Rob Zombie, a rock ‘n’ roll legend, has spent the last twenty-one years behind the camera and pushing the horror genre’s boundaries. Zombie is a true master of horror, knowing how to shock, appall, and unsettle his viewers with his gruesome, unsettling images and highly traumatizing characters. With each successive picture, Zombie has raised the bar, creating some of the most disturbing and effective horror films ever made.
Zombie made his directorial debut with 2003’s House of 1000 Corpses and has since directed a total of seven films, the most recent of which being 2019’s 3 From Hell. Zombie’s work includes remakes and retellings as well as original material, with some of his films establishing their universe. Therefore, stick around as I show you all 8 of Rob Zombies’ movies ranked from worst to best.
8. Halloween 2 (2009)
Halloween 2 may be Rob Zombie’s most reviled flick, and while it isn’t exactly as terrible as its most passionate detractors claim, it is far from a masterpiece. With its sloppy writing and Zombie’s desire to do something different with Michael Myers occasionally tripping the film up, Halloween 2 also has some of the franchise’s most horrific, gore-filled moments, elevating the slasher subgenre to new heights.
Laurie Strode is likewise at a breaking point a year after nearly avoiding death at the hands of Michael Myers (Tyler Mane), driven to the brink by Dr. Loomis’ (Malcolm McDowell) revelation that she is Michael’s sister. She has no idea that the relentless murderer has returned to Haddonfield, motivated by images of their deceased mother (Sheri Moon Zombie), and is hell-bent on bringing about a gory family reunion.
Perhaps Zombie’s most polarizing film — and that’s saying a lot — is the sequel to his financially successful but critically panned adaptation of “Halloween.” While “Halloween” examined the trauma inflicted on Michael and how he subsequently inflicted it on others, “H2” takes the same topic of trauma and examines how the major characters deal with the aftermath and consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As with Michael, “H2” has the sensation of Zombie in full flight. This time around, Zombie is considerably nastier, both in tone, appearance, and, of course, in the murders. This is a tactile experience in comparison to “Halloween.” Additionally, the film takes a closer look at Laurie Strode’s (Scout Taylor-Compton) mental state following the events of the previous film.
In the end, though, Halloween 2 suffers from the same flaw as its predecessor: it spends much too much time diving into Michael Myers’ history, reducing the huge, unkillable horror legend to the status of a melancholy, mistreated child. It destroyed his aura, much as Zombie’s insertion of some genuinely weird dream sequences did.
7. The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)
As the only film on this list that is not a theatrical release, this is an animated picture based on a limited comic series produced by Zombie. Despite the vibrant 2D animation reminiscent of “Ren and Stimpy,” “El Superbeasto” is a continuous roller coaster of absurd humor, macabre EC Comics-inspired creatures, and a thick layer of cartoon sleaze for good measure. This is a filthy, violent, and obscene piece of animation that will undoubtedly offend some viewers. Zombie is aiming for a Ralph Bakshi-style of animation.
Rob Zombie’s The Haunted World of El Superbeasto is his strangest film, and that’s saying a lot. It’s also his least accomplished work, an animated comedy about superheroes, Satan, sex, strippers, and robots.
The eponymous El Superbeasto (Tom Papa) is a former wrestler and exploitation film director who teams up with his sister and sidekick Suzi-X (Zombie’s wife and most frequent collaborator, Sheri Moon Zombie) to prevent Satan (Paul Giamatti) from marrying a stripper (Rosario Dawson). Additionally, the picture contains Nazis and insane scientists, as well as enough crude, unfunny humor to cover a whole trilogy.
El Superbeasto, which is based on Zombie’s comic book series of the same name, is bizarre in all the wrong ways. Sure, he’s letting loose and having some fun with a new medium, but unlike his previous works, Zombie appears to be looking for nothing more than to demonstrate how incredibly strange he can be.
To be honest, this is probably more about me than the picture, as it was destined for cult status from the moment it was released in 2009. As a part of Zombie’s Firefly franchise, you’d think I’d enjoy this flick. However, it is extremely different from those flicks and feels more akin to a more twisted Ren and Stimpy, although not nearly as amusing. This is a shame, since, as I have stated, I believe Rob Zombie’s singular intellect is well suited for animation.
The humor falls flat, the sexual themes are a little excessive in spots, and the picture as a whole is the most forgettable and ill-formed of Zombie’s otherwise excellent filmography.
6. 3 From Hell (2019)
3 From Hell is fantastic, yet in contrast to the preceding films in the series, it falls short. As the third and final installment of the Firefly Trilogy, the film picks up 10 years after The Devil’s Rejects, with Baby and Otis escaping jail and wreaking havoc in Mexico.
There are some truly cool moments in this film, including Sid Haig’s brief return as Captain Spaulding (the final scenes he shot before his untimely demise) and Baby’s increasing insanity, and Zombie is having a good time messing with his most iconic characters fourteen years after the last film.
