Total Recall: Halloween Director Rob Zombie's Favorites

We look at what inspired the horror director, from the Marx Brothers to Night of the Hunter

This week's release of Halloween marks Rob Zombie's third full-length directorial effort. Here at Total Recall, we thought we'd look back at the movies that have inspired the former Robert Cummings' work on House of 1,000 Corpses (15 percent on the Tomatometer) and The Devil's Rejects (53 percent).

Under the "Hellbilly Deluxe" trappings, Zombie is a true cinephile at heart: he's as likely to find inspiration in the works of Martin Scorsese and Sam Peckinpah as he is in the grimy world of low-rent 1970s drive-in fare. True, Zombie looks to the dark side for inspiration, but he's also informed by works with gallows humor.

Growing up in blue-collar Haverhill, Mass., the little Zombie enjoyed a steady TV diet of the Marx Brothers. The anarchic antics of Groucho, Chico, and Harpo obviously left an impression, as Zombie would christen his antiheros in House of 1000 Corpses and The Devils Rejects Captain Spaulding, Rufus Firefly, and Otis Driftwood -- each names of characters played by Groucho Marx. It may seem like an odd choice, but the Marxes always maintained a subversive appeal. As Roger Ebert notes in his review of Duck Soup, "Although they were not taken as seriously, they were as surrealist as Dali, as shocking as Stravinsky, as verbally outrageous as Gertrude Stein, as alienated as Kafka."

The Brothers' films are generally more like a string of gags than cohesive narratives, and some of their shtick -- like the long musical interludes in A Night at the Opera -- can seem hopelessly dated. But Groucho's double-entendre-laden one-liners, Chico's hustler persona, and Harpo's deft physical comedy still contain a hilarious, rebellious edge. If you've never seen the Brothers in action, Duck Soup (94 percent) and A Night at the Opera (97 percent) are perhaps the best places to start. Of the latter, Peter Bradshaw of London's Guardian wrote, "Their sheer irreverence, exuberance and verbal comic genius are marvelous."

In Corpses and Rejects, Captain Spaulding has "Love" and "Hate" tattooed on his knuckles -- a direct reference to Robert Mitchum's iconic Harry Powell, the evil false prophet from The Night of the Hunter. In his only directorial effort, Charles Laughton borrowed heavily from the angular, shadowy ambience of the German Expressionist classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (100 percent). Still, there's an unreality to The Night of the Hunter that make it a singular viewing experience; it has a haunted, surreal ambience you won't see anywhere outside of a Bjork video. It's also viscerally frightening, and Robert Mitchum is at his demonic best here, playing an ex-con who learned of a stash of money from his cellmate, and proceeds to ingratiate himself with the man's family. But the children are not fooled by Powell's smooth talk, and flee across an ominous countryside, with Powell in pursuit. Eventually, they are taken in by Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish), the guardian of a group of troubled orphans. The climax has an apocalyptic air, as Gish tells the story of mean ol' King Herod while pumping her shotgun.

Filmmakers like Spike Lee (in Do the Right Thing, 100 percent) and the Coen Brothers (in The Big Lebowski, 83 percent) have borrowed dialogue from Hunter, and the excellent-yet-ignored Undertow (57 percent) re-imagined its plot for contemporary times. Hunter is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer; Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader calls Hunter "an enduring masterpiece -- dark, deep, beautiful, aglow... Ultimately the source of its style and power is mysterious -- it is a film without precedents, and without any real equals." Shawn Levy from the Oregonian calls it "As crude, direct, rattling, mystifying and exciting as American movies get."

If Night of the Hunter spawned few direct imitators, the opposite can be said of John Carpenter's original Halloween. Yet seven sequels and thousands of knockoffs haven't dulled the impact of the original slasher flick, perhaps because it's not really a slasher film at all. Like Psycho (98 percent), it generates its scares by maintaining an almost unbearable level of suspense. Halloween is the story of Michael Myers, who committed unspeakable acts of violence as a child and has escaped from a mental hospital, ready to kill again. Possessing a wicked sense of humor, Halloween lacks the self-seriousness that would infect later horror films. As sharp as Scream was, Halloween parodied horror tropes just as effectively, even while inventing them. At 89 percent on the Tomatometer, "Halloween remains untouched," wrote James Berardinelli of ReelViews, "a modern classic of the most horrific kind." "They should have broken the mold when they released Halloween, for when it comes to escaped-maniacs-on-the-loose films this one's the real deal," wrote Marjorie Baumgarten of the Austin Chronicle.

