Ranking Rob Zombie Films
Today, Malevolent Dark try its hand at ranking Rob Zombie films into tiers. Before we begin, it should be known that we at Malevolent Dark act as official Rob Zombie apologists. I don’t even try to appear objective.
Still, there exists a hierarchy, or rather Tiers, in which to rank his Rob Zombie’s 9 from hell. We’ll start this hierarchy at the bottom in Tier 3 otherwise known as the “Sus” tier. At Tier 2, we get into solid ground “Mid” tier works. Finally, Tier 1 holds only “Bussin Bussin” Zombie. All tiers named by two pre-teen girls. “Bussin Bussin” Zombie films not only dominate this list, but they also hold their weight against non-Zombie horror classics.
The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)
Of all of Rob Zombie’s films, El Superbeasto earned the easiest placement. To date, Super Beasto is the only of Rob’s films that Malevolent Dark DNF’d (Did not finish). It’s not for a lack of trying. I personally struggled to understand the humor or even the point of it all. Of all of the Zombie catalog, this one seems like an unfortunate anomaly. We hope it was a passion project, because in that case at least some one appreciates it.
This type of production usually abrades my sensibilities. Its nearly impossible to mix cartoons and sex without making it feel contrived. Wink wink… It’s a cartoon with boobs. Get it? But seriously, you don’t understand… a cartoon with boobs.
The Munsters (2022)
Another passion project, The Munsters (2022) earns a spot in the “Sus” tier, but for different reasons. Whereas we could not get an intellectual grip on Superbeasto, I really enjoyed The Munsters. Yet as much as we enjoyed this film, it clearly lacks the panache of other great Rob Zombie films. Obfuscating specifics to protect the guilty, at least one performance totally missed the mark while other performances pleasantly surprised us. Still, it really never came close to breaking out of the “Sus” tier.
The film does bring some quality stuff to the table though. The hyper-contrast of the face paint seems a bit off-putting at first, but when contextualized within the rest of high-color visuals, it actually works pretty well. The film also has some really funny moments. Richard Brake excels while pulling double duty as Count Orlok and Dr. Wolfgang in two power-packed comedic roles.
3 From Hell (2019)
Why does everyone insist on making trilogies? Why can’t directors leave well enough alone? The simple act of telling a story in three feature film episodes nearly guarantees that one full film will suck… by a lot. 3 From Hell, is that movie. Quoting the Kaiser in Amadeus (1984):
“Your work is ingenious. It’s quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that’s all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.” — The Kaiser
By a few notes I mean an ENTIRE feature length film. 3 From Hell offers shining example of seizing failure from the jaws of cinematic victory. At best 3 From Hell feel like a rerun of The Devil’s Rejects. At its worst it feels like a listing ship taking on water in a sea of insignificance. Unsurprisingly, replacing Sid Haig (R.I.P.) with Richard Brake just doesn’t work. That’s no dig on Brake, but rather a massive compliment to old Captain Spaulding.
At the end of the day, this film fails to bring anything compelling or new to the series. In fact, each characters legacy feels slightly diminished by the time that the credits roll. We did however love horror-punk band’s The Misfits “3 From Hell” imagery in the marketing materials.
According to lore, people go missing in record numbers on Halloween. These stories Inspired Rob Zombie’s 31 (2016) as an attempt to explain the unfortunate circumstances that befell these lost souls. Rob creates a world where rich aristocrats capture ordinary people and put them in a fight to the death in a maze full of killer clowns. As far as plotlines go, it is intriguing for sure. For whatever reason, this film fails to reach escape velocity. Still, the movie is entertaining enough to break it out of the cellar.
Richard Brake lays down one of his most memorable performance as a psycho clown named Doomhead. The industrial warehouse provides a cavernous setting with limitless nooks and crannies for killer clowns to hide. Best of all, it’s filled from floor to ceiling with implements of death. The good news is that the characters don’t have to go hungry. There’s plenty of food in there, but you better make sure what is carved up on the platter. It might be somebody you know.
