Two recent test screenings of Halloween haven't killed Rob Zombie's momentum any. The writer-director of The Devil's Rejects is burning through post-production white hot to an August 31st release dragging a jumpsuit-wearin', knife-wielding masked companion named Michael Myers in tow. He's fine-tuning his beast, a reworking of John Carpenter's '78 classic, amidst a deafening roar of Internet opinions and speculation that only grew louder when, after a New York research preview, Zombie went back behind the camera for a week of additional shooting.
On Friday, July 27th he'll stand before the masses to talk about all things Halloween at the San Diego Comic-Con where Dimension Films will be holding their presentation from 2:30pm - 4pm in Ballroom 20.
Given it's our third or fourth time (we've both lost track) discussing the film this year, Zombie and I keep our most recent discussion loose, steering the conversation along subjects such as the recent test screenings, Halloween's marketing and the sustained challenges of crafting one of the year's most looked forward to horror films.
ShockTillYouDrop.com: How did the test screening out here go?
Rob Zombie: The test screening was through the roof. Still, even if the movie audiences love it, you feel weird after those screenings. I went out to see "Transformers" and after ["Halloween"] was over [the Dimension execs] all came up to me and had these looks on their faces and I was like, "Oh, Jesus. What happened?" and they said the scores were unbelievable.
Shock: Was that the same sentiment at the East Coast screening?
Zombie: That went great too. The West Coast version of the film we showed was far more finished than the East Coast version, so it scored much better. That's to be expected. This whole thing has been amazing just for me, because we've been doing ADR and sound now, and a scene will just jump, especially for a horror movie. Once you get the sound effects and music in there it's a whole different ballgame. When you test these things with rough sound and temp music, it's a real nightmare.
Shock: Is everything going according to your vision or are there elements that are surpassing your expectations?
Zombie: There are certain aspects of this that have surpassed anything I could've hoped for - the two biggest wild cards were always: Who would play young Michael? And, who would play Laurie [Strode]? Tyler as Michael Myers, too. I wanted him I and thought he'd be great. Those three people were the unknowns in a sense. He so delivered above and beyond that people are gonna be blown away. Everyone else I've worked with on this I knew would be great. Malcolm [McDowell], who I'd never worked with, but I knew his stuff, I was confident he'd carry the role. But casting a 10-year-old kid [Daeg Faerch], you hope he's charismatic enough to carry the first chunk of the movie. That's the one great thing from the previews, everybody loved classic Michael Myers but everybody loved early Michael. That's one of their favorite parts of the movie and I was like, thank God. But you never know, it's like watching young Darth Vader and saying, "C'mon, when's the real Dark Vader kicking in?"
Shock: Because the film is segmented in that it follows young Michael and then picks up as he gets older, have you considered lengthening the young Michael fraction of the film based on the audience's reception to that stuff?
Zombie: It's the same as it always was, what's great is it's basically falling in according to plan. Because I thought young Michael was really compelling, and young Michael with Loomis in Smith's Grove was really compelling, but I hadn't put it in front of an audience - and it scored great. People seemed to really be into it and paid attention. There was a nice build. I was afraid there'd be this anticipation like, "Quick, let's get to Michael and have him start killing!" People really locked on. They want to compare and contrast to John Carpenter's film but in the first five minutes you go, "Oh, this movie's so different." There's no sense thinking about the difference. The audiences weren't doing that. They were locked in and watched it for the movie it is.
Shock: You and I never spoke about the August release date. Do you share any concerns about the late summer release considering how "The Devil's Rejects" got burned two summers ago?
Zombie: August 31st is when the school bell is ringing and it's like the end of summer. So I don't feel so bad. But with "Hostel: Part II" [Lionsgate] practically gave that the death slot they gave "Rejects" - like, what are they doing? We know that because horror movies in general don't have the promotion budgets they give "Harry Potter" or "Pirates of the Caribbean" or "Spider-Man." There's also something about it being summertime, it's at the beach. Do they want to see a dark, scary movie? Probably not. They want to see "Knocked Up." I think August 31st is kind've like summer's end, it's fall, let's f**kin' bring it. Any earlier and I'd be worried.
