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ROB ZOMBIE TALKS HALLOWEEN

It's opening day for Rob Zombie's Halloween, and I've got a call with him at 7AM to talk about it. As he calls my phone, I laugh at the ring tone from High School Musical that my daughter put there.

I saw it last night and thought it was pretty damn entertaining. Zombie does a great job creating some more back-story for Myers without trashing what people loved so much about John Carpenter's original. I loved the hell out of his last film, The Devil's Rejects, and had high hopes for this. I wasn't disappointed.

Unlike his previous films, Rob has had a lot of internet geek scrutiny on this project. Michael Myers is a character that's sacred to many horror fans, but who has been in a handful of sequels that are among the shittiest movies ever made. A good new Halloween movie has been long overdue, and Zombie's remake works great.

The original legendary John Carpenter crafted score is present, but Zombie's choices of extra period songs to punctuate the mood work well.

Malcolm McDowell is charismatic as the new Dr. Loomis, while the child and teen actors in the various victim roles are equally compelling to watch. It's the brand new stuff that really makes this movie shine. An extended peek into young Michael's home life has that same trashy charm that made The Devil's Rejects so easy to enjoy. William Forsythe is a sleazy delight as Michael's crippled stepfather. Cameo roles by Ken Foree, Sig Haig, Sybill Danning, and even Micky Dolenz are great. The real breakout star of the film is Shari Moon Zombie, who shows tremendous range and restraint as Michael's mother. Her ability to show love for her psychopathic son is sad and believable.

Ultimately, Zombie's Halloween is a great compliment to the original classic that both stands out on it's own, but can stand side by side with the 1978 version nicely. We talked with Rob about the creative process, dealing with such a legendary character, the nature of evil, and how fucking cool the "Freebird" ending of The Devil's Rejects was.

So what’s it like to wake up on the opening day of your new movie?

It’s weird because it’s still not playing yet, so you want somebody to see the movie. But I think they had midnight screenings last night so I’m starting to get some feedback, and it’s all good, so I’m happy. You live with this thing for so long and you go crazy with it, and you just die for someone else to see it, now finally the word is coming back and people are really loving it so it’s a nice moment.

Yeah, I saw a screening last night that was a partial press screening, but it was also like a radio station giveaway to the general public, and it was a pretty good response. People were cheering during the killing (laughs) and walking out clapping, so it definitely got the right reaction.

Yeah, it’s kind of a weird movie, too, because it’s not quite as…it’s funny because I’ve seen it with an audience a couple times I think they think they’re supposed to cheer at the killing parts, then people like, kind of stop, because it’s not that type of movie. It’s not Planet Terror where it’s set up where you’re supposed to laugh at the gore and scream. I think people kind of start off with that feeling, then it leaves the room.

I think with this movie, even when compared to the other Halloween films, it really makes Michael a very scary monster. He’s very fearsome in this as far as…you just don’t know what to expect from this guy, he’s just going to kill everybody he sees no matter how close they were to him.

Well, that’s the thing. I thought that by spending time with him as a kid, you kind of get inside his head for a little bit so that there’s sense of character to him, he’s not just a monster. But to me, he’s also a true psychopath. He doesn’t care. That’s why I like the Danny Trejo character, for instance. Clearly everybody thinks that character is going to live, it’s Michael’s one friend, and he doesn’t care. It seems like he tortures that guy more than anybody.

(laughs) Yeah he gets it worse than any of the others.

Dr. Loomis is telling everybody, “He has no sense of right and wrong, he has no fear, no remorse, no nothing. So don’t be fooled by him, and obviously people are fooled by him.

I think that was one of the fears I was reading a lot by the diehard (Halloween) fans that you can’t explain Michael Myers, he’s just pure evil, and I don’t think they’re going to be disappointed when they see this. There’s not like some “Oh…THAT’S why it happened moment.” You just realize this kid is fucked from day one of his life.

