Rob Zombie is in Britain for his first UK tour since the 1990s. Empire was at the awesome Manchester gig (it was, as the man himself says "a lovely party"!) so we thought we'd be remiss not to see what we could find out about Zombie's upcoming horror opus The Lords of Salem.
Shooting starts, if all goes to plan, on April 18th, as soon as he gets home from the tour. He'll then go back out on the rock festival circuit for the summer, edit in the autumn, and expects a release in early 2012.
It is, says Rob, a project that's been kicking around for some years, but it's only now that the opportunity has arisen to get it before the cameras. "Like a lot of my ideas, I had this one a long time ago," he tells us, "but it was never the right time to make it. Eventually it spun off into a song [on 2006's Educated Horses album] but there were still no plans to turn it into a movie until the Paranormal Activity guys [Oren Peli, Steven Schneider and Jason Blum, under their Haunted Films banner] approached me and wanted to do something. I didn't have any specific plans, but I mentioned Lords of Salem and they really latched onto it."
Inspired by the Salem witch trials, the film won't be a period piece, but will sport a prologue set in 1692. "There were twenty people that everyone knows about - obviously all innocent - executed as witches in Salem," explains Rob. "The basic premise of the film is that there were a further four who actually were witches, who were killed secretly, and vowed one day to return to wreak havoc on Salem's descendants. That's when the movie jumps ahead to the present day and things start to go wrong..."
Following The Devil's Rejects and the Halloween films, Zombie's initial intention was to take a break from horror: plans were afoot to make the grindhouse-y Tyrannosaurus Rex ("a really violent, 1970s crime biker movie") and a new version of The Blob. Of the latter, Rob says he simply backed out. "I didn't want to do another remake," he tells us. "You just can't win. If it's too similar to the original, everybody wonders what the point was, but if it's too different, everybody complains that it's... too different! I found especially with Halloween II that everyone talked about what it wasn't and not what it was: 'you can't do that with Michael Myers; you can't do that with Loomis...' It's like people have a set of rules in their minds about how these things should function, and you can't work like that."
He hopes that Tyrannosaurus Rex will follow Lords of Salem, but says that it wasn't a project that fit with the supernatural slant that Peli and co were looking for: "I'd love to make a Western too, but the trouble is that films are expensive. When you find people like the Paranormal guys who are super-enthusiastic and super-cool and ready to put up the money for something, you'd be out of your mind to turn them down."
Zombie naysayers may be disappointed to hear that he cares nothing for negative press: "The thing I find with my music and especially the movies, is that people either love it to death, or hate it like it's the worst thing they've ever, ever seen, which to me shows I'm on the right path! You forget about a lot of movies practically before you've left the cinema. If I got no reaction at all then I'd know I'd failed."
But he acknowledges the odd distance between his cheerfully goofy schlock-rock and his brutally uncomfortable films: "I always saw rock differently than movies. I don't watch the Rolling Stones the same way I watch Taxi Driver. My first film, House of 1000 Corpses, is probably the closest in tone to my music, because it's colourful and goofy and over-the-top, and it's the one I was least happy with. When it was done I realised I didn't like that approach. I stripped all that away for The Devil's Rejects."
"Lords of Salem is probably the bleakest of all my films," Rob promises. It's only gonna get worse!
Rob Zombie's Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is out now on Roadrunner Records.