Known for his extreme violence and absolutely hostile characters, Rob Zombie has made a name for himself over the years; in both the worlds of heavy metal, and horror films.
Part of what always set him apart is his uncompromising attitude to do things and make films his own way. Whether you’re a fan or not, you have to respect him for never selling out and always staying true to what he wants to do.
So in honor of that, along with the recent release of 3 From Hell (which is included here), I decided to take a deeper look as his filmography and rank them. Let’s be clear however, this is not from worst to best, rather it’s least favorite to most favorite.
8. The Haunted World of El Superbeasto
Probably his most absurd film on the list (and that’s saying something), The Haunted World of El Superbeasto isn’t bad by any means. It’s creative, it’s entertaining, and it seems to be Rob Zombie’s first and only foray into straight up comedy.
In some ways it feels like a hard R version of Family Guy. However, some of the jokes land, and others just fall flat. It was really cool to see Zombie step out of his element a bit, but it just didn’t work entirely.
In many ways, 31 felt like a return to form for Rob Zombie. After his foray into surreal supernatural horror, he went back to gruesome ultra-violence, and while it wasn’t quite on the same level as Devil’s Rejects, it’s still a lot of fun.
The plot of five friends trying to survive the night while playing “31” is brilliantly simple, as it knows exactly what kind of film it wants to be. The performances by Malcolm McDowell and Richard Brake really make the film, and the only issue is that they weren’t in it enough.
Dare I voice this incredibly unpopular opinion? Rob Zombie’s Halloween is actually a great horror film that makes the story its own, and whose only primary issue is sticking too much to the original for the second half. However, some of this may have been studio pressure, as Zombie later admitted he was miserable making this.
Despite what some franchise purists might say, the back story of Michael Myers was a fresh take on a tired series, and made for some very compelling storytelling. There’s something quite disturbing in showing just how easy it was for an ordinary young boy to turn into the boogeyman himself.
But, as previously mentioned, Zombie essentially turned it into a shot-for-shot remake for the second half, and for that reason it sits below its sequel. Though, to be fair, he did infuse the second half with his normal amount of extreme hostility between characters.
5. The Lords of Salem
Throughout his career, it seems that there are two distinct Rob Zombie styles: ultra-gritty/brutal violence, and dreamlike surreal. Lords of Salem is the epitome of that second style. It’s definitely unlike any of his other films. It’s less concerned with jumping out and scaring you, rather it attempts to unsettle its viewer via slow burn.
It has brilliantly haunting images and ideas, and feels more like a European expressionist horror film than Zombie’s other work. Honestly, this is one that I had to rewatch several times just to understand it, but not in a bad way. With each viewing, I began to appreciate the mood and atmosphere even more.
It gets a lot of criticism for being too surreal or too strange, but that was very much the point. And that fact that such images were done without an ounce of CGI or digital effects is nothing short of brilliant!
4. Halloween II
Zombie’s first film is a better Halloween film, but the second is a better Rob Zombie film. Interpret that as you will. After the success of the first one, Zombie was given total creative freedom with this one, and he committed to making the franchise is own creation, while he only committed halfway before. Here we get the perfect blend of brutal slasher mixed with eerie mood and atmosphere.
His music video directing experience really shows as we catch glimpses into a strange world that only Michael (and later Laurie) can see. All of this is complimented by a hauntingly beautiful (director’s cut) ending set to a cover of “Love Hurts”. It packed an emotional punch I never realized Zombie was capable of.
3. 3 From Hell (Full Review Here)
After a 14 year hiatus, Rob Zombie revisited the characters that made him famous to begin with. Many times these long awaited sequels end up disappointing, but 3 From Hell was far from the case.
Its first half is a tense escape thriller, while the second half feels like a bit of retread of Devil’s Rejects. While it’s not quite as good as the first two films, it comes pretty close. You can really tell that Zombie knows and loves these characters.
2. The Devil’s Rejects
Here, we have Zombie at his best, with his most fascinating characters. We see Otis, Baby, Spaulding on the run, completely unhinged and desperate. And in many ways, the most disturbing character is Sheriff Wydell (played frighteningly by William Forsythe).
In his pursuit of the titular villains, he becomes just as brutal and evil as they are. It serves as a fascinating study in the line (or lack thereof) between good and evil. That and, it has some of the best quotable lines from Zombie’s entire lineup.
1. House of 1000 Corpses
Deciding these top two spots was the absolute hardest of this entire list. I always knew these two films would be here, but it was just a matter of which one over the other. Both films are awesome in every way, but the slight edge had to go to House of 1000 Corpses as it feels more like a horror film while Devil’s Rejects is styled more like gritty action.
This film serves as the perfect tribute to 70’s horror with a suspenseful build to a sadistic finale, along with the inclusion of Doctor Satan himself! When we think of why we love Rob Zombie, this film always comes to mind!
Ultimately however, these rankings are just the opinions of one fan. I would love to hear feedback and what your picks and order would be. Leave them in the comments below!