That was the thing that I was trying to get across to people because we see his life, so you get a sense of who he might be but you also realize that it’s not because he has a bad childhood that he was bad, he could have had the best childhood. He’s just fucking crazy from the get go. That’s the thing that I found out researching children who are psychopaths. They’re just crazy. It doesn’t matter if they’re from good families or bad families, they’re just born crazy. But at the same time they can be manipulative and seductive and smart and funny and charming, but they’re still fucking crazy. That was the thing that I found more terrifying. If someone could seduce you into thinking that you’re their friend, and as soon as you turn your back, you’re dead.

Was the inclusion of the original Thing footage sort of a jab at people that are against remaking classic horror films?

No the movies are on the TV in the original, The Thing and Forbidden Planet those are the things I wanted to hearken back to that I thought were cool. I thought for the fans, little moments would be cool to have and that would be one of them. The moment where young Michael is watching The Thing and 17 years later when he’s standing over Lindsay Wallace and she’s watching The Thing at the exact same moment where he stopped watching it 17 years ago, and that’s why he doesn’t kill her, he just zones out on the TV, because he was very excited to see how that movie was going to end.

How did you go about getting Micky Dolenz to play the gun shop owner?

That was a weird one. It was really funny because I was trying to find a lot of different people for that part, because it was a really wide open part, it could have been just about anybody. I was at home and I was watching Head, The Monkees movie.

Sure.

And I get this call from the casting agent and she was just out of the blue like, “What do you think about Mickey Dolenz?” And I go, “Fucking genius, let’s do it!” (laughs) Just a really weird one.

Is it great to be able to have a blank script, and start hunting down the cast for your parts, especially with so many fun cameos that you have in your films.

That’s one of the best things, that’s actually one of the funnest parts is when the movie’s done. I think that’s why I tend to create more characters than I need. There’s been times, even in Devil’s Rejects…the character that Michael Berryman plays didn’t exist, and I was like, I don’t know, I saw something that he was on, and I was like, “Shit I should have got him in the movie, he’d be great!” So I just kind of made up his character and put him in there. It’s awesome. A lot of these people are really good actors and they all have a really great presence. So when they pop up like a Dee Wallace or a Mickey Dolenz, it’s short but it’s always really attention grabbing.

 
MICHAEL BERRYMAN and KEN FOREE BUY SOME CHICKENS IN THE DEVIL'S REJECTS

Yeah, you especially lucked out with that Michael Berryman scene because that bit with the chickens is just hilarious.

That’s the funny thing, too, with a guy like that. He always plays the scary guy but he’s really funny. He’s got really funny comic timing. I like taking those guys and casting them against type of the typical guys they normally play.

In my opinion, the direction of your films gets exponentially better with each new movie you’ve made. I thought particularly the bathroom stall scene with Ken Foree and the one where Loomis is giving his talk about Myers was really get great, because it looked like he was really giving a presentation in front of the actual movie theater audience.

Yeah (laughs)

Do you just have a phenomenal learning curve or have you been continuing your education as a director in between films?

I have a pretty good learning curve. I learn quick and I absorb things fast. I always have. That was the thing with House of a Thousand Corpses, the making of that movie was complete chaos. Because you can think you know what’s going to happen on a movie set, but until you get there, the chaos that will ensue, and how the clock moves at hyper speed, the time just flies by. “Oh my god, the sun’s going down already!” And with The Devil’s Rejects I sort of get a grasp about how that’s all going to work and I can figure out how to put together a complete vision of a film. And with Halloween, know that you got that skill down, you can start to fine tune things. That’s the thing, as soon as you’re done you’re always excited about the next one, and you turn around and take whatever you learned from this film and apply it. There’s always something new and always something different.

There’s scenes in Halloween, just the quiet scenes in the sanitarium with Dr. Loomis with Michael, and his mom and Michael, it was very different for me. There’s nothing like that in any of the other films. Exploring things with actors in quiet subtle scenarios, that was kind of new.

