seem extra special.

Q: Your films really push the boundaries. Rejects on DVD has a couple of minutes added that the MPAA had originally cut just for the “tone.” We’re also living in a really weird world where just yesterday the Kansas school board redefined science. In this very conservative world, where do you see yourself as an artist? Are you lashing out against this stuff?

Zombie: I don’t feel I’m lashing out against it, I’m just doing what I want to do. I’m amazed that it is being accepted that way. You would think by now that people wouldn’t be so shocked and horrified. It seems like the world is really polarized. It’s like there are two different worlds that are going on – people that are accepting of everything and people that are accepting of nothing. They can’t even believe science, like you said. ‘Oh, that weird voodoo called science! We can’t get caught up in that!’ It’s bizarre.

Q: Is that conservatism directly affecting the decisions the MPAA makes?

casZombie: I think it’s definitely a reflection. I think for sure when you look at movies from 20 years ago, they looked R-rated movies as being for adults. The content was heavy duty, that was all good. But now it’s like – I think a good example is The Exorcist. Would that movie be rated R today? Could you get away with all that with an R-rating? Fucking herself with a crucifix, and shoving her mom’s face in her crotch and ‘Your mother sucks cocks in hell,’ all that? I doubt it. I bet it would be trimmed if it had to be resubmitted as a movie.

Jaws wouldn’t be PG now, it definitely would PG-13 suddenly, if not bordering on an R-rated movie.

Q: I think Jaws would definitely be rated R.

Zombie: Probably would. There’s a severed head, floating legs, people getting eaten alive. It’s bizarre.

A lot of the reviews [of Devil’s Rejects] have been strange, and like we said, polarized, but I couldn’t believe how many reviews were like – they would even be positive reviews: ‘You can’t slight the quality of the filmmaking but this film is so morally reprehensible I can’t believe it was made, yadda yadda yadda.’ Gimme a fucking break. You gotta be crazy. OK, let’s make all movies nice. That’s why we have movies and books and TV, so everything can be nice. And for a critic that works for a paper to be talking that way – it’s ridiculous. I don’t want to hear about your moral convictions when you’re reviewing a movie. Fucking bullshit.

Q: I saw you on the Bravo 100 Scariest Movie Moments. You were one of the only people who could comment on Audition because I believe you were one of the only people on the show who had seen it. Are there other recommendations you could give of really edgy films you’re enjoying these days?

Zombie: Audition was the first movie in a long time where I felt, ‘Wow!’ I can watchcas everything and be kind of ehh, and then the one after Audition was High Tension.

Q: Are you a fan of Park Chanwook?

Zombie: Yeah.

Q: Your take on Oldboy?

Zombie: I haven’t watched it yet. I bought it and haven’t watched it.

Q: You really should!

Zombie: I have a stack of DVDs like a mile high next to my TV.

Q: I recommend that be the next one you watch.

Zombie: I’ll move it to the top of the stack. It’s so hard. That’s the other thing, with everything available you have that quest to watch everything. I think I’ll watch it tonight.