It's unlikely that Zombie's Halloween will be the enduring classic the original has become, but that would be holding him to an impossibly high standard. Regardless, don't let Zombie's new remake and horror-film reputation fool you; there's a much broader history of cinema informing his movies than their shock-and-scare heavy execution might suggest.

Comments

Now it's dark

Kirby K

NotH is the best directorial work ever by an actor, imho.

Aug 29 - 08:05 PM

primetime21335

Homer Simpson

zombie is the ****, get off his jock. i liked both of his films before and because I actually find being stabbed scary I'm sure I'll enjoy this rendition of halloween a lot. take this rotten snobs, I actually like Halloween 4&5 more than the original! that means this film should be right up my alley. I am excited.

Aug 29 - 08:07 PM

ffamilyguy

Tyson Thomas

Halloween 5? Come on...that was trash...Halloween 4 was a suprise return to the series, and had some jumpy moments...but it still wasn't that good. 5 was just....bad...flat out bad! If anyone has it or remembers, there was a scene where a cop was talking back to the dispatch and was looking at his rear view mirror and said "i don't know...I think it is one of ours". It was a freakin cop car with lights on...and he says "i think it is one of ours". How stupid can the directer be. It was dumb. Better than the original??? Come on, you must either love Uwe Bolle films or be like 9 years old...no wait....probably 8.

Aug 29 - 10:34 PM

primetime21335

Homer Simpson

I'm actually 20... but I must admit when I watched 4 & 5 I was closer to 12... Lol. Back then I watched almost the entire horror shelf at my local video store. I rewatched H20 this summer and it was actually pretty good. I also watched the one with Busta Rhymes, one that I remembered liking, and thought it stunk pretty bad.

So maybe if I watch 4 & 5 again I would change my mind. I'd have to re watch 1 again too, because when I watched that years ago it was a major disappointment.

I'm going to go google 4 and see what I find.

Aug 30 - 08:12 AM

Atticus is HIGHLY TENSE

Jesse Moore

Who gives a f-ck about his favorites? He ruined a classic film and simple storyline. If anyone's seen the workprint of this film pre-reshoots, then you'll know what I mean.

I doubt that the reshoots are gonna fix his movie, more like polishing a turd.

Aug 29 - 10:49 PM

sickofitall

b x

shutup you tool

Aug 30 - 09:46 AM

Atticus is HIGHLY TENSE

Jesse Moore

Figures...


Shut up tool = I Don't have anything better to say, because I'm so f-cking stupid.

Aug 30 - 04:02 PM

Some guy you dont know

Bruce Campbell

Atleast it dosen't smell like a turd lke you.

Aug 29 - 11:17 PM

Atticus is HIGHLY TENSE

Jesse Moore

What? Are you serious, coming at me with that kindergarten crap? Go back to the kiddie table, or better yet stick your wet finger in an electrical socket.

Aug 29 - 11:50 PM

Some guy you dont know

Bruce Campbell

Look, just because you smell like a turd, dosen't mean you can tell a little kid to gp kill himself.

You shouldn't generalize either. It makes you look just as bad.

Aug 30 - 11:57 AM

Now it's dark

Kirby K

Words of wisdom. Words of truth.

Aug 30 - 03:32 PM

Atticus is HIGHLY TENSE

Jesse Moore

Just because you can use a keyboard, doesn't mean it's a good idea to.

Aug 30 - 03:44 PM

Zombiechic1972

Laura Cimino

I couldn't agree with you more, Bruce. Love your movies by the way.

Aug 30 - 12:26 PM

Atticus is HIGHLY TENSE

Jesse Moore

I don't know what's more pathetic. You thinking that's actually Bruce Campbell enough to compliment the films he's in, or you agreeing with him over something that isn't even to be agreed or disagreed upon. What exactly did you agree with? That I smell like a turd? Good lord, is there something in your all's water supply, or did your parents choose not to listen to much wiser people about BIRTHCONTROL?

Aug 30 - 03:49 PM

Zombiechic1972

Laura Cimino

I couldn't agree with you more, Bruce. Love your movies by the way.

Aug 30 - 12:28 PM

Atticus is HIGHLY TENSE

Jesse Moore

What? Are you serious, coming at me with that kindergarten crap? Go back to the kiddie table, or better yet stick your wet finger in an electrical socket.

Aug 29 - 11:50 PM

Some guy you dont know

Bruce Campbell

Look, just because you smell like a turd, dosen't mean you can tell a little kid to gp kill himself.

You shouldn't generalize either. It makes you look just as bad.

Aug 30 - 11:57 AM

Now it's dark

Kirby K

Words of wisdom. Words of truth.

