3. The Lords Of Salem (2012)
This movie is better on repeat viewings, growing in esteem in these parts since it’s release. It’s an odd beast and one that was a bit hard to chew on in its original run. It doesn’t immediately feel like a Rob Zombie movie, as it is the first of his to stray from redneck serial killers. It’s also much less straightforward than his past work, even less so than “Halloween II”. This movie could very easily described as Zombie’s version of Ken Russell smashing “Rosemary’s Baby” with “The Shining”.
It’s a very bizarre movie and it’s told in an esoteric way. There’s very wild imagery in here, with Zombie going far bigger with his visuals than he had previously. He hinted at what he could do in “Halloween II”, but this is on a whole new level.
It’s all to put us into the mind of our protagonist, Sherri Moon Zombie’s character who is being targeted for the crimes of her ancestors against real witches. Targeted to be the test tube for the devil’s spawn. The attack on her is not physical, but mental. Her mind is whittled down until she is weak enough to welcome in the hellspawn that will destroy the world.
So it’s all nightmare imagery and nightmare logic. Not much actual violence, a rarity from Rob. But it’s this unflinching look into the hatefulness of witchcraft and the nature of addiction and the way crimes can poison a land and the people in it.
The movie’s biggest issues are that it clearly runs up against its budget by the end of the movie, unable to really land its big swing in the climax. Yet another undervalued entry in his canon, this is a truly unique movie that should be more well received in a time where mainstream horror is lacking.
2. Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009)
If Zombie was trying to pay some sort of honor amongst the history of the ‘Halloween’ franchise, this movie is him going full bore into his own wild direction. Aside from a brief homage to the original “Halloween 2” in the beginning that involves a dream set in a hospital besieged by Michael, this is its own demented beast.
Much more willing to explore the minds of those in this story and the damage done to them in the original movie, this movie is much more idiosyncratic and a warm-up for the dream logic madness that he would chase in “The Lords of Salem”. Michael is now a wandering bum, haunted by visions of his mother and his younger self and a white horse, these visages representing the hate in his heart.
The murderous rage made literal. Laurie is completely broken, with any sense of the innocent girl gone as she has become all id. Annie is now a shut-in, covered in the scars of her run-in with Michael. Sheriff Brackett is doing everything he can to keep his girls above water, ready to break if he loses them. Loomis thinks the story is over so he is trying to make money off of it.
All of these souls are lost and broken by their experiences, unable to withstand the horrors that are about to come back into their lives. Laurie is more connected than ever to her brother, seeing visions of him in her dreams. All of this leading to the ending where everyone but the Sheriff dies, with Laurie finally giving in to her family’s madness and seeing the same ghosts that Michael does.
This is a really fascinating movie that plays by no one else’s rules and sees Zombie fully unleashed to follow his muse. The brutality of this movie tops what he delivered in the first one, painfully and really bloody. The imagery is really strong. Again, the performances may not all be uniformly strong, but more work than don’t and it’s not ship-sinking worthy. The swing he takes here is a massive swing for the fences.
And while it may not be the record-setting home run it wants to be, it’s a solid bases-clearing triple. Tons of interesting stuff is in here and it is one of the most unique franchise entries in any of horrordom.
1. The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
The movie that has yet to be topped and most likely will not be topped anytime soon. This is his masterpiece, everything he likes to do in one package and executed perfectly. The 70’s aesthetic is perfectly executed here in his Manson family-esque road movie. All of the acting is perfect and iconic. Sid Haig is amazingly charismatic as the nasty patriarch of this fiendish family. Sherri Moon has never been better as the honeypot for these nuts.
And Bill Moseley is the absolute best here, truly a horror icon as Otis, the mad dog killer of this group, a truly reprehensible man who knows full well how evil he is and takes absolute pleasure in it. It’s a wild performance and one that would be lavished with awards if awards shows gave any kind of shit about real horror movies.
William Forsythe is great as the vengeful cop on their trail who takes a really fascinating journey from hero to villain of the story. This journey is what really helps make this interesting and unique, because his journey leads to the best scene in the movie and what turns the movie on its head, changing up the audience’s sympathies on a dime.
Having Forsythe tie up the Fireflies and torture them for his own sick pleasure turns us onto their side, with the moment where Haig shows genuine pain and Sherri’s pain being a really weirdly heartbreaking moment.
For by the end of the movie, where the family is gunned down to the soothing sounds of “Free Bird”, we have basically been delivered a truly demented family movie. In a career of making violence really hurt, this is his opus. Every act of violence is sickening and unlike something we have seen before.
All of this adding up to that ending makes it even more impressive that he managed to get us on their side, even a little bit, by the end. Which really goes to show you that police overreach can really make anybody seem right. Justice must be cold and impersonal. There’s no doubt that this is his best movie and that this is, maybe, the best horror movie of it’s decade. The movie that will give him leeway for a long time and it’s worth it. Masterpiece is thrown around a lot, but this is truly deserving of that word.