Q&A: Rob Zombie on “31” and The Elusive Extended Cut of “HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES”Features/Interviews,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
Face it, fright fans: there’s nothing quite like a Rob Zombie movie. Visceral, gritty, disturbing, and absolutely obscene, Rob Zombie takes his brand of horror to new heights with 31, a nightmarish game-of-death tale that offers up chainsaws, cannibals, and- of course- killer clowns. FANGORIA recently caught up with the formidable filmmaker to discuss this crowdfunded chiller, his future in horror, and whether or not horrorheads will get to see a HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES extended cut…
FANGORIA: So, how did 31 come to be?
ROB ZOMBIE: Well 31 came to be out of my frustration of trying to get a movie called BROAD STREET BULLIES made, which was a true life story about the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team. I’ve been working on it for two years and the project was just dragging and taking forever. One day, I was just frustrated and talking to my manager when I said, “I could probably pitch a movie right now, off the top of my head and we could get it made tomorrow.” And I did; I just pitched the idea. I basically made up the idea for 31 on the spot and how we could sell that, and that’s how it came about.
FANG: In terms of the film’s content, what went into the decision to go for something more violent than something more visually visceral?
ZOMBIE: The type of movie 31 became was logically dictated by the script and the story. LORDS OF SALEM was never meant to be a hyper-violent horror movie; I always thought of it as this drug trip dramatization. So 31 was always going to be a very in-your-face, physically violent movie from the start. I mean, that was the idea from the get go. So really the way I was going to approach it was always obvious, but we were making LORDS OF SALEM, I wanted to have a much slower pace, and in every account, from the performances to the camerawork, 31 was going to have a more hectic pace. That summer when I finished the script, I was envisioning it and that’s when I choose the style that I would shoot in.
FANG: There’s a real Grindhouse feel to 31, from concept to execution, very much akin to your early work. Was that on your mind for this film?
ZOMBIE: I mean really the movies I grew up watching were not mainstream. I was also a big fan of mainstream movies, obviously, but my whole life, I watched not-mainstream movies because they were always impressive. It didn’t matter what you were going to see; it didn’t matter if it was ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, or whatever. They were these truly cult movies that didn’t play by any rules. A lot of times, those movies were very divisive with audiences.
I want people to think what I’m going to fucking think. I don’t purposefully make movies with that in mind, but the stories that I’m drawn to usually have that effect. 31 definitely had that effect, because in the film, there are good characters who are bad characters. I don’t make my good guys typically good characters; they’re not squeaky clean people, but when it comes down to it, they’ll have your back. I think everybody is fucked up in their own way.
FANG: What went into the decision to crowdfund parts of the production process? Did you have any reservations in going forward with crowdfunding?
ZOMBIE: It was something I had never thought about it or was even anything I was paying attention to. I wasn’t talking about it, but it was suggested to me by somebody else; I forget who exactly. So, I investigated the idea of doing it in parts, and thought, “Okay, this could work.” I mean, I found it impossible to really crowdfund the entire movie, because I just don’t know if you could raise enough money to really do it properly. But a lot of money that was raised became instrumental, mostly in post-production, which is where your money starts to run out on the days to edit, one for music, one for effects. It just costs money, so I set aside all the crowdfunding for that and that’s really where it was great to have.
I used a little bit of it at the beginning because sometimes its really hard to get a production moving because nobody ever wants to start cutting checks to start getting people working. Every studio I have ever worked for just dragged their heels because they don’t want to spend the money. So I could start putting putting up the money to get people working and that took care of a lot of the problems early on; it was very, very helpful and it took care of one big piece of the puzzle.
FANG: When crowdfunding a movie like this, were you cognizant of fan expectations? Did you want to deliver something akin to your previous work as such?
ZOMBIE:I don’t really know what anybody wants to see, really. I’ve gone through this career and, usually, what everybody wants is what you’ve already done. You make a record or you make a movie, and if they like it, they just want more of that. You really can’t spend your career just trying to create the same thing over and over and over. I don’t even know how you do it, even if you want to, because after a certain point, it feels very dishonest. It’s not like Coca-Cola where you’re just trying to keep the same brand alive.
So I really don’t know because what I’ve learned is that al lof the movies I made have never been what anyone expected when they came out. They always seem to find their audience like a year, two years, or three years later. I always hear people say, “Oh my God, I love THE DEVIL’S REJECTS so much,” but nobody said that when it came out. People hated it and then a couple years later, everybody loved it and wanted another DEVIL’S REJECTS and another HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. It’s just the nature of the game. I just have to do something different, however crazy it is. I have to let the chips fall where they may.
FANG: Can you talk about handling the action in the film? Obviously, there’s more combat here than in your previous fright features.