Rob Zombie never gets enough credit for his run at the John Carpenter classic. Any successful retelling of this tale requires the director to take risks risks to avoid repeating the past, Rob Zombie shook Halloween fandom by digging deep into the psyche of Michael Myers. It’s a risk that pays off massively. By doing so, Rob Zombie increases the breadth and depth in which to tell his story. Truth be known, its a welcome addition to an otherwise anemic Michael Myers backstory.
ANEMIC!?!? WTF!!!! HOW DARE YOU?
Come on, you know that Michael Myers is as one-dimensional as a poster of Burt Reynold sitting on the hood of a 6.6 Liter Trans-AM. I’m sorry that I had to be the one to say it out loud.
Unfortunately, the major thing keeping this out of the vintage tier concerns the final act. Rob Zombie let’s his obligation to fan service overtake his sensibilities for making truly progressive horror remake. The result is feels like a shot by shot recreation of the original Halloween (1978) which I didn’t need. So yeah, it’s not perfect, but it also will not be the last time that Rob Zombie visits Haddonfield. More to come.
Bussin Bussin Zombie
The Lords of Salem (2012)
Had anyone asked me a year ago, this would be Mid Zombie fodder. Slowly this one crept into my annual Halloween rewatch list, and it is there to stay. Upon first viewing, The Lords of Salem failed to impress and from the looks of popular opinion, my first impression was not far from the mean. The second pass really did this one an immense favor. Maybe expectations were lower, maybe it was just frame mind. Maybe it was watching the film on a dark porch with nothing but an Autumn chill and the rustle of falling leaves.
Watching alone, the foreboding tone of this film really grabs the viewer. Additionally, the juxtaposition of bright neon signs and hellfire and brimstone keeps the audience in a psychedelic haze. In fact the imagery might be as disturbing as any since Rosemary’s Baby (1968). I’s even go as far as to call it an All-American Suspiria (1979). For me this one has a ton of rewatch potential.
As a final note, Lords of Salem provides the perfect vehicle for Sheri Moon Zombie. Accordingly, this is her best performance ever.
The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
Following up Rob Zombie definitive classic, House of 1000 Corpses would not be easy. The first film had a ton of originality, but Zombie understood that replicating it would be a fools errand. He instead took the Firefly family and cast them into a much more realistic world. Through this realism, Rob Zombie creates one of the most unsettling stages for violence in film. I foundmyself personally shaken by the motel scenes with Priscilla Barnes.
The net result is a hyper-violent spaghetti Western that follows the mold of Natural Born Killers (1994). For us, it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor, but with The Devil’s Rejects Rob Zombie makes another big gamble that pays off big.
Halloween II (2009)
It seems hard for the general public to admit, but Rob Zombie made the second greatest (arguably they best) Halloween film of all time. We at Malevolent Dark will take that fight to the grave. With Halloween II Rob Zombie doubles down on the risk taking by delving more and more into the human qualities of Michael Myers. Not only that, he create a super-strong secondary narrative through the eyes of Laurie Strode and her best friend Annie Bracket.
For fans of the red stuff, Zombie really dials up the violence in this one. Through all of this, Rob Zombie manages to close the deal on a finale that is as controversial as it is conclusive.
Two distinctly different versions exist, but we solidly recommend the Director’s Cut as the definitive Halloween II experience. This version hammers home the point that Michael Myers is nothing more than a man… a mountainous murdering machine of a man, but only a man.
House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
We finish the “Bussin Bussin” category with what we believe to be the best of the best in the Rob Zombie catalog. At the time of its release in 2003, House of 1000 Corpses broke a ton of rules, took a lot of risks. Ultimately, it redefined what a horror movie could be. Most importantly, Rob Zombie proved to the horror community that not only could direct a horror film, but that he was as big of a horror fan as his audience.
“The first film [I directed], which people seems to love, is just a calamitous mess. Well, when it came out it seemed like everyone hated it. Now everyone acts like it’s beloved in some way. All I see is flaw, upon flaw, upon flaw… upon flaw.”
It might be a mess. This mess stands as one of the best hallucinogenic, psycho killer murderfests ever released.