Aug 30 - 03:32 PM

Atticus is HIGHLY TENSE

Jesse Moore

Just because you can use a keyboard, doesn't mean it's a good idea to.

Aug 30 - 03:44 PM

TpUnZo92

Tyler Punzo

all i know is that regardless of what anybody says im going to see this tomorrow juss cuz i like halloween and micheal myers hes one of the few killers that actually scares me. Jason: has its jumpy moments, chucky: ****in hilarious, freddy:he kills you in ur dreams (first 2 were great, the rest stink)

Aug 30 - 07:16 AM

Victor Vega

patrick finn

Lets talk about a good and forgotten horror with "The Stepfather" and please foget the sequels.

Aug 30 - 07:44 AM

primetime21335

Homer Simpson

I'm actually 20... but I must admit when I watched 4 & 5 I was closer to 12... Lol. Back then I watched almost the entire horror shelf at my local video store. I rewatched H20 this summer and it was actually pretty good. I also watched the one with Busta Rhymes, one that I remembered liking, and thought it stunk pretty bad.

So maybe if I watch 4 & 5 again I would change my mind. I'd have to re watch 1 again too, because when I watched that years ago it was a major disappointment.

I'm going to go google 4 and see what I find.

Aug 30 - 08:12 AM

sickofitall

b x

shutup you tool

Aug 30 - 09:46 AM

Atticus is HIGHLY TENSE

Jesse Moore

Figures...


Shut up tool = I Don't have anything better to say, because I'm so f-cking stupid.

Aug 30 - 04:02 PM

Some guy you dont know

Bruce Campbell

Look, just because you smell like a turd, dosen't mean you can tell a little kid to gp kill himself.

You shouldn't generalize either. It makes you look just as bad.

Aug 30 - 11:57 AM

Now it's dark

Kirby K

Words of wisdom. Words of truth.

Aug 30 - 03:32 PM

Atticus is HIGHLY TENSE

Jesse Moore

Just because you can use a keyboard, doesn't mean it's a good idea to.

Aug 30 - 03:44 PM

Zombiechic1972

Laura Cimino

I couldn't agree with you more, Bruce. Love your movies by the way.

Aug 30 - 12:26 PM

Atticus is HIGHLY TENSE

Jesse Moore

I don't know what's more pathetic. You thinking that's actually Bruce Campbell enough to compliment the films he's in, or you agreeing with him over something that isn't even to be agreed or disagreed upon. What exactly did you agree with? That I smell like a turd? Good lord, is there something in your all's water supply, or did your parents choose not to listen to much wiser people about BIRTHCONTROL?

Aug 30 - 03:49 PM

Zombiechic1972

Laura Cimino

I couldn't agree with you more, Bruce. Love your movies by the way.

Aug 30 - 12:28 PM

cart25

carter nixon

i don't get it when people talk about remakes "ruining the original" it makes no sense to me. the original will always be there.

It isn't like the original halloween is going to be banned from now on and this is all you will ever get to see.

Carpenters film hasn't been ruined at all. it still exists.
I would much rather see zombies version then get more sequels where myers is taken down in hand to hand combat by a third rate rapper"

I really enjoyed this film. Funnily enough I enjoyed the first half more than the second and the second half is the half that more closely resembles the original.I think the last act is a little rushed and disjointed but it didn't ruin my overall experiance with the film.

I almost wish that zombie had just made his own serial killer movie but I am glad to see myers back on the big screen being a badass not having his *** handed to him in some kind of ihorror myspace busta rhymes starring bull****.

Aug 30 - 02:27 PM

Now it's dark

Kirby K

Words of wisdom. Words of truth.

Aug 30 - 03:32 PM

Atticus is HIGHLY TENSE

Jesse Moore

Just because you can use a keyboard, doesn't mean it's a good idea to.

Aug 30 - 03:44 PM

Atticus is HIGHLY TENSE

Jesse Moore

I don't know what's more pathetic. You thinking that's actually Bruce Campbell enough to compliment the films he's in, or you agreeing with him over something that isn't even to be agreed or disagreed upon. What exactly did you agree with? That I smell like a turd? Good lord, is there something in your all's water supply, or did your parents choose not to listen to much wiser people about BIRTHCONTROL?

Aug 30 - 03:49 PM

Atticus is HIGHLY TENSE

Jesse Moore

Figures...


Shut up tool = I Don't have anything better to say, because I'm so f-cking stupid.

Aug 30 - 04:02 PM

damvbat

damv bat

Let him remake Kindergarden cop

Aug 30 - 04:38 PM

Now it's dark

Kirby K

Sheesh. Who rang the retard bell.


Aug 30 - 07:07 PM

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