ZOMBIE: That was important to do right, and I wanted to inject the film with a little bit more of an action mindset. The story (and movie) that I will always love is THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, which THE RUNNING MAN is almost a take-off on, but that original vision of someone hunting humans is so simple yet so exciting. I wanted 31 to be the most action-y film I’d done, but that being said, I didn’t want it to turn into an action movie. So I tried to find a balance between exciting action and crazy action, and the action had to be a bit weird because, as you’ve noticed in every action movie, every single person on the planet is now the greatest Kung Fu master of all time. But that’s not really how fights tend to go; they’re usually sloppy and weird, so I tried to keep it as realistic as possible.
FANG: You’ve had your fair share of projects fall apart over the years, including TYRANNOSAURUS REX. Did any ideas from those films find their way into 31?
ZOMBIE: I don’t know; sometimes I’ll have an idea for one script and I’ll use it in another script. But I don’t know what those ideas necessarily are because time goes on, and with different projects that don’t happen, you sort of forget about them. I’m sure there’s things about other scripts that never happened and stuck into the script for 31, but for the most part, it’d be very, very few instances.
T-REX was always a project that got announced way too early; it wasn’t even close to starting. I was really pissed off when it was announced because it really wasn’t in any place to be announced yet. It still may happen; people come to me all the time, wanting to revive the project and I love he script of the project but if we’re going to do it, in some ways, it can get old. To go back and find the script from ten years ago, it’s hard to get back to other things because you’re sort of in a certain frame of mind when you do certain things. So I don’t know if it would work now because I personally wanted to tell that story years ago.
FANG: Can you talk about the production of 31?
ZOMBIE: The casting process was fun, and I liked bringing back people I’ve worked with at times because the shooting schedule is the shortest schedule I ever had, by far. It was twenty days, and twenty days to make a movie is psychotic because you’ve got to nail it. There was a lot of pressure on everybody to get as much as we can on the first take and everything had to be awesome so we don’t fall behind schedule. So I knew I needed to bring in enough actors that I had worked with; I couldn’t have many actors I’ve never worked with and expect it not to be a catastrophe. So there were a lot of familiar faces and people who came into the fold.
I have a large group of actors I can pull from now, which is nice because, for instance, when we were casting Father Murder, I knew I needed someone instantly recognizable who could carry the dialogue. I did some auditions and found some great people, but they weren’t people you would recognize by face, and they needed to be someone you’d embrace once they come on screen So that’s when I thought, “Let’s just call Malcolm [McDowell] and see if he’s available for two days to come down and shoot.” That gave us an extra kick and gave us a bit more time in our limited schedule.
But the shooting was really psychotic, and there’s one scene in 31 in particular where there’s a two different fights happening simultaneously with chainsaws which was very complicated to shoot. We had one day to shoot it, and I’ve talked to people who worked on movies where comparable scenes had weeks to shoot something like that, like swordfights that took six weeks to shoot. We had eight fucking hours, and that’s including special effects and stunt doubles and doing it all carefully and safely. It wasn’t the smartest idea on my part.
That limited schedule is why I had to make some of the characters more cerebral in stalking and killing. We had to thinking about what was possible to make happen and anything where we could go, “Who gives a shit?,” had to go. When you have an hour and a half to shoot all these characters battling away, it’s insanity but I will get it done. Strangely enough, we didn’t suffer from time constraints; we just became really good at shooting fast. Once you don’t have time to fuck around, you don’t have time to second guess yourself, and if there is a problem, you have to solve it instantly.
We actually didn’t have a ton of deleted scenes on 31 because so much was cut in the planning stage. When I can’t afford to lose two days on a twenty day schedule, I’m not going to spend time shooting stuff I’ll never use. The script was purposefully really tight, whereas with previous films, there’s been entire subplots cut out.
FANG: Many fans are still hoping one day for a HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES extended cut, and you’ve gone on record about how much footage was cut from that film. Is there any chance that may happen one day or should fans not hold their breath?
ZOMBIE: I don’t think it ever will, because I don’t think an knows where any of it is, truthfully. Even when they put together the HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES DVD, which was 13 years ago, we couldn’t find anything because they had shot two hundred interviews in the time since the shoot. We had behind-the-scenes stuff, make-up tests, all these different things, and nobody could find it. It was all lost. That’s why I think whatever exists is all that’s going to ever exist.
FANG: You’ve said many times that you’re interested in moving on from the horror genre. What’s next for Rob Zombie?
ZOMBIE: I know what is next. I have two projects, ready to go and in the works. One of them is the Groucho Marx film and one of them is another movie which I’m very excited about that I can’t announce yet but I’ve actually been chasing for almost fourteen years and it’s finally going to happen.
Rob Zombie’s 31 is now in select theaters and VOD from Saban Films.