Rob Zombie is ready to drag you back to hell. The filmmaker behind the controversial “Halloween” reboot (and its equally controversial sequel) is returning to the blood-thirsty psychopaths who first appeared in 2003’s “House of 1,000 Corpses” and and later in 2005’s genuine masterpiece “The Devil’s Rejects.” This newest film, “3 From Hell,” debuting next week as a special three-night Fathom event before hitting Blu-ray on October 15th (just in time for Halloween!), sees the titular three – Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), Baby (Sheri Moon-Zombie) and Otis (Bill Moseley) – survive the bloody climax of “The Devil’s Rejects” to find themselves in even more gore-drenched trouble.
We were lucky enough to chat with Zombie about the idea of doing another follow-up, an interesting actor switch-up that happens in the movie (it’s not really a spoiler, it happens very early on) and the differences between making tiny movies and wide releases.
Be sure to grab your tickets to the special Fathom event now!
Moviefone: When did you first start thinking about a follow-up to “House of 1,000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects?”
RobZombie: It’s been a while. There was always this idea that was popping around in the back of my mind for at least the past 10 years. So I’d think about it and not really follow up on it, think about it again and not really follow up on it, but it was about three years ago when I said, “You know what, it’s now or never with this thing.”
In the past there had been speculation that you’d be bringing the characters back from the dead through supernatural means.
There was fan speculation about that, but that was never something that I wanted to do.
How long did it take for you to hit on the concept you wound up with?
It was ever-evolving. Even as I was in early pre-production the script kept changing and evolving. Even the idea of going to Mexico came in later. It was always changing. All my movies are always changing, even while we’re shooting they take on a life of their own. I found out a long time ago that movies become their own entity while you’re making them. Sometimes they want to go in a certain direction and you have to go with it. You can’t sit there with the script like it’s carved in stone. “No, we must do this even though it doesn’t feel right anymore!” That’s another thing that happened in this movie.
Was there ever a thought to include some of the more outrageous “House of 1,000 Corpses” mythology into “3 From Hell?”
No, not really. I feel that the movies were their own journey. The first movie is very cartoony, very wacky, the characters are almost cartoon characters. It all takes place at night and it’s very colorful. Then on the second one, I wanted to flip everything that happened in the first movie – I wanted it to be very stark, to happen in the daylight, and with this movie I wanted to take it to yet another place. What I find exciting about making sequels, because you don’t get a lot of time in a movie to develop characters. When you watch a TV show and you see 100 hours of “Breaking Bad,” it’s really amazing. But with a movie you get 90 minutes and you can’t get that far. So with a sequel, you don’t have to do that groundwork, you can take those characters and move them forward.
The usual thought with a sequel is you do repeat the same thing and everyone can enjoy the same movie again. It would have been called “House of 1,000 Corpses 2,” it would have been another group of people going into the house. I didn’t want to do anything of that. I wanted to do the exact opposite.
And it’s the same thing with this. The characters have grown, in mythology in the film world, so why don’t we make that the case in their world and start with that idea.
Can you talk about your influences?
The first act is very much inspired by this Manson documentary from the 70s that’s called “Manson.” That’s act one. Act two becomes like “The Desperate Hours,” a home invasion movie. And act three is an Italian western.
What’s interesting in this movie is the “3 From Hell” is not who you think it’ll be. Sid Haig is reintroduced and then leaves almost immediately. Was that part of the evolution of the screenplay?
That was never the original idea, that was more of an evolution of the facts of life. The “3 From Hell” was always the three you’d think – it was always Captain Spaulding, Otis and Baby. That was the script and that was the movie I was always planning to make. Three weeks out from shooting I got a call from Sid Haig from the hospital, and he’d been in the hospital for a while. At that point he was in a physical rehabilitation facility so I was like, “Oh god.” So I went to visit him. He was in rough shape. He’d lost a ton of weight and he was really weak. It was like, oh crap. I kept rewriting the script, making the role smaller and smaller because I knew he couldn’t physically do it. He was lying in a hospital bed, how was he f*cking going to make a movie? It just wasn’t possible. But I kept saying, “He’ll get better, it’ll get better.” I kept trying to keep hope alive.
But I made his part less and less and eventually when it came time to shoot, an actor of his age, you have to get cleared by a doctor and an insurance company and he couldn’t get cleared. Luckily Lionsgate was nice enough to let me bring him in for an afternoon. I got enough footage to complete that character’s journey, because that was all I could do. You can plan all you want and life steps in and goes, “Nope.”
But at least you got a cool new character out of it that adds to this world. Can you talk about the creation of that character?
Well, it was really quick because I had so many versions of the script going. At one point it was going to be called “2 From Hell” and just focus on those two characters, because I hadn’t announced the title yet. But then I thought, Oh I wrote the whole script for three people and it’d be such a huge rewrite, I’ll just come up with a new character. So I called up Richard Brake, who I’d just worked with and really liked [editor’s note: he played Doom-Head in Zombie’s crowd-funded horror film “31”]. I knew who he was and I knew he’d fit in.
But he was shooting a movie in Spain, so I’m like, “Oh great.” Luckily his movie ended and he immediately flew to LA and walked onto the set. So getting Richard up to speed on the character as we were shooting … it’s amazing it all worked out given the circumstances we were under.
Well this whole franchise is sort of amazing. The first movie was made for Universal …
And right now there are houses happening in Hollywood and Orlando – two huge houses for “House of 1,000 Corpses” at the same studio that hated my movie and sent me packing. So, yeah, it’s been a very strange journey, that’s for sure.
And you’ve also had this incredible career path where you’ve made relatively big-budget movies and also done crowd-funded movies. This seems somewhere in between because it’s initially a theatrical Fathom event and then coming to home video and VOD. Do you have a philosophical approach to these things now?
Well the way I see it is, as you said, I’ve done it on all these different levels. And the only goal is to get the movie made and make it the movie I wanted it to be. Because the rest of it is out of my control. You know what I mean? You could have the best person at the studio who is totally your champion and cheerleader and the movie is coming out and you call up his office and they go, “Oh yeah he got fired.” It’s like, “Oh great, the one person who was our cheerleader!” I just can’t worry about that stuff anymore. I’ve had movies open on 4,000 screens and be #1 and movies open on hardly any screens and at the end of the day, the satisfaction for me is the same.
If I’d never done the 4,000 screen movies I’d probably still be pining for it. But since I’ve done it, I feel like, “Well I’ve done that and it hasn’t given me any more joy.” The process of making the movie is what I care about. The rest is just whatever. Even moreso now. It seems like even if you have a massive movie, within 4 weeks nobody cares anymore. All the movies look the same once they hit iTunes.
“3 From Hell” is out next week as part of a three-night Fathom event and will be on Blu-ray on October 1th.