Thursday, October 17, 2013

Halloween Hootenanny: Night of the Living Dead Dude: The Rob Zombie-thon - Part II


We're picking up exactly where we left off yesterday, so if you haven't already, I'd suggest reading the previous post first. So, without further ado...

Friday 13th September 2013

22:52 - Halloween II (2009)

A quick disclaimer of sorts... I only realised there was a director's cut of this movie at the 11th hour and I hear it's quite different to the theatrical one, which I'll obviously be watching. I'll be trying to get hold of the former at some point, and when I do, I'll be sure to do a quick post comparing the two and I'll add a link to it here. It's all good though, as I remember being blown away when I first saw this cut anyway, so I'm really looking forward to re-watching it...

This is definitely one of those movies where the less said the better, especially regarding the plot. Let's just say this... in the first movie, Zombie was simultaneously paying tribute to the original and also re-inventing it in his own inimitable way, where as with this sequel, he is doing entirely his own thing... and while this somewhat goes without saying, you'll either love it or hate it. As with another movie coming up soon, this is not exactly a straightforward horror film, and contains plenty of elements that typically tend to polarise movie-goers. 

Without giving anything away, I will concede that there are certain narrative ambiguities here, but this is something that has never bothered me personally when watching any movie... in fact, I tend to view movies more like something of a waking dream, so I'm usually more concerned with sensations and images than anything else (or at least these are often the main things I take away with me), and Zombie's film certainly delivers on both those fronts. While we're on the subject of the visuals, I must say I actually quite like the fact that this was shot in 16mm, as it certainly delivers that extra level of grit and grain that the director was after. And furthermore, it arguably adds to the atmosphere of certain scenes, especially some of the moody exteriors, with their isolated pools of both light and darkness... in fact, in this sense it reminds me slightly of the look of Lucio Fulci's City of the Living Dead, which was also shot in this format. At any rate, filming it this way, as opposed to on 35mm, didn't harm the film at all as far as I'm concerned, and the Blu-Ray I'm watching looks fantastic.

Like its predecessor, Halloween II is often relentlessly brutal, but not without its humourous moments. There's more great fireworks between Brad Dourif's Sheriff and Malcolm McDowell's Dr. Loomis, and the latter has a scene at a press conference that had me in stitches at one point. Most of the cast from the last film return and continue to provide solid performances, though there is one addition to the cast that I'm kicking myself for not noticing... Margot freakin' Kidder! And as with every movie in the 'thon so far, there's another absolutely brilliant use of a popular song here... one that was also used more recently as it happens, and perhaps with equal effectiveness, by Tim Burton for the title sequence of Dark Shadows. At this current moment in time, this is my reigning favourite Rob Zombie movie... though that could soon change as I've not seen either of the next two...

00:51 - The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)

I really had no idea what to expect from a Rob Zombie directed animated feature, though I obviously anticipated it was going to be something of a major gear shift from the last few movies. And frankly, the prospect of providing a coherent synopsis for this one feels even more overwhelming and probably pointless than it did for Halloween II, but nevertheless I'll give it a shot...

The film follows the titular masked crusader against evil (played by Tom Papa) and his sidekick/sister Suzi-X (Sheri Moon Zombie), as they attempt to stop the diabolical Dr. Satan (who is voiced by Paul Giamatti and looks nothing like his name sake from House of 1000 Corpses... not that I'm complaining...) from marrying super-sweary stripper Velvet Von Black (Rosario Dawson), as their unholy union will give the former "All the sudsy powers of hell!", thereby allowing him to take over the world, mwah hah hah! And that's really all you need to know as far as the story goes...

I had an absolute blast watching this... I found it frequently hilarious and so far from being politically correct that it was frankly sublime. And also, it was just what the doctor ordered after the last few films, which were all entertaining, but undeniably grim for much of the time. All of the usual Zombie suspects are in this, including Mrs Zombie (as it probably wouldn't be a Rob Zombie movie without her... haters be damned!), Danny Trejo, Ken Foree, Sid Haig, Bill Moseley and Dee Wallace. Dawson and Giamatti are both new to this particular party and play their respective roles with the amount of gusto they deserve. And last but not least, the songs by Hard 'n Phirm (Zombie regular Tyler Bates also adds a score) are absolutely brilliant, with the musical duo providing pitch perfect parodies of many musical styles, including a Beatles-esque number about Nazi zombies of all things. In summation, I highly recommend this to anyone with a healthy sense of humour... that is, anyone who isn't easily offended.