That sanitarium set was pretty cool. Where did you shoot that at?

We shot that at a VA hospital in North Hills, California. So that was all a real place. Basically everything we shot in was real. Almost all the locations were real locations.

So even the street scenes with the leaves blowing around and the chases, that’s a real neighborhood there?

Actually all the leaves were fake (laughs), but all the streets were real. We shot those in Pasadena, a lot of them were the same streets that John Carpenter shot on. They’re the same trees, they’re just a little bit bigger now.

Just like Michael Myers (laughs). He’s HUGE in this movie. That’s what struck me, he’s a MONSTER in this movie.

What are they FEEDING him in that sanitarium? Growth hormones?

Exactly! Especially after you see the scenes of him refusing to eat, and then 15 years later he’s just this tank.

Apparently he got over his fear of hospital food.

Shari was just very good in this movie as Michael’s mother. I mean, she was good in The Devil’s Rejects, but as I was walking out of the screening last night, that was one of the first things people were saying was how fantastic her performance was. Where did you find her?

Obviously we met like 14 years ago, now we’ve been together forever (laughs). You just have a sense with people. And she had been in a lot of music videos and I knew that she was real photogenic and knew how things were happening. And almost the same question applies to what you asked me. House of A Thousand Corpses was new for her, so she was figuring out how to act and what to do, and with Rejects, she kind of dialed in that character, but it was the same character, so she really couldn’t show what she could do. And that’s why in this movie I was really excited to cast her in that role because it’s so subtle. It’s not like this big, loud, crazy role. She really gets to do some quiet serious acting that I think everyone has been pretty blown away by. The character of “Baby” doesn’t hint at that, people just think that’s her personality. When they meet her they’re like “Wow, that’s just a character, too, I didn’t realize she’s so different from that character.” I’m glad people are finally giving her the credit she deserves for what she’s been doing.

Why do you think revealing a bit more of Michael Myers’ back story works so well in this movie, but with something like the Hannibal Lecter prequel (Hannibal Rising), it mostly disappointed?

Well, I didn’t see that prequel, so I don’t know why that was disappointing, but I think it just depends on how you're doing it.

I guess I mean just peeling away the layers as to what they are. I mean we already talked about that (with Michael).

Well with Hannibal Lecter he was always Anthony Hopkins and he was very charismatic and personable, and you sort of felt like you knew him to a point. You knew as much about him as you probably needed to know before you demystify him, whereas with Michael Myers, he is 100% a mystery. I guess you can peel back the layers, but if you peel back too many layers then you see there’s nothing left.

The thing with Michael Myers, too, is that after so many sequels, by the time you get to like the 8th film it was just…stick any stuntman in that mask and let him do this. It seemed that they weren’t carefully paying attention to that character at all anymore. So to make people see it differently, and even…everybody has a Michael Myers mask and goes as him for Halloween, the character becomes so commonplace that the only way to make him interesting again was to demystify him a little bit. But at the same time, it doesn’t demystify him, I think it just makes him a deeper mystery.

Yeah, just when you think it’s going to be explained, even Loomis throws his hands up and says Myers is just evil to the core, there’s not much more to say about it.

I started with sort of the diagnosis of Michael Myers in the original and worked backward from there. Here’s what the original Dr. Loomis said, and let’s realistically work from what he was saying. That’s basically what I did. I didn’t want to make it seem like “Ah, he was a good kid and a horrible thing happened and he turned bad.” Because there’s no incident that would make a kid that crazy. They would just have to be that way from the get go.

What was one of your most memorable moments directing this movie?

Some of the most memorable in a weird sort of way was being on the streets of Pasadena with Tyler running around with the Michael Myers mask on was the most surreal moment. Because like everybody else, I was a huge fan of the original when it came out, and I love John Carpenter, and to be there, directing this movie seemed so surreal (laughs). Most of the time you’re just working so fast and furious you don’t even have time to think about stuff like that. Sometimes you can reflect on it later, but there were certain moments where I was like, “Wow this is so weird!” Then you get back to work.

