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‘It’s been something that has been in my life since I was such a little kid I can’t even remember,’ explained Rob Zombie in an interview with authors Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan for their retrospective Voices in the Dark. ‘In the late ’60s there was kind of a big horror boom. There was a lot of the old classic stuff on TV and there were TV shows like The Munsters, The Addams Family, The Twilight Zone. There was just so much horror stuff that I sucked it all up as a kid and always loved it. I don’t remember ever a time when it wasn’t there.’
Hitting his teens in the late 1970s, Zombie came of age during the golden era of the grindhouse film, in which both American and European filmmakers pushed the boundaries of taste and decency as censorships relaxed and special effects evolved. Raised on a diet of movies such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, horror would become a prominent theme through his work as the frontman of the long-since-disbanded metal outfit White Zombie.
Naming their 1989 album Make Them Die Slowly after the American name of Umberto Lenzi’s video nasty classic Cannibal Ferox, incorporating samples of Halloween in their cover of KC and the Sunshine Band‘s I’m Your Boogie Man for the 1996 flick The Crow: City of Angels and even naming the band after a legendary Béla Lugosi horror movie, White Zombie would allow the singer to indulge in his taste for the macabre. Perhaps it was inevitable that he would one day turn to directing horror films himself.
‘The first film turned out a little wackier and campier than I originally intended,’ admitted Zombie to the A.V. Club in 2005 when discussing his directorial debut House of 1000 Corpses. ‘Movies sometimes dictate their own course, so I just sort of went with it. And on Devil’s Rejects, I really wanted to scale it back and try to make something a lot grittier and nastier when those moments dictated.’ Following his two ultra-violent B-movies, Zombie was offered the chance to update John Carpenter’s original Halloween, incorporating his own brand of brutal violence and crude humour while also exploring the disturbed childhood of the film’s antagonist Michael Myers.
While his remake of Halloween would receive favourable reviews from both fans and critics, his misunderstood sequel would be almost universally reviled. In 2012 he made his most sophisticated and stylish movie to date with The Lords of Salem, moving away from his slasher roots with the tale of a possessed song that releases a long-forgotten evil after a late-night DJ plays it on her radio show. ‘There are so many projects that don’t happen, just sometimes they don’t get announced so no one ever knows about them and you don’t have to talk about them,’ he explained to The Playlist last April. ‘The Blob was going to happen. I was dealing with people on the movie, even though I was on the fence about doing anything that was considered a remake again.’
In the summer of 2012 Zombie announced, even before the release of The Lords of Salem, that he was to take a break from horror in order to work in other genres, with his first intended project being a hockey movie entitled Broad Street Bullies. This decision echoed Sean S. Cunningham who, after producing the successful exploitation film The Last House on the Left in the early 1970s, spent the remainder of the decade attempting to distance himself from horror by directing two sports-themed family movies, Here Come the Tigers and Manny’s Orphans, neither of which made an impact, forcing Cunningham to return to horror in 1980 with the slasher hit Friday the 13th.
With the hockey project remaining in development hell, Zombie announced his decision to return to the horror genre earlier this year during an interview with the Pulse of Radio. ‘I think it’s something fans of the other stuff will like. Probably fans of ‘The Devil’s Rejects,’ he claimed at the time. ‘It’s not connected to that film, but it’s more on that headspace.’ Now Zombie has revealed a teaser trailer on his official website for the upcoming movie, now entitled 31, that includes a montage of footage from his previous six features, including his animated movie The Haunted World of El Superbeasto. Zombie promises that this will be ‘for the hardcore fans who want it nasty and brutal!’