Fangirling With Horror King Rob Zombie And His Wife Sheri Moon
Countless little girls daydream about the white knight that will come rescue them from some tower guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. I, on the other hand, daydream about the day that zombies finally take over and I get to put my axe to good use. I long for the day when I’m the last surviving female of the group, and get to send some demon back to the hellhole from which he came. I devour books about serial killers and have a giant poster of Michael Myers hanging on my wall.
So it comes as little surprise that while the rest of the Sundance Film Festival goers are clambering for a spot to watch Elijah Wood DJ disco music in some Park City nightclub, I find myself trudging up a mountain in the snow to prepare for my interview with Rob Zombie and his wife Sheri Moon Zombie about their latest film 31.
The film had premiered in Sundance’s Midnight series the night before. The nonstop gore fest left its audience in full-blown “what the fuck!?” mode by the time the credits started rolling. I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say that if this is the tamed down, R-rated version of what Zombie initially wanted to show, his original, NC-17 version would have probably sent the first two rows straight into therapy.
If you share my obsession with Rob Zombie’s films, then you’ll find that 31 is almost sickeningly perfect in how well it fits next to his other titles. Known for selecting similar casts, and for a gritty, washed-out, 1970s aesthetic, Rob is slowly becoming the Wes Anderson of the horror movie genre. In 31, Rob takes us down a familiar road in a desolate part of the Midwest as we follow a group of carnies who are touring through the U.S. Everything seems to be just peachy as the bus pulls up to a remote gas station run by a gaggle of rednecks. Trouble ensues when sadistic, rich, pompous, old white folks dressed in Renaissance garb (and led by my favorite ultra-violent Droogie, Malcolm McDowell) take the carnies hostage and force them to play a deadly game called—you guessed it—31.
I stomp the snow off my boots as I walk into the Sundance press lounge. A few steps in and the door behind me swings open to reveal Rob Zombie and Sheri Moon. It dawns on me that they must have been walking behind me up the mountain the entire time, and that they probably heard me talking to myself, trying to pump myself up before meeting two of my heroes.
Mr. Zombie looks the way you would expect him to. His eyes hidden behind the two, mirrored frames of his aviators, while his long, thin dreadlocks dangle from under a beaten-up cowboy hat. His tight pants fan out at the bottom into insanely wide bell-bottoms that hide his entire boot. Sheri stands next to him, tall and slender, bearing a disarming smile, with long, straight hair and a casual winter outfit that transforms her into the polar opposite of the characters I have seen her portray.
God…they’re a fucking dream couple.
It’s at that moment that my tongue begins to swell up and I begin to forget how to pronounce my name as I shake the hand of the man who made The Devil’s Rejects and an appearance in nearly all of my girly fantasies since I first heard the song “Dragula.”
I pulled my shit together just long enough to start fangirling over Sheri Moon and telling her how much I loved her Instagram.
“In a crazy business where you can’t really trust anybody, I always have one person I can trust and whose opinion I value.”
A few awkward bumbles later, and the interview begins.
“How long have you two been married?” I ask, as if I don’t already know the answer.
“It’ll be 23 years next month. It’s crazy! We met each other at one of his shows,” Sheri Moon said, already at the edge of her seat while Rob lounges back in his chair.
“That’s rad. Now you guys work together constantly. It’s cool to see a husband that’s so proud of his wife and wants to share the lime light and be creative with the person he loves.”
Rob, looking towards Sheri, says, “We love working together. In a crazy business where you can’t really trust anybody, I always have one person I can trust and whose opinion I value. ‘Cause when you’re making something, especially music, you start to think ‘Is this good? Is this crap?’ Sheri will always tell me. She’s the first person I show my stuff to.”
“Cause I like to rock my shit out and so I am gonna be pretty honest with him about his music,” she adds. “If it doesn’t rock, it doesn’t rock. I’m not a yes man, man.”
Be still, my fucking heart! These two are perfect.
“That extends into your films too,” I continue. “Sheri makes her way into nearly all of the films you’ve directed, and it seems like you have maintained a pretty regular troupe of actors. Is that a trust thing too?”