Did you talk to John Carpenter at all while putting this film together?

I talked to him a little bit. I talked to him right before I started. Before it was announced I wanted him to be the first person who knew. He was very cool. He’s always been very cool to me over the years. He was just kind of like, “Hey, that’s great! Go for it, dude. Make it your own movie. That’s all I can tell you. Make it your own movie, don’t worry about my movie.” That was his advice.

I talked to him after I finished the movie, and asked him about The Thing, because he had kind of been in the same boat, directing a remake of The Thing, and I know he worships Howard Hawks, that whole situation. I asked, “What was that like for you?” and he goes, “Well it was totally different because nobody really remembered The Thing back then. It was pre VCRS…”

Right and it was a 30 year gap there.

And people are more intense now with their knowledge of things because everyone owns the DVD and they’ve watched it a million times. And back then people might have said, “Yeah, I think I saw that on TV once, maybe.” So he said people didn’t even care, it wasn’t even an issue.

It’s funny, now that I think about that more, you think of (Carpenter’s) Halloween being so new, but it’s almost the same time distance until your remake that he had with his remake of The Thing From Another World.

But it seems newer because it’s always on TV, and every year Anchor Bay will put out a new deluxe edition that’s on the front rack in the video store, so it keeps it more in your face.

It’s like when people say, “Well what did John Carpenter have to say?” Well, for John Carpenter, that was 30 years ago, and he’s made a lot of movies since then that he loves just as much as Halloween, I’m sure. It’s not front and center on his mind.

I thought you did a good job of keeping what people liked best about Halloween and Michael Myers and adding new things. Did you feel any kind of burden or pressure of responsibility when you sat down and wrote the screenplay?

Well, I did. In the sense that you do with any screenplay. But this one I was trying to…being a fan myself I was constantly trying to think, “Well, what would I want to see?” You want to have enough new material, and enough twists and turns so that you can go, “Well…it’s a completely different movie.” If it’s just the same thing again, it’s totally pointless. But you don’t want to have so much new…it really was a constant balancing act. I never had any pressure from the studio. If I had told them the character of Michael Myers doesn’t even appear in this movie, they would have been like, “OK, great!” If anything, they were pressuring me to make it different.

The things I thought for sure was to keep the look of the original mask. Even though I wanted to change it, give it a back story so it kind of degenerated as he’s an adult. I always thought he looked perhaps a tad too clean. I kept most things intact, like the town of Haddonfield, all the main characters are the same names, but I wanted to give them all a little bit of a twist. The ghost, I always thought that was cool as a kid, so I kept that. Some of the movies on TV, but not much else. I wanted it to play differently. There are times, looking back, where I think I should have changed more. But then you change it too much and people go, “Well, why the hell did you even call it Halloween?” So you have to change it enough so that’s it’s totally different, but not so much where it’s not even Halloween anymore.

Like Devils Rejects, Halloween has another great soundtrack of songs to punctuate scenes while still using the classic score. What’s the process of choosing your songs for a movie like?

Usually I just choose songs that I really like, that’s really all you can do. You just look at a scene and it’ll be a scene that remind you of something you did as a kid. You’ll be like, “Oh I always remember whenever we went on a car trip, that Bachman Turner Overdrive was always on the radio.” Things that remind me of that time period in my own life. Of course, “Don’t Fear The Reaper” was in the original, but I was a huge Blue Oyster Cult fan as a kid, but I wanted that song to be more significant, not just a throwaway. I always thought that was just the scariest and most amazing song. Kind of like “Freebird” in Rejects, just kind of give it a bit more screen time.