Shock: After the first test screening you went back to do some re-shoots...
Zombie: I hate the word "re-shoots"...
Shock: Additional shooting, we should say...
Zombie: Yeah, the movie tested so well in New York that Weinstein was said, "I believe in this movie so much, if there's anything you felt you didn't get and you want to get it, I'll give you the money to go do it." Which is the greatest thing because there's always something more you want. The weird thing about movies I don't think people really understand is that it's like a puzzle put together out of sequence. And it's not until you're done that you go "Shit, if only we had done that," but we didn't because certain things come alive that are unexpected. It's not like you have a script that's your blueprint and you make it exactly what's there. Sometimes things change. Characters might become more important than they originally were, certain characters become less important. One of the things is the character Danny Trejo plays resonated so much stronger than I anticipated. There was one more scene with his character that I needed to resolve with him and it always felt like it was missing and that's one of the things we went back to get.
Shock: Did the picture become even more violent? There are rumors of more deaths.
Zombie: Not really, it was like we'd do some violent thing, but it'd turn into something else. A lot of it is character pieces to connect things. As soon as someone hears we're shooting more people are like "They went back to shoot seven more bloody deaths!" Who makes this stuff up? It was so crazy, some of the stuff we went to shoot was so minor. Like Clint Howard's character calling from Smith's Grove to give the news of Michael Myers escaping. I restructured the timeline of the film and had originally shot those scenes during the day and I needed to shoot them at night because it didn't make sense within the timeline. Nobody had said you need more violence, you need more gore. The movie's fuckin' violent enough.
Shock: You're still in post-production, so how is composer Tyler Bates doing with the score? When we last spoke you said he was playing with a few ideas.
Zombie: Bates is doing good, that's been really tricky. It's been really tricky for everybody because it's been a constant thing of how much of the original stuff do we maintain so that it's cool? And how much do we throw away? It's been a fine line of it's in, it's out. I mean, all of the classic themes are in there, it's just how much do you use - as much as they strike up a feeling as soon as you hear it, you want to be able to strike up new sensations in people and it's hard to do that with cues that people have heard for thirty years, so it's been a tough balancing act for him.
Shock: Regarding the poster, is that something you designed yourself? Because I understand you like to have a hand in some of the marketing.
Zombie: I blurted out, "What if we did something like this?" And then they did it. They did a ton of posters and I hated everything. [laughs] I saw that one and was like, you know, I kinda like it! It might not work great as a tiny image, but as a poster, there's a lot of stuff to look. A lot of times you go to the theater and the posters are so simple, you can look at it for one minute and get it. Now, I like how you can stand there for five minutes and look at the poster. I like that it looks serious - it's not taking all of the lead actors' faces, airbrushing them perfectly and putting them in a descending order of appearance. It looks like a serious movie and that's what I'm happy about.
Shock: Has producer Malek Akkad been pressing you about a sequel?
Zombie: Malek says it, but I'm like there's no f**kin' way. [laughs] I don't know, I know Scout [Taylor-Compton, aka Laurie Strode] hasn't signed on for a sequel. There's no way I would do it because I approached this movie singular film unto itself. I don't give a shit about reinvigorating a franchise, that's all well and good because you have to make money but I just wanted to make a great film and that's all Carpenter wanted to do. Not make a series. If they make "Halloween" 2, 3, 4, 9000, I'm not gonna be involved. Because this film has such a great start and a great ending, to go, "Let's start it up again!" Would be, to me, "Oh, Jesus Christ."
Shock: And what is happening with your animated project "El Superbeasto"?
Zombie: Nothing really much. They're still animating "Superbeasto." Once I started "Halloween" I told those guys I have to walk away because I can't split my time between two things. I mean, that started when I was on "Rejects" and it's now just sitting on a shelf waiting for me to finish "Halloween."
Source: Ryan Rotten