Rob Zombie’s Second Movie Drags Horror Into The Daylight

Horror-Western 'The Devil's Rejects' is even creepier than 'House of 1000 Corpses.'

If you saw Rob Zombie’s first horror movie, 2003′s “House of 1000 Corpses,” it should terrify you that the singer/director said the sequel makes the original look like a Road Runner cartoon.

“I hate to say ‘sequel,’ because it usually means retreading the same ground,” said Zombie of “The Devil’s Rejects” (out July 22), his horror-Western that Lion’s Gate recently moved up from late August in light of “unbelievable” test-screening scores. “I kept the major characters that I loved and spun them in a new direction and revamped them. The first movie was more wacky and colorful and tongue-in-cheek; this one is more down and bleak and real.”

“The Devil’s Rejects” finds the return of several characters from the first film, including ultra creepy Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), Otis Driftwood (Bill Moseley) and sexy serial killer Baby Firefly (Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon). The film, set in 1978, pays homage to the blood-spattered Westerns of director Sam Peckinpah, as Sheriff John Wydell (character actor William Forsythe) tracks the men who killed his brother. “These are the real people and the last one was the cartoon version,” Zombie said of the day-glo original, which mixed graphic, blood-spurting violence with groovy camera tricks, clown makeup and a bad-acid-trip vibe. “It’s a Western with no horses.”

Zombie again wrote and directed, but ceded the scoring duties this time to Tyler Bates (“Dawn of the Dead”) so he could concentrate on the 29-day shoot in the deserts around Los Angeles. Though the film had a lower budget than the original, Zombie said it looks like it cost 10 times more. “I shot a lot of it in the bright daylight in wide open spaces because a lot of times horror movies are dark and spooky, but I think it’s freakier to bring the violence into the blatant wide open. Nothing looks creepier than a bad car accident on a bright, beautiful day.”

As a quintessentially Zombie example of what inspired the movie’s look and feel, the singer recalled a scene from his childhood of bizarre daytime violence. “I remember this bright summery day when I was in high school, sitting in my parents’ house, and we heard this screaming,” he said. “We saw this naked guy who’d been stabbed many times running down the street in this nice, suburban neighborhood with sprinklers going off around him.”

The movie is populated by character actors you might recognize from classic horror films: P.J. Soles (“Halloween”), Ken Foree (“Dawn of the Dead”) and Michael Berryman (“The Hills Have Eyes”). And, instead of new songs like those in the original (such as Zombie’s bizarro duet with Lionel Richie on the Commodores’ “Brick House”), the “Rejects” soundtrack is full of period songs by the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers.

In addition to the official movie Web site, alert Internet browsers can find a whole unofficial ring of related sites for characters such as Foree’s devious pimp, as well as an elaborate one for Banjo & Sullivan (banjoandsullivan.com), a country band that appears in the film and is now recording its debut album. “It’s a weird Spinal Tap kind of thing,” Zombie said of the group, fronted by actors Geoffrey Lewis (father of actress Juliette) and Lew Temple. “We made a movie with a fake band, and now they’ve made this great album coming out this summer, and they want to tour.”

Zombie’s got several other movie projects in the works as well, including his favorite, an animated movie called “El Superbeasto.” Based on characters he created for his Spookshow International comic book, the movie follows the hero, an “overweight, alcoholic Mexican wrestler” on his wacky adventures through a world Zombie described as “Austin Powers meets the Munsters.”

Working with the animators behind “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill” and a writer from “SpongeBob SquarePants,” Zombie is aiming for “Superbeasto” to be an R-rated animated movie for adults — and “degenerate” teens. He hopes to cast voices before summer and have the movie in theaters in 2006.

And, not to worry, Zombie hasn’t forgotten about his musical career. He’s back in the studio trying to finish the unnamed album he’s been working on in fits and starts for over a year, aiming for a summer release.

Among those who’ve contributed to the nearly 30 instrumental tracks recorded to date are drummers Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle) and Tommy Lee and guitarists Wes Borland (before he re-joined Limp Bizkit) and John 5 (ex-Marilyn Manson). Zombie is writing lyrics now and expects to tour this summer, though no dates have been confirmed yet.

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