 
THE FREEBIRD CLIMAX OF THE DEVIL'S REJECTS

Speaking of "Freebird", We’re doing an article on the coolest movie music moments, and I had an overwhelming amount of emails from readers suggesting it. “You’ve gotta do “Freebird” at the end of The Devil’s Rejects!” Was that always the plan when you were putting that together.

Yeah, it was always the plan.

It just fits so perfect.

Early on I got that idea, so what I had to do was I got the rights to the song way in advance, because I was so worried that we’d get to the end of the movie, film it, then someone would go, “Sorry, we can’t get the rights to ‘Freebird’.” And I’d be like, “Fuck, what the hell do I replace ‘Freebird’ with?”

Exactly.

I mean there’s not many…it’s the great American rock song, so what do you replace it with? “Stairway to Heaven”? What do you do there? “Freebird” just felt like those characters. Lynrd Skyrnd and The Seventies. It was always scary because it’s such a great song and such an overused song that…is it possible to take a song that’s so popular and cliché that other people yell at other people’s concerts? I think it totally worked. I thought that when it started people might laugh, but people totally went with it.

I think you get a little of both. There’s a little giggle when you first hear the opening strain but then everyone is just totally digging it. I remember when I saw it, we went to go check it out at one of the few drive in theaters that’s left and it was a kick to see that at the end.

There’s kind of a moment like that in Halloween with Nazareth’s “Love Hurts”.

I was just going to bring that up.

It’s funny, every time, I knew this was going to happen, so it’s no surprise, when I was putting it together, I had the same reaction. When it first starts, people kind of laugh. But then they don’t. Sometimes those songs are just funny, they’re so familiar, but once you see the mom stripping, and Judith in bed, all the humor goes away.

You can’t help but think that if Judith would have just took Michael trick or treating none of this would have happened.

(laughs) Yeah, it would have been OK. Boy did he want to go trick or treating.

So have you got any cool extras in mind for the DVD yet, or is it too early to think about that?

We’ve already started working on it. We have a TON of deleted scenes. TONS. I really shot two movies, I could have released this as two films, probably. Adrienne Barbeau’s scene that got cut out of the movie. There was tons of stuff in the sanitarium. Those interview segments with Michael and Loomis, I filmed those forever. Because they weren’t really scripted, we sort of set up scenarios. And we filmed them so that they would feel real. Half the time Malcolm wouldn’t even know what the kid was going to say. And that’s why his reactions sometimes are so off. I wanted it to be more real, I didn’t want to script an interview. There’s tons of that, tons of everything. Actually, the same as The Devil’s Rejects, we made an intensive “Making of” documentary the whole time we were shooting, so that’ll be on the DVD.

Are they going to rush it out so it’ll be on DVD in time for Halloween?

I don’t think that’ll be possible.

Just a rumor clear up, and you’ve got to take Wikipedia entries with a grain of salt...

Yes you do

But is there any truth to you being attached to a Bonnie and Clyde remake?

I don’t know where that came from, that’s 100% false. That must have popped up about a week ago, because everyone’s been asking me about it ever since.

But Superbeasto is definitely what’s next coming down the pipe?

That is almost 100% finished. There’s a little bit more sound effects and music and an opening scene that isn’t animated yet, but that’s pretty much done and in the can. So that’ll be next.

And you’re going to be getting back to some music soon?

I have a live record that I did last summer that’ll be coming out October 23rd. And I’m going to hit the road and tour through Christmas. And while I’m on the road out there, I’ll be figuring out what the next movie’s going to be, so when I come home I’ll have some sense of what’s next film wise.

Well best of luck to you, and thanks so much for your time. I’m sure Halloween is going to be a big hit this weekend.

We’ll see! You never know. The response has been…there’s so much anticipation, with the internet sometimes it gets overblown. But the people I’ve talked to that have seen it seem to really love it so.

Thanks again for your time!

Thanks, man!

-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com

 
TRAILER FOR THE NEW HALLOWEEN FILM