ShockTillYouDrop.com has already spoken to Rob Zombie about his upcoming remake of John Carpenter’s Halloween a few times, so it was time for ComingSoon.net and someone who doesn’t know Rob so well to take a crack at it. This interview was done a few weeks ago shortly after Zombie finished the final edit of the film, and he was gracious enough to take a break from putting the finishing touches on sound and color to talk to us before hitting the press trail for real.
ComingSoon.net: Did you actually get to see the original “Halloween” when it was in theatres or did you have to wait and see it on video?
Rob Zombie: No, I saw it at the drive-in when it first came out.
CS: Were you already into horror at that time?
Zombie: Oh, yeah, yeah
CS: Can you talk about that first experience seeing it?
Zombie: Back then, for me, it didn’t seem like such a glut of movies. When you go see a movie and you saw something like that, it was really meaningful. For me, I don’t remember at that time ever seeing a movie like that. The closest thing that you could reference at that point in ’78 was “Psycho” or something. That’s why for so many people, it seemed so scary, because it really was so different. It was so quickly imitated by everybody that it’s hard to remember that it was so different.
CS: At the time, they were already doing some of the more B-movie slasher flicks, but “Halloween” was the first time where one found mainstream appeal in some ways.
Zombie: It was the first one in a long time that was very stylized, and I dunno, it was just amazing.
CS: I get the impression from seeing your movies that you’re more into the lower budget B-movie exploitation flicks that aren’t as well known, so did you try to combine some of those sensibilities and with the Carpenter moodiness?
Zombie: Well, my biggest thing was trying to make it different, because the Carpenter one is so stylistically John Carpenter. It’s very specific the way it’s done, so the first thing I wanted to do was to vary from that and take a different approach, not an approach that has anything to do with B-movies. I didn’t care anything about that, but just something that seemed more real or more real human drama where Carpenter’s was very stylized.
CS: The flashback stuff in his movie was more of a prologue where your movie gets more into the nitty-gritty of what made this young kid turn bad. Is that stuff you’d thought about since seeing the original movie?
Zombie: Well, that’s the thing. When the idea of making this came up, I had to think, “Well, what would be the point?” I like most people love that movie and you’re like, “Well what is the point of remaking anything?” To me, it was like to go into other aspects that you hadn’t seen before, and the biggest thing I noticed in “Halloween” is like you don’t really get any sense of who Michael Myers is. You get a sense of it, but it’s always as told to you by Dr. Loomis. You as an audience member never really live through any of it. You live through that first night of the murder of Judith, but you don’t get a sense of anything ’cause it’s basically a tracking P.O.V. shot and then it’s the shock that it’s a little boy. Really, the payoff is that you go, “Oh my God, it’s a little kid!” But you don’t know anything about him. He’s got a very blank face and then he never says anything ever, and I thought, “Well, there’s a lot there that you can do.” What was he like the day before that murder or what was he like after? Then, you kind of hear about Smithsgrove Sanitarium, but once again, we never see any of it. We never experience that. So for me, it was really just trying to put in the stuff that the audience could experience rather than hear about it second hand from Dr. Loomis.
CS: I think you end up spending 40 minutes or so with the young Michael, which is cool ’cause it’s new, but was it hard trying to determine how much time to spend in his past and when to get to Tyler Mane in the mask killing people?
Zombie: Yeah, I always broke it down in my mind. I’m not sure if it exactly breaks down this way, but I always thought maybe the first act is young Michael, the second act is Smithsgrove, third act is Haddenfield was how I originally conceived it. All along you’re like, well, the problem you have with a remake, much like if you’re making Batman is everyone knows who Batman is. So you’re like, “Well, are they going to be impatient and they just want to get him in the Batsuit?” I didn’t know. Will people go along for the journey or will they just be like, “Where’s Michael Myers? Where’s Michael Myers?” just wanting classic Michael Myers running around with the mask. What’s been great is I mean, I thought if it’s compelling, people will watch it. In the times where we have had test screenings, it didn’t seem to be a problem. People totally locked in and went along for the ride of what it is. They weren’t impatiently awaiting the arrival of the Michael Myers they grew up with.