The Devil’s Rejects’ finale caused fans of Rob Zombie to believe that the film’s central trio of Otis, Baby, and Captain Spaulding had been slain in a hail of police gunfire set to the iconic rock standard “Freebird.” However, 14 years later, 3 From Hell revealed that the Fireflies were not quite dead, having been nursed back to health and then tried and convicted of their numerous crimes. Otis and Baby can escape jail with the assistance of Otis’ half-brother Foxy (played by 31’s Richard Brake). Unfortunately, because of the late Sid Haig’s declining health at the time, Spaulding is executed before he can be liberated.
Otis, Baby, and Foxy embark on another murdering rampage across the United States before escaping to Mexico, where they come into conflict with a local crime lord seeking vengeance for past wrongdoings. 3 From Hell contains all of the brutality, gore, obscene language, torture scenes, and 1970s music that fans have come to expect from Zombie, and although it is far from a bad attempt, 3 From Hell’s primary flaw is its adherence to The Devil’s Rejects’ formula. Apart from a few minor tweaks, it’s nearly identical to Rejects, and given that Rejects’ brilliant conclusion had to be retconned to make 3 From Hell a reality, it feels like a wasted opportunity. While die-hard Zombie fans can find enough to appreciate here, the threequel ultimately falls flat.
5. The Lords of Salem (2012)
The Lords of Salem is a departure from Zombie’s previous work, but it does not necessarily make it better. The narrative centers on witchcraft and satanism and follows Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie), a DJ who gets a wooden box containing an album by a band called “The Lords.” As soon as she plays the album, she begins to have weird visions and becomes involved with a coven of ancient witches and Satanists.
Zombie is at his most creatively adventurous and imaginative in “The Lords of Salem.” By focusing on atmosphere and mood rather than graphic violence, Zombie pays homage to early Roman Polanski and Ken Russell while telling an unsettling tale set in modern-day Salem.
“The Lords of Salem” is a masterpiece in tone and mood setting. Unlike in “Corpses,” the film’s bizarre, mesmerizing images are integral to the narrative. The film’s story builds gradually, finally leading to an otherworldly final act packed with horrific images that haunt viewers even six years afterward.
The Lords of Salem contains the fewest gory/violent moments of all of Zombie’s films, and while it is visually his greatest work, it is yet another example of Zombie attempting to convey many storylines and include a lot of background in a single film. The Lords of Salem has developed a cult following among those who defend the film for being different from Zombie’s usual slasher, violent, bloody style – which is understandable, and the film does have its strengths – but the flaws continue to grow in size, and serve as a reminder of his storytelling issues.
As previously said, Rob Zombie usually directs his films in the manner in which he desires, and The Lords of Salem is no exception, remaining one of the most engaging and unsettling films of his career.
4. 31 (2016)
31 is not a powerful film, but it is a great deal of fun. This is what occurs when Rob Zombie is free to do anything he wants, and each scene of this horrific nightmare of a film demonstrates his passion and delight. Following The Lords Of Salem’s atmospheric overload, 31 was a sort of return to form for Zombie.
The film is set in the late 1970s and follows five people who are abducted by a nasty gang of clowns and forced to participate in a game of hunter vs hunted with their captors. Five carnival employees are abducted and held captive in a huge complex the night before Halloween. They are also forced to play a bizarre life-or-death game called 31 while at the whim of their captors and they must battle for their lives against an unending parade of murderous maniacs for the next 12 hours.
The film has the sense of being written by Zombie amid a creative slump simply as a means of keeping himself occupied. Although he does achieve a few flashes of brilliance, particularly with one amazing character, it feels like Zombie on autopilot.
The film itself might not be so forgettable if not for the atrocious cinematography. The shaky-cam film is such a headache-inducing mess that several moments are just unintelligible.
The actual high point of “31,” and its lone redeeming grace, is Richard Brake’s electrifying portrayal as the demonic “Doom Head.” Zombie smartly begins the picture with a five-minute speech from Brake, shot in black and white with very few cuts. It’s a beginning that showcases some of Zombie’s greatest writing and production, but the remainder of the picture falls short. Zombie and Brake have built a legendary figure from a film that does not merit him in the first place.
It’s not as clever as his previous films and is less memorable in terms of character and narrative, but it’s a film sure to stick with you and keep you up at night. Rob Zombie has always been a director unafraid of brutality and pain, and if 31 isn’t his finest excursion into lunacy, it demonstrates just how unafraid he can be.
3. Halloween (2007)
Zombie’s first genuine box office success, and the picture that currently holds the record for the biggest opening weekend for any film on Labor Day weekend, is none other than his reimagining of the John Carpenter classic “Halloween.”
Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) escapes out over two decades after being confined to a mental hospital for murdering his stepfather and elder sister. He returns to his hometown on Halloween with the unwavering mission of locating his younger sister, Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton). Only psychotherapist Dr. Samuel Loomis stands between Michael and a Halloween night of horrific mayhem.
While Rob’s sequel to his Halloween remake has its own set of issues, it does provide him more space to experiment. The addition of Michael Myers’ mother as the custodian of the White Horse of wrath is delightfully weird, and Laurie’s transformation into a death rocker allows Zombie to indulge his obsession with The Misfits and Alice Cooper.
Halloween’s negative reputation stems from Zombie’s choice to give Michael Myers a background. However, if you look at this film in isolation from the rest of the franchise and treat it as a standalone slasher, it is a pretty well-written genesis tale. True, Myers was never in need of history, and it does take away some of the mystique around the huge guy, but from a filmmaking viewpoint, it’s rather nicely done.
Additionally, Halloween introduces a brilliantly cast Malcolm McDowell as Samuel Loomis and generates enough suspense and horror in the last act to fill a subpar slasher. Zombie was instructed by John Carpenter to “make it his own” for the picture, and while you may not agree with the outcome, you can’t exactly call Zombie’s vision unoriginal.
2. House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Rob Zombie’s directorial debut altered the course of a generation of metal and horror enthusiasts. House of 1000 Corpses was Rob Zombie’s first film and the first installment of the Firefly Trilogy. It is a horror feast with a surprising amount of very dark comedy. The picture, which stars Captain Spaulding, Otis, and Baby, as well as the terrifying Mother Firefly (Karen Black) and towering killer Tiny (Matthew McGrory), was filmed in 2000 but was not released until 2003 due to its contentious brutality.
Two couples are led to the House of 1000 Corpses by an empty gasoline tank and a flat tire. At its heart, “House of 1000 Corpses” is also a narrative about family – a twisted ensemble of characters who, with each neck cut or chest puncture, add victims to their terrible human zoo.
All of the performances are strong, but Sid Haig’s portrayal of Spaulding is just superb. These assassins have become famous for a reason, but Haig is the film’s most unforgettable character. It’s a large, grandiose performance that only an actor like Haig could pull off with such apparent ease. Sid was a horror legend, and after only two minutes in his part, it’s easy to see why.
While House of 1000 Corpses was the first installment of a trilogy chronicling the atrocities of the Firefly family, it has developed a cult appeal, with many reviewers and viewers changing their thoughts after revisiting it. The film has a great deal of gore and torture and succeeds in startling the viewer – just what exploitation films do. It also introduced some of Zombie’s most famous characters: Baby, Otis, and Captain Spaulding, three of the most deadly individuals one might ever meet.
This is the shining example of a crazy director making his or her directing debut. “Corpses” is frenetic, frantic, and chaotic in an endearing way. It is the work of a director who has so many ideas that he is unsure how to fit them all in. As though Zombie was afraid he would never produce another picture, he decided to squeeze as many ideas and influences as possible into an 88-minute short.
1. The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
When it comes to Rob Zombie, only one picture reigns supreme. The Devil’s Rejects is the sequel to the Firefly Trilogy and remains the filmmaker’s magnum opus to this day. Unlike House of 1000 Corpses and 3 From Hell, The Devil’s Rejects is perfectly content to experiment with genre and themes and to change things up in the way that only a Zombie can.
It’s the sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, and it follows the Firefly family as they terrorize the populace while also fleeing from a vicious police officer portrayed by William Forsythe. Following a raid on the remote house of the psychotic Firefly family, two members of the clan escape, Otis and Baby. The assassins reconnect at a secluded desert hotel with Baby’s father, Capt. Spaulding, who is likewise insane and hell-bent on continuing their murder spree. While the gang continues to torture and murder different victims, the furious Sheriff Wydell closes down on them gradually.
House Of 1,000 Corpses, which centers on the heinous fates of four teenagers who fall into the psychotic Firefly Family on Halloween Eve, is a vibrant, unhinged whirlwind filled with iconic performances, quotable lines, and inspired cinematography that feels like a window into Rob’s psyche’s spookshow. That is what distinguishes the picture and merits it the top position on this list – the film’s distinctive vision, which provides us with characters like Captain Spaulding and Dr. Satan without being too preoccupied with motivation, physics, or competing with the mainstream cinema industry. Rather than that, Rob takes viewers on a tour of the largest, scariest Halloween party they’ve ever attended, leaving them both scared and enthralled with the animals they see.
From the soundtrack to the four central performances (Haig is a standout as always, but Forsythe freezes the blood), from the action to the tension, The Devil’s Rejects works on every level. It’s not there to sicken and disturb, but to thrill and excite, and Rob Zombie produced his magnum opus by fusing his typical horror stylings with a dark and twisted road movie.