Creating his own unique brand of horror, there is truly nothing like a Rob Zombie film, infusing each and every one of his horror rides with a gothic, filthy intensity that would make any heavy metal band shudder. It makes sense too, as when Zombie isn’t making movies, he’s making music with his intense rock band, White Zombie, demonstrating the inspiration for his wild, frenetic and disturbing movies.
Whilst his name seems perfectly suited to the horror genre, it’s with regret that we have to inform you that the director’s birth name is actually Robert Bartleh Cummings, with his undead title merely a stage name for his musical and cinematic persona. With a gritty, dark and often nasty approach to each and every one of his films, for hardcore horror heads, there are few filmmakers as inspirational as Rob Zombie.
Having worked with the likes of Sid Haig, Danny Trejo, Rainn Wilson, Richard Brake and Malcolm McDowell over the course of his short career, Zombie has no doubt made his mark on the horror genre, having recently announced a reboot of The Munsters to be released in the near future. The upcoming film will join Zombie’s eclectic filmography that includes a remake of John Carpenter’s Halloween series along with several gloriously disgusting horror flicks.
Here, we take a look at his career, ranking his feature films from worst to best.
Rob Zombie movies ranked from worst to best:
7. Halloween II (2009)
The sequel to his own remake of John Carpenter’s horror classic of 1978, Halloween II, is Rob Zombie’s worst film, failing to capture the originality of his 2007 effort that genuinely broke new ground for the series.
Led by an uninspiring lead cast of actors, the film stars Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell and Sheri Moon Zombie though no one is able to elevate the director’s weak material. Carrying on from the events of the previous film, the sequel sees the protagonist Laurie Strode struggle to come to terms with the return of her brother, Michael, as he once again goes on a murderous spree through the town.
6. 3 from Hell (2019)
The late Sid Haig is the only saving grace from this wildly graphic and highly unenjoyable horror ride from Rob Zombie, with the film suffering from its limp story that barely makes sense for the mindless violence.
Following loosely on from the events of Zombie’s 2005 film The Devil’s Rejects, 3 from Hell follows Winslow Foxworth Coltrane (Richard Brake), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) and Captain Spaulding (Haig) as they escape from prison and go on a murder spree. Fuelled by little more than B-movie shlock, 3 from Hell may be an original concept but it’s simply too intense to fully enjoy.
5. 31 (2016)
A novel idea helps to elevate Rob Zombie’s 2016 crowdfunded film, 31, following five carnival workers who are kidnapped, held hostage and forced to fight for their lives against a gang of sadistic clowns.
Hellish and genuinely grim, the film works simply because of its frenetic anger, chugging the eccentric story along despite its almost total lack of content or sense. Speaking to The Rolling Stone in 2014, the filmmaker stated that he wanted the film to have a “very nasty, gritty, guerilla-style approach to the filmmaking,” due to the fact that it “fits the story and the vibe of the movie”. Nasty and gritty it certainly is.
4. The Lords of Salem (2012)
As with many of Rob Zombie’s idiosyncratic horror films, often the concept itself is strong, then the execution brings the whole project down, with The Lords of Salem certainly being an example of this shortcoming.
His 2012 effort follows a radio DJ who is sent a record named “gift from the Lords”, with the track producing some violent flashbacks when played out loud. A novel idea, Rob Zombie seems to not be able to back his own story with the necessary actors to pull it off, nor with the panache or interest to make it a genuinely quality finished product. With some shocking, original gothic imagery, The Lords of Salem is onto something but Zombie doesn’t seem to be able to allocate just what that is.
3. House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Arguably, Rob Zombie has only ever made three decent films, with his 2003 horror House of 1000 Corpses, certainly one of these top three. Whilst the story may lack any kind of weight, Zombie makes up for this with the film’s magnificent tone and set design.
Creating a truly nightmarish setting, Zombie’s film follows two young couples who are kidnapped by a sadistic family in the backwoods of Texas who trap them in their hellish mansion. Suffusing the film with a genuine, long-lasting sense of true terror, the imagery that Zombie creates with the makeup, set design, costumes and lighting of the film is nothing short of staggering. It’s horrific, but that’s the point.
2. Halloween (2007)
Pretty much everyone, from audiences to critics, was surprised when Rob Zombie’s Halloween proved to be a surprisingly great remake of the original 1978 classic from cult legend John Carpenter.
The only real reason to ever do a remake is if a filmmaker believes they can extract something else from an original property than the original director intended and Zombie did just this for his 2007 reimagining. Largely copying the plot of the original film, it was not a revolutionary story that fans came for, rather it was Zombie’s approach to the tone of the film, making Michael Myers a truly evil, violent killer, splashing far more blood on screen than Carpenter’s original. Many horror fans prefer Zombie’s vision and it’s easy to see why.
1. The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
Inspired by the exploitation horror films of the 1970s, The Devil’s Rejects from 2005 is the most careful and most considered film of Rob Zombie’s filmography, even if it is too marked by inconsistencies and other issues.
Continuing the story from his feature film debut, House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects follows the same murderous Firefly family as they take to the road to escape the equally violent Sheriff determined to take their lives. With a familiar raw grittiness, Rob Zombie puts together a competent story in his tribute to the exploitation horror films of old, doffing his cap with camp performances, over the top violence and references to the history of horror.