CS: I thought the kid and Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis were great in their scenes together, so how did you approach McDowell to do this?
Zombie: Well, Malcolm, he was just the first person who came to mind, so I just went after him and he was totally into it, so there was never anyone else even in consideration for the role at any point. I just thought I needed somebody much like how Donald Pleasance brought a certain vibe to the original, I wanted someone else who would I mean, he’s very much a fish-out-of-water in the movie, and I wanted to play him that way, and I think it works great.
CS: Was there a “Clockwork Orange” reference in the music playing at Smithsgrove or was I imagining it?
Zombie: I think you were just imagining it.
CS: Were you always going to have Sheri play Michael’s mother?
Zombie: Yeah, early on I always thought when I was conceiving the movie that it would be a perfect role for her, so I knew I wanted her first and I obviously knew she was doing it, so when I was casting the kid, the kid I cast (Daeg) was perfect, but they looked like they were related. They kind of had a similar look so that worked out even better.
CS: I think a lot of people when they see her in your movies, they assume she got the part just because she’s your wife, but she’s really good in this and this is a good role for her.
Zombie: No, she’s great, and what’s good is that it’s finally a different role. I mean, she’s only played the same character in the other two movies, so you get kind of stuck with oh, is that all someone can do, and what I liked about this is that it’s a very normal role. It’s not an over-the-top kind of crazy role.
CS: I talked to Tyler Mane in San Diego and I know he was kind of nervous about how he would be received, but I think he really pulled it off. How did you come up with him to play the role?
Zombie: I had worked with Tyler on “Devil’s Rejects.” He had a small role in that. He worked for two days or so and I got a good sense of him quickly that I thought he was a really good actor. I liked the fact he was so big, but he’s not bulky. He’s pretty thin, but he’s just big, and I just knew by changing Michael Myers in the original, you don’t know anything about him, and he’s hiding in the shadows and kind of supernatural or mystical. He’s just got a different vibe, but for this, by the time I’d created this real person that we call Michael Myers, I knew that by the time he was an adult, I needed somebody that would be physically menacing. If I wasn’t going to play him as supernatural, he wouldn’t be able to do the things that I needed him to do if he was a normal-sized person.
CS: He’s huge. I mean just that cut you do from the kid to this enormous monster
Zombie: Yeah, and even the kid who plays Michael Myers, he’s huge for his age. He’s only 10 years old and he’s huge for a 10-year-old, ’cause the other little kids in the movie that are being babysat, they’re all the same age. He’s like twice the size of the other two ten-year-olds in the movie, so it just worked out perfect that he just happened to be incredibly big for a ten-year-old.
CS: I also talked to Tyler Bates at Comic-Con, and I’d love to get your take on the music and how to use the famous John Carpenter stuff.
Zombie: Well, the John Carpenter stuff was always evolving for us. At first, we didn’t even know if we wanted to use it, because until the movie was done, you just didn’t know if it would fit. I love that music and it’s an amazing piece of music, but I didn’t know when watching this moviebecause this movie starts really different and has a totally different feelthat when that music popped up, you might go, “Oh, it might not fit, it might seem weird” but as the movie evolved and the score evolved, we worked all the John Carpenter themes back into the picture, and he kind of redid them slightly different. I didn’t want them to be totally different, because they’re very simple and that’s when they work the best. It wasn’t like we wanted to bring all these orchestral elements in, so yeah, that was an always-evolving thing.
CS: How was it working within the studio system? I guess on “Devil’s Rejects”, you kind of worked with Lionsgate, but how was it working with Dimension, a studio that’s been really big on doing sequels? Were there a lot of conversations on how to end it to make a sequel possible?
Zombie: No, they never really got into this conversation, not with me anyway. I don’t know what they do with other people, but there was no talk with me about making sure that it set-up another movie. They didn’t get really involved creatively on that level. I wanted this to just be a standalone movie with an ending. If they want to make “Halloween 2” someday with somebody else, they can always figure out a way. They’ll do something to make it work. With this, that was never discussed.
