I want to go ahead and get it out of the way now that I am a Rob Zombie fan. Always have been all the way from the days of White Zombie to some of his newest stuff like Lords of Salem. I can’t say, however, that I’ve loved everything that he’s done. In reality, there are very few artists in music, film, or any other mass media for that matter that I or anybody else could say that they have never made a misstep. If I wanted to get even more subjective, I could say that today’s misstep is tomorrow’s cult classic. Sometimes, the key ingredients are equal measures of time and nostalgia. It’s just too random to call. I can give it a go and suggest some cult classics that would be well suited to Mr. Zombie’s wheelhouse.
The great thing about him is that he is the elder statesman of the Gen X generation of writer/directors that enjoyed the first wave of a prolific access to films from multiple genres and decades. Through crazy independent local UHF channels that included Saturday afternoon double features of everything from The Devil’s Rain to Sugar Hill, and video store shelves lined with likes of video nasties, Blaxploitation films, and early to mid-1980’s action and horror, the Splat Pack directors are the first product of such a pivotal time that was the precursor for the all access, multi-format platforms we have today. In simpler terms, I just love Zombie because he seems like the cool kid from the trailer park that has the assigned seat next to you at school. He tells you all about the movies he watches completely unsupervised and shows you his cool drawings. It’s nice to know that we did end up hearing about one of those kids that grew up to make good.
So far, RZ has tackled one remake with extremely divided reactions and sentiments. Every now and then, we’ll get wind of a Blob remake from him, but I’m more inclined to think that his talents would be better utilized for remakes of films that are just as loved, but maybe not as high on the radar. So here are some suggestions in no particular order.
For anyone that hasn’t heard of this early feature from the revitalized New Line Cinema after it had the shot in the arm from the first A Nightmare on Elm Street films, it is a bona fide underground classic. The tale of a body swapping alien with a penchant for violence, fast exotic cars, and heavy metal begs for Zombie’s stab at it. He hasn’t made an effects laden piece yet, and this could be the one. He also hasn’t made a horror film that blends action with horror as heavily as this one does. His experience directing music videos gives him an edge for perspective, quick cuts and integrating the music into the imagery. Just think what he could do with the concept of the possessed stripper. The soundtrack could also be epic.
TRICK OR TREAT
The Halloween remake is a sore spot for discussion and usually gets about as far as discussing politics. Maybe another Halloween cult classic that is imprisoned in music rights hell could be the common ground for the Halloween right and left. Trick or Treat was a low budget, but really fun ride made by Dino De Laurentiss in the mid 80’s that capitalized on the rock and metal censorship craze of the time. I don’t know if it would play as topical now, but it’s not even necessary to make it current. Set it in 1986. Rob thrives on retro callbacks, and the casting possibilities for Eddie and Sammi Curr are almost limitless. Just think of cameos from actual rock stars if Zombie calls in a few favors. Once again, excellent soundtrack possibilities.
Maybe the lesser known of the vampire franchises. Only two films were made, but veteran actor Robert Quarry classed it up as San Francisco’s premier purveyor of the undead. The first one was originally developed as an erotic film, but the decision was made to make it more mainstream. The eroticism still resonates and Zombie could make it a very hard R with an unrated version to boot. It very much has the Dracula storyline but without all the baggage and expectations of making a Dracula remake. I would love to see what he could do with the 1970’s aesthetic and a vampire film in general.
THE BEAST MUST DIE
I’ve loved the concept of this film from the very first time that I saw it. It’s one of the last films from Amicus, the studio that brought some classic horror anthologies to the screen. The Beast Must Die is about an eccentric millionaire/hunter that invites carefully chosen guests to his secluded compound to find out which one is a werewolf. The characters are eclectic themselves and could give Zombie some creative license to put his spin on them. What made this film even more unique was that it had a “werewolf break” for the audience to finally decide who it was. That might still work with internet savvy audiences today if they can stay clear of spoilers. A better choice may be an app for the film that allows the audience to vote on the outcome from multiple filmed endings, sort of like the old school “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. The app could have probability statistics integrated within, promote an audience participation experience, and be a fun ride for even the most horror phobic. The millionaire role was played originally by suave black actor, Calvin Lockhart, and the doctor was played by the great Peter Cushing. To miscast these roles would be to damn the remake. Zombie could possibly use Ken Foree, a beloved genre favorite to bring the absolutely necessary swagger to the part of the millionaire, and Malcolm McDowell for the gravitas as the good doctor.
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH
I saved the best for last. This one has Zombie written all over it and is definitely the Halloween I wish he would do. Beloved, but without the purist stigma attached to it. Zombie knows how to do an occult film, and turning him loose on this one doesn’t limit him as much as taking on the lore of Michael Myers. The chips in the Silver Shamrock masks could get an update, and the danger of the internet, satellite TV, and streaming services trumps just the three channels that our hero had to stop in the original.
I keep hearing about an original biker flick that Rob Zombie wants to do. I think he could do it justice, and I’m looking forward to some more original stuff from him. It’s a tough gig to tackle something that someone else has put their mark on already. Especially, when that particular thing has legions of loyal fans. I’m not anti-remake, except when it’s an obvious cash grab with little to no regard for the original. As I grow and appreciate horror and filmmaking in general, I try to have an open mind and understand what a sincere filmmaker was trying to do for something that may have been a pivotal film for them. After all, Carpenter’s The Thing was a remake.