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Rob Zombie (#110 of 5)

15 Famous Movie Hicks

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15 Famous Movie Hicks
15 Famous Movie Hicks

Chloë Moretz and Blake Lively get their hillbilly on in Hick, one of this weekend’s Dark Shadows alternatives and, quite possibly, one of the year’s worst. It is indeed good for something, though, as it’s inspired this 15-wide roster of cinema’s unforgettable rednecks. While far more prevalent in recent movies, characters who don’t quite hail from the upper crust have long been giving fuel to the likes of Jeff Foxworthy, who might have made the list himself if not out-hicked by a slew of fictional kinfolk. Whether hailing from the sticks or the trailer park, these hayseeds might even make Jerry Springer blush.

Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore

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<em>Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore</em>
<em>Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore</em>

There are myriad reasons why the term “torture porn” never made sense and one of the most important is the irrevocable impact Herschell Gordon Lewis’s schlocky gore cinema had on American movies. After all, torture porn filmmakers like Rob Zombie and Eli Roth didn’t invent the concept of replacing cum shots with images of mutilated bodies for the sake of making money—Lewis did. In Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore, directors Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Frankenhooker) and Jimmy Masion have made a sloppy but vital case for Lewis’s influence on the horror genre, whether he likes to think of it that way or not. Lewis is notorious for having declared, “I see filmmaking as a business and pity anyone who regards it as an art form.” Even he doesn’t think his films are that good.

You, the Horror: Halloween II

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You, the Horror: <em>Halloween II</em>
You, the Horror: <em>Halloween II</em>

Seeing it during a holiday-themed re-release on October 30th, 2009 (as opposed to the day itself), I encountered Rob Zombie’s Halloween II> with the intention of burying the director, whose Devil’s Rejects remains one of the few films out of which I didn’t just walk but stormed. (I endured most of it, almost out of a kind of “can’t let the terrorists win” spite, but left just prior to the Skynyrd-scored finale, which my date at the time told me was “awesome.”) As remakes go—and I’m not confident that a shoestring-budgeted sequel to an estranged and equally bargain-basement “reboot” can properly qualify to be called “a remake”—I can’t say that Halloween II> tried any harder than Rejects to charm its way into my heart. Sure, it lacks the “let’s hire some kick-ass film school grad to run this popsicle stand” braggadocio that earmarks certain of its kin; neither is it underpinned by J.J. Abrams’ “Always Be Closing” school of event filmmaking.

Zombie is (or would have you take him for) a blue-collar, steak-and-potatoes-and-Heineken kinda guy, and he doesn’t subscribe to Penthouse Letters but rather some garage-pressed Bible-belt titty rag of ill repute. He is (or would have you take him for) the trucker with the Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbes) caricature peeing into the distance emblazoned on his mudflaps. He is (or would have you take him for) the real Red State nightmare. He loves him some carnage and seems to view everything else either as a pause between meals or as a necessary appendage. Yet within Halloween II>, among its cornerstones and arches, there exists compelling, even hypnotic imagery and cutting that suggest a film artist of formidable ability, either trapped or validated (who can say?) by his own leering, butcher-shop hedonism. This is not a new story, since it is practically one of the basic tenets of auteurism that the seeds of artistry often flourish in grounds that are ostensibly the least fertile.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and Rage (via Halloween II)

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<em>Brief Interviews with Hideous Men</em> and <em>Rage</em> (via <em>Halloween II</em>)
<em>Brief Interviews with Hideous Men</em> and <em>Rage</em> (via <em>Halloween II</em>)

There’s a more adept portrayal of human suffering in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II> than in all the lollygagging throughout John Krasinski’s timid adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and Sally Potter’s iPhone-destined, fashion world monologue-a-thon Rage. Throughout Zombie’s slasher yarn, there’s inevitably a close-up, as the killer comes crashing down upon his prey, where the victims’ eyes drift heavenward and a brief, unspoken plea for mercy passes between them and monster. As they meet their doom, Zombie dwells on the mayhem in real time, each brutal pulverizing blow given resonance. You would think this example of pulpy shock cinema couldn’t hope to compare with the more supposedly contemplative American independent cinema, much less surpass the emotional, cinematic, and humanistic impact of a world where academic characters and fashion moguls gaze into the heart of darkness within their navels.