CS: It was surprising because at Comic-Con, you showed some footage and when it got near the end, I assumed you cut that stuff out, because I hadn’t seen it yet.
Zombie: Yeah, the great part about the endingit’s hard to not give stuff awaythere’s a moment in the swimming pool, and I remember watching with an audience at the test screening, and they feel like, “Oh, I get it.” They think they know the beats that are happening and then it goes to that next step and I can feel the whole audience just sit up and pay attention more, because they thought they knew how it was all going to play out, and then it suddenly took a left turn and they thought, “Oh, sh*t. It’s different.”
CS: What has the reaction been to the movie so far whether it be people who’ve seen the original or those who haven’t?
Zombie: Unfortunately, I haven’t really talked to that many people. So few people have seen it. Only yesterday at Technicolor when I screened the picture the first time anyone saw the finished movie. I hadn’t even seen it with everything put together 100%, so that’s why I’m excited for people to see it, ’cause hardly anyone has seen it and then suddenly, everyone will see it.
CS: I’m really curious who’ll be going to see this, whether it’ll be new audiences who never saw the original movies or those who like them who want to see what you did with it.
Zombie: I think that pretty much with anything, I think there’s going to be people that go to see it ’cause they’re curious how it stacks up against a movie they love, but then you just know there’s going to be a whole bunch of kids who never saw “Halloween.” Even though for people that have seen it, that seems weird, but some of the younger people in this movie had never seen it. Everyone hasn’t seen everything. I notice that with “Dawn of the Dead” and the “Chainsaw Massacre” remakes, you notice kids talking about how much they like it, but they’d never seen the original. You figure if somebody’s 15, there hasn’t even been a “Halloween” movie in theatres for the last five years, so this will be the first time they will ever have gone into a theatre and seen Michael Myers upon a movie screen.
CS: Have you had any contact with John Carpenter since you started working on this?
Zombie: I’ve known John Carpenter for about ten years and I talked to him before the project started a little bit, just told him what was happening, and he was very cool and supportive, and then I talked to him one time towards the end of shooting for a little bit. Actually, I was going to give him a call tonight to just set up a time, I’d love for him to see the movie.
CS: That should be interesting. After you finish this up, are you going to take some time off before you finish up “El Superbeasto” or do you have something else you want to do?
Zombie: Yeah, I’m going to take a little time off, ’cause I need a break. I’ve been working on this pretty much full-force for a year and I’m a little burnt out, so I’m going to take a little bit of a break, then I got a live record coming out in September that I’m going to back on the road in October on tour until Christmas, and then after Christmas, I’m going to figure out what I’m doing next.
CS: Do you have other scripts or ideas you want to produce and start working on?
Zombie: Well, I have other things, and I have something I’m working on now that may or may not be the next movie. I’m not sure yet. You know, this one literally just finished yesterday, so I guess we’ll start worrying about the next one soon enough.
CS: What’s going on with the comic stuff these days? Are you going to get back to that eventually?
Zombie: Probably not. I just don’t have time anymore.
CS: At this point, do you mind being considered a horror director or do you see yourself branching out and tackling other things or are you very happy bringing your own ideas to the genre.
Zombie: I just like the idea of being a director ’cause I want to make all kinds of movies, so a director is a director. I don’t think there’s a difference between a horror director and any other kind of director.
CS: Right, but as someone who has become known for working in the genre, it’s sometimes hard to switch. Like Wes Craven for instance, when he tried to do “Music of the Heart.”
Zombie: I think at this point it doesn’t matter. I think if you wait 15 years and make 20 horror movies and then try to change, people get pretty stuck in their ways.
Halloween opens nationwide on August 31. Also check out ShockTillYouDrop.com’s earlier interview with Rob and a more recent video interview, as well as interviews with Tyler Mane and composer Tyler Bates.