02:21 - Time for a break so I can have a quick smoke and temporarily rest my eyes. Plus going outside briefly usually wakes me up a bit, as I'm currently getting a tad sleepy. I've been looking forward to seeing the last movie of the 'thon for a good while though, so I'm sure I'll have no problem staying awake. 

02:51 - The Lords of Salem (2012)

Heidi (played by... you guessed it! Sheri Moon Zombie), a radio DJ and recovering addict, runs a show in Salem, Massachusetts with her cohorts Herman (Ken Foree, who, the observant among you will notice, has been in nearly as many of Rob's movies as Mrs. Zombie) and another Herman (Jeff Daniel Phillips), who is affectionately known as 'Whitey'. After a show one night, the trio come across a mysterious package that has been delivered to Heidi. It's something of an anachronism in more ways than one, being a strange wooden box containing an equally intriguing piece of vinyl. Upon returning home, Whitey and Heidi listen to the record, which for some reason sends the latter into a trance. After that, high weirdness starts erupting left, right and centre...

As always, I'm loathe to give too much away regarding the plot... however, I just realised I totally forgot to mention the prologue, which features some fireside shenanigans involving witches, goats and other occult elements. What does need saying outright at this point (and I suppose one could say this for every film, but it seems to especially apply here), is that this movie definitely isn't for everyone... in fact, like Halloween II, it seems to be downright polarising. But if you have the patience for stories that are somewhat slow-burning, and a tolerance (or just general love) for cinema that is often mind-bendingly surreal, then I think this will be right up your street.

There's a lot thrown into the pot here, making this a hard movie to sum up (I have a feeling it will lend itself well to multiple viewings, and may even require them), but Zombie's elevator pitch of describing it as being like if Ken Russell had directed The Shining is a pretty good start. The film is undeniably stylish, with gorgeous cinematography by Brandon Trost (who also did a great job on Halloween II) and some incredible imagery that oscillates between the nightmarishly horrific and the awe-inspiringly beautiful, all of which is especially impressive seeing as Zombie had a minuscule budget to play with... that is, in comparison to what he'd had for his previous features. Furthermore, its merits arguably extend beyond mere surface shimmer, with plenty of affecting and interesting substance to be savoured. As a slight side note, I think Lords compares favourably to Ti West's The Innkeepers (and The House of the Devil, come to think of it), and would serve as a great companion piece to it, as both feature female protagonists who are on essentially the same kind of narrative trajectory. In fact, these two movies are easily my favourite pair of genre efforts from the last few years (though I'll admit I'm far from hip when it comes to current ones), as I found it to be both moving at times and consistently creepy throughout, but not without heart and humour.

Two final things I wanted to mention... Firstly, the film features an ensemble cast as equally impressive as any we've encountered today, including the likes of Bruce Davison, Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace, Michael Berryman, Sid Haig and a frankly unrecognisable Meg Foster. And I found the soundtrack, by Zombie's guitarist John 5, to be extremely effective at insidiously burying itself into my subconscious... the infamous record that features prominently in the movie being the case in point. And as you'd probably expect, there's some more great choices of pre-existing music, this time courtesy of Rick James, Rush and The Velvet Underground. Honestly, I feel like I'm barely scratching the surface with this one, and I'm eager to revisit it as soon as possible so I can do a more in-depth analysis of it. All in all, I'm really glad I took the plunge and did this chronological retrospective of Zombie's work (and yes, I'm aware I forgot to mention his Grindhouse trailer Werewolf Women of the S.S.), as it has been both an instructive and immensely entertaining viewing experience. And I had no idea this would be the case beforehand, but it turns out that I actually saved the best till last... yup, that's right folks, this has instantly overtaken Halloween II as my favourite film by the director... though as I said, I still need to see the director's cut of that, so it could all change again...

04:58 - The End!


  1. It is my fervent belief that if The Lords Of Salem had been made by Rob Jones AKA Some Dude, folks would be raving about it. But as far as I am concerned, you, me, my wife, Richard, and Jeffrey Canino like the film. And that is more than enough for me.

  2. I think you're spot on there. Seeing as critics and audiences also shat upon now canonised films like The Shining and The Thing when they were released, it's my firm hope that Lords will one day get the praise it deserves... at which point we can all collectively turn round and say "See! I told you so!". But even if that never happens, I'll still be extremely happy to know that I'm in such good company.