Rob Zombie is known for heavy metal music, but he has been making popular cult horror movies since House of 1000 Corpses in 2003. He has since completed his Firefly trilogy with The Devil’s Rejects (2005) and 3 From Hell (2019) and directed remakes of the iconic movies Halloween and Halloween II. Horror fans love Zombie’s knowledge of the genre and respect for its history. He has talked extensively about his childhood interest in horror movies and wanting to grow up to be both a musician and a filmmaker.
Zombie has said his favorite horror movies are “Pre-Code,” or movies that were made before the Motion Picture Association of America adopted a morality code—known as the Hays Code and enacted in 1934—which eventually morphed into the ratings system we have today. Zombie says, “I love everything from the ’30s. The 1930s is my absolute favorite time period for horror movies, because they were just so demented and sick. Sometimes you watch them and go, ‘Wow, they get away with a lot.’ Then, of course, the codes came in and it ruined the party. When you watch movies from the 1940s, they seem so tame and so dry, but everything from the ’30s is just amazing.”
In particular, Zombie has a fascination with Bela Lugosi, the actor who originated the role of Dracula in Dracula (1931) and went on to star in many other Pre-Code horror movies. As you can see, many of those movies appear on this list. Here are the horror movies Rob Zombie says are his favorites:
Zombie says the 1930s are his favorite decade for horror. He loves the Wild West feel of horror before it got tamed. Dracula is the first non-silent film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It follows the Count as he moves from Transylvania to London. Professor Van Helsing shows up to hunt Dracula down. Rob Zombie told a reviewer: “Lugosi in that film is so iconic, he doesn’t even seem like an actor giving a performance. Some of these people transcend to something else.”
An adaptation of a short story by Edgar Allan Poe about an unhinged genius who kidnaps women and then experiments on them by injecting them with blood from his pet ape. He plans to turn one of them into a suitable mate for his pet. Poe’s story is considered one of the first modern detective tales, and the movie follows a medical student named Dupin, who works to solve the case of the missing women. Rob praises Lugosi’s performance in the film: ” I always talk about Brando, like I said before, bringing in that new style of acting, but I don’t know. When you want Lugosi, he sort of was like….He was already there, man.”
A shipwrecked traveler arrives at the island of Dr. Moreau. When he stumbles upon the doctor performing a brutal experiment on one of the island’s residents, he seeks to leave but is stopped by Dr. Moreau and his “creations.” Escaping the island becomes the traveler’s only goal. Rob Zombie told Rotten Tomatoes: “The Island of Lost Souls is amazing, from 1932 with Charles Laughton as Dr. Moreau. That movie is amazing. That movie’s dark. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, the extras — I mean, even now you watch like, this is really disturbing.”
Could anyone have guessed Zombie was a fan of zombie films? Rob named his band White Zombie after this movie! A couple reunites in Haiti with plans to get married. A rival love interest intervenes with the help of a voodoo practitioner who believes the answer is to turn everyone into zombies. Rob says: “It’s an amazing movie. I’m pretty sure it’s the first movie to ever use the word ‘zombie’ — to use that in a movie.”
On the way to their honeymoon, a young couple shares a train compartment with a mysterious psychiatrist. Things go awry and eventually the crew ends up with the psychiatrist and his war buddy, who has a room full of dead women in glass cases. Regarding The Black Cat, Rob Zombie says he likes the appeal of “freaks” getting one over on normal people: “It’s always weird watching these sort of straight-up leading men being destroyed by these freaks.”
Professor Henry Jarrod owns a wax museum and carves wax sculptures of historic figures. His business partner wishes he would carve pop culture figures to bring in more money, so he sets fire to the wax museum to collect insurance money. Professor Jarrod is assumed to be killed in the fire, along with his precious sculptures. The business partner, his wife, and many others are then killed by a “mysterious” disfigured man.
On an expedition to the Amazon to study fossils, scientists discover a humanoid fish-like creature. One of the scientists is a beautiful woman to whom the creature is attracted. He eventually abducts the woman, and the other expedition members stage a rescue mission. In a 2017 interview, Rob said: “One thing I always thought was possible was to remake Creature from the Black Lagoon. Because the creature itself, in that phenomenal suit they constructed, could be exactly the same. So I think Creature from the Black Lagoon could be a cool one.”
A cruel man and his frail wife own and operate a boarding school in France. The wife and her friend plan to get rid of her cruel husband, and their murder plot goes well until the body goes missing. A twist ending reveals that not everything is as it seems.
Mary is almost killed in a drag race gone wrong, and she can’t remember how she survived. Soon after, she begins seeing a ghostly presence she calls The Man. She also experiences other strange occurrences like people not being able to see or hear her. Rob liked the film so much, he named his 2002 album after it.
A brother and sister encounter a zombie while visiting their father’s grave. The brother is killed and the woman runs, taking refuge in a rural farmhouse with other survivors of the zombies. The group tries to fight off the dead as they overwhelm the house. Rob Zombie was a huge fan of director George Romero and exclaimed upon his death: “I can’t believe George Romero has died. All the zombies owe him everything! He was the master.”
Sally and a group of her friends take a road trip to visit her grandfather’s grave and the family homestead. On the way, they run out of gas and kill time swimming and exploring the area. In one home, they meet Leatherface and his chainsaw, and the gang spends the rest of the movie running as fast as they can. Rob claimed this film was a major influence on him: “Usually movies look like movies. This just looked like you were there.”
A zombie apocalypse leads to the collapse of the United States. One group of survivors take refuge in a shopping mall. While securing the mall, one of the group is bitten. He hides his infection while an un-zombied biker gang attacks the mall, looking for supplies and security of their own. In an episode of Eli Roth’s History of Horror, Rob cited Dawn of the Dead as an inspiration.
Rob Zombie loves Stanley Kubrick and points out that (like a lot of his own movies) The Shining was hated by reviewers when it came out. The Shining is Kubrick’s interpretation of the Stephen King novel about a family serving as sole caretakers to a remote (haunted!) hotel over the winter. Rob liked The Shining so much, he commissioned artwork depicting himself and Marilyn Manson as the “twins of evil” from the film.
28 Days Later follows Jim, a courier who wakes in a hospital 28 days after a zombie virus outbreak that has ended civilization in London. The fast-moving zombies give chase as he meets other survivors and they attempt to make their way to a sanctuary. Rob says this was the first “fresh” zombie film since the days of George Romero: “Everyone was just sort of retreading what George Romero was doing. And [director Danny Boyle] was the first person to come along with a fresh take on it, which came along in kind of a stagnant genre, and I never really thought of it of being stagnant until I saw that film.”
Oskar is a lonely, bullied boy living in a suburb of Stockholm. He befriends the strange girl that moves into the apartment next door, and they tap messages in Morse code to each other at night. Oskar eventually discovers that his friend is not a little girl at all, but a vampire. She murders Oskar’s bullies, and the two run away together. Rob called the film “fantastic”: “I think the thing I like so much about foreign horror films is it just creates so much of a different atmosphere. You get so used to American films with American actors set in America.”