3 FROM HELL Interview: Rob Zombie On The Manson Family, Spaghetti Westerns, Lucha Libre Masks And More
It’s been 14 years since we last saw musician and filmmaker Rob Zombie’s most iconic movie characters. At the end of arguably Zombie’s finest film The Devil’s Rejects, the notorious killers Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis (Bill Moseley) and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) faced what we thought was a fatal encounter with police bullets. Accompanied by Lynyrd Skynyrd’s masterpiece “Free Bird”, this was a very memorable finale. The run of The Firefly Family was pretty much over but now Zombie is back with 3 from Hell, the third installment of the series that began with the release of House of 1000 Corpses in 2003.
In 3 from Hell we quickly learn that all three members of The Firefly Family miraculously survived the police’s brutal attack; however, this second sequel is not really about the immediate aftermath. 3 from Hell is set a decade later, when Baby has lost her mind inside a women’s prison, Otis has managed to escape from prison with the help of Winslow Foxworth Coltrane aka Foxy (the new member of The Family, played by Richard Brake), and Captain Spaulding is waiting to be executed for his crimes. From that scenario, Zombie constructs another film about fugitives that, much like its predecessor The Devil’s Rejects, has a Western vibe, but that now takes us to Mexico and feels closer to pure exploitation.
I had the opportunity to interview Rob Zombie himself prior to the movie's limited theatrical run, which kicks off on September 16. Check out our chat about the conception of the film, his latest collaboration with legendary actor Sid Haig, the Manson Family, Spaghetti Western and Mexican wrestling influence, and more!
ScreenAnarchy: How did you decide what was going to be the aftermath following the events of THE DEVIL’S REJECTS? Was the first part of 3 FROM HELL inspired by the case of The Manson Family?
Rob Zombie: I think in some ways the characters have always been inspired by The Manson Family, but particularly the beginning of the movie, the documentary section of the movie, that was very much inspired by footage of The Manson Family I’ve seen, with footage of them going in and out of court, being interviewed by the press. I mean, they were really the first, well not the first but they were the most visible murderers who became sort of stars on television.
So I thought that if was treating my characters the same way that’s what would happened, because they would be outrageous enough that the press would latch on to it and whenever the press gets excited about murderers there’s always people that become fans of it, strangely enough. So yeah, that inspired the whole beginning of the movie.
After many years, how would you describe the new mindset of Captain Spaulding, Otis and Baby? And also, how was the approach with your actors Sid, Bill and Sheri?
We shot The Devil’s Rejects 15 years ago so I basically step the movie 15 years later, it’s a little less but basically 15 years later. And I thought “OK, we will just play it like they are now.” I figured, you know, Captain Spaulding is now 80 years old, he’s very old, he looks very weak, he’s tired, you know, he doesn’t have a lot fight left in him because he knows he’s going to die in prison. Otis is, I thought, “OK he’s a little more calmed, a little more grounded, he’s still as dangerous as ever but he seems like he’s not as crazy.”
And then Baby, I thought would do the exact opposite; she’s been away from everybody, she’s been isolated in this women’s prison, she’s just cracked, she’s gone nut. So I thought it would be kind of cool to, and I talked about it a lot with Sheri, she was going to play the character as if Baby was in a totally different reality from Otis, and even Otis thinks she’s crazy now.
If HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES was straight up horror, then THE DEVIL’S REJECTS had a Western and road movie vibe, how did you approach in that sense 3 FROM HELL? To me it feels like, yes, Western but also closer to pure exploitation fun.
Yeah, I mean I wanted to break the movie down into basically three sections.
In the beginning it’s like a documentary, I thought “OK that’s a prison movie, we are going to have like a prison break at the prison movie, but it’s Cool Hand Luke.”
Then I thought act 2 a little bit like a film noir movie, they even reference it in the movie: The Desperate Hours, where Humphrey Bogart takes this family hostage. I thought, we take kind of into a home invasion film noir movie.
And by act 3, I thought let’s just make a full-blown Sergio Leone Western out in Mexico.
I really wanted to have a journey so the film was big, it was a big journey they went on, it wasn’t all about the prison, because once they are free and they escape, I just wanted the movie to become much bigger. And even to the characters, they come more to life, I feel, once they are free and together.
Richard Brake, as the new brother of the family, is also a really important character. How was the conception of this new member of the family?
That was kind of a last minute addition because he was not in the original script. The original script had Captain Spaulding all the way through the movie, but when it came time to shoot the movie, Sid Haig, he was too ill to make the movie. He had been in the hospital and he was been out of the hospital but he was very weak, he had lost a lot of weight; he was in no condition to make a movie, no way, it wasn’t possible.
But I knew he was very, very important and I had talked with Sid about this: it’s very important for Captain Spaulding to be in the movie, he’s such a big part of the series. So I convinced Lionsgate to let him come in and work even though he wasn’t supposed to. In an order to work on a movie when you’re that age you have to be cleared by the insurance company and have to get insurance funding and this whole big legal thing. And they wouldn’t do it for him, they’re like “we won’t clear him.” But they let me bring him in one morning and I shot as much as I could, did everything I could to finish his character’s journey.
By that point I was like “well, I’m going to create a new character, the half-brother Foxy.” The first person I had in mind for that was Richard Brake and luckily he was available, because I didn’t know if he was available; I called him up and he was in Spain, working on another movie, and he flew right to L.A. and started shooting immediately. I think he learned his lines on the plane ride over because there was no prep time at all for him.
Going back to the last part of 3 FROM HELL, which, like you said, plays like a Sergio Leone Western, I also saw some references to DJANGO by [Sergio] Corbucci with the coffins…
But at the same time, it has this Mexican iconography with the lucha libre masks. So what were your main references to come up with the climax of the movie?
Well, it was all over the place. Definitely we were referencing all the Italian Westerns, the different looks and the feel. I always loved those Westerns because they look so bleak and all the characters look so dirty and nasty, everybody is dirty and everybody is a mess.
And then I thought, well, if I’m going to introduce the villains in act 3, I thought they needed to be instantly iconic. To me the lucha libre masks are so incredibly cool, I’ve loved those since I was a little kid. Ever since I got the Mil Mascaras wrestler when I was in third grade, I was like “this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.” So I was like “that’s what they are going to wear.” As soon as they step up in their white suits and the masks, you’re like “these guys are badasses.” That’s how it came about, I always felt those masks were just so incredible.
I remember HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES had some struggle at Universal Pictures [they shelved the film and Zombie had to buy the rights from them]. In that sense, what were the greatest challenges now, many years later, with this new movie?
The greatest challenge is always, which is ridiculous, when I had to get an R rating for the movie. We went through the MPAA over and over and over and over. And then eventually Lionsgate said, “you know, we’re just going to release the movie unrated”, which was great because the R rated version is not as good.
Anyone who’s going to see this movie does not want the censored version, they want the full experience. Other than that waste of time with the MPAA, there were really no big problems. When I made House of 1000 Corpses, I had never made a movie before, so I think Universal Studios found it quite shocking, but at this point anyone who has worked with me pretty much, I hope, know what they are in for [laughs].
Finally, are you still open to continue exploring these characters?
I don’t know, that’s what I’ll say. I mean, I love these characters and I think there’s more fun things that could be done, but will I ever make another movie with them? I don’t know.
Tickets for the September 16th/17th/18th nationwide release of 3 from Hell are available at FathomEvents.com/3FromHell