“Yeah, they sorta rotate in and out,” Rob says. “Like on the last two films, that’s sorta the new group coming in, the other group kinda went out. You find people, you meet them, you work with them, you like them, or you meet ‘em and you never wanna work with them again for certain reasons or another—and hopefully it’s always that you like them cause making movies is already hard enough. Like Richard [Brake], for instance. He worked on Halloween II, he had a tiny part, he only worked one day, but I really liked him and so when this came up I had already really wanted to give him something else to do and work with him more. So it was sorta perfect.”
“I like there to always be some light to the film, but that light always seems to get perverted by the end.”
“Sorta perfect” is an understatement. Richard Brake—whom you might know best as the king of the White Walkers on HBO’s Game of Thrones—absolutely slayed in 31 as Doom-Head, the no-bullshit, serial-killer-for-hire. His wall-to-wall grin twists into something nightmare-ish as he spits out monologues while torturing innocents on screen. The only other person that stole the show the way Brake does is Sheri Moon as Charly.
“Sheri, can you tell me a little bit about how you prepared for the film and your character?” I ask.
“Well, there is a lot of preparation for the characters I tend to play in Rob’s films. I am definitely not a natural-born killer,” she laughs (and I melt). “There is this great old book about carnival strippers. It’s just the nastiest, grittiest situation talking about the way they were treated, how they lived, their terrible dressing rooms. They were just in nasty situations, and I wanted to bring some of [that] dirtiness to the role. Even though Rob always likes to make my characters bright and light to contrasts the darkness of the films, I wanted to bring that [darker] mentality and flavor to the role.”
“Which helps a lot,” Rob adds. “Because it’s true, I like there to always be some light to the film, but that light always seems to get perverted by the end. I think Sheri’s research definitely helped her know how to make that happen.”
Having such a major horror film icon in front of me made me mostly want to just geek out about horror flicks and the state of horror films in general.
“What’s the last horror film you saw that really impressed you?”
“Man… Good question. I dunno. I’m trying to think—I mean, I don’t really rush out and see everything because…I know too much. I know way in advance who made [a certain film], and [I] hear from people I trust that it’s terrible or that everything in the trailer isn’t even in the fucking film and it sucks. So, I don’t get suckered in. I know I’ve seen something I liked I just can’t think of it. Must have been a long time ago.”
“You’re not too impressed with the newer horror films either, huh?” I ask.
“It’s like this with current horror films—the other day, I turn[ed] something on, and ten minutes into it I am like, ‘This is exactly what I thought it was going to be.’ I don’t need to watch another five cute teens in peril,” he says. “It’s some lame perversion that all horror movies had to become about teens in peril. You name the top horror movies of all time: The Exorcist, no teens; The Shining, no teens; The Omen, no teens. But somewhere along the line, someone said, ‘All horror movies need to be about teenagers.’ It doesn’t make sense.”
Sheri agrees. “I feel like it happened in the ‘80s with Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers stalking teenagers and stuff,” she says. “It started this trend that production companies thought they couldn’t go against.”
“And it seems like it’s all just about money now,” I chime in. “It’s not really about making a really good, timeless, scary movie.”
“Without a doubt. I mean, obviously nobody makes a movie thinking they wanna lose money—except maybe the directors,” Rob jokes, getting more animated as he expands on the subject. “But now it’s more than ever because the studios know that, with horror movies, if they can make ‘em cheap enough, they’re almost guaranteed moneymakers. So they really don’t care if they’re good. It’s almost irrelevant to them because they release their product, they make all their money back in the first weekend, and if by Monday everyone says it sucks, they really do not care. They’re already like, ‘We’re out,’ and that’s a horrible way that the genre has been co-opted. ‘Cause let’s be honest, it’s always been that way with the horror film genre, but nowadays it seems to be like that’s all there is. A quick buck. That doesn’t mean that good things won’t come out of it, but the majority of it wont be [good] because the majority of it was never made with the intention to be good.”
I couldn’t agree with Rob and Sheri more. Thank God they’re still going up against production companies, releasing unconventional in unconventional ways (31 was partly funded through crowdfunding, in order to keep the film out of the hands of production companies who might have changed too many of the films important details). Thank God Rob’s films aren’t littered with pop culture references and the latest technologies. Thank God Rob is still making amazing films that have more blood and guts than happy endings.
All photos shot exclusively for Milk by Steven Stone.
Stay tuned to Milk for more horror movies.
“31” premiered at Sundance on January 16th. A release date is forthcoming.