Rob Zombie resurrects ‘3 From Hell’ for the Firefly family’s final bow—maybe
It’s been almost 15 years since The Devil’s Rejects was released, and while most fans of the Rob Zombie film thought the ending was the completion of the story, Zombie (and his characters) return this month with 3 From Hell. The director and musician resurrected the sadistic murderous characters Baby, Otis and Captain Spaulding—plus a new character, Foxy—to continue the adventure of the notorious criminals after all these years.
“Truthfully, writing it was pretty easy,” Zombie says. “Figuring out the exact story and where they were going to go took a while, but bringing the characters back to life and the dialogue and how they were going to act was pretty easy. I don’t know why, but these characters are just—I know them so well.”
Back when the first film in the series, House Of 1000 Corpses, dropped in 2003, Zombie never intended to make more than one movie. He says he thinks of each film as a standalone piece. But after Lionsgate wanted a sequel, he started coming up with new ideas for the franchise. A couple of years back, Zombie started getting the urge to go back to them and write a new story.
“It wasn’t until after [House Of 1000 Corpses] came out and did well that Lionsgate wanted to make a sequel, but I never wanted to make House Of 1000 Corpses Part Two, so that was why the second movie is so different from the first one,” Zombie says. “I wanted to do something different, but I knew I had to keep the same characters, so I took it in a different direction. After that movie, again I thought that was the end of that because it’s 15 years ago now.”
As Zombie began teasing 3 From Hell, numerous fans started noticing a lack of Captain Spaulding in the majority of posters and other materials. Major spoiler alert: His character appears in only a small section at the beginning of the film and isn’t seen afterward, though his presence is felt throughout. Actor Sid Haig was recently hospitalized, though Zombie says his health issues aren’t new.
“As we approached shooting, about three weeks out, I got a call from Sid saying he’d been in the hospital,” Zombie says. “He had an operation, and he was now recovering from it. I went to visit him, and he had drastically changed. It just became obvious at that time that he was too ill to make a movie. It just wasn’t possible. He’s 80 years old to begin with, so making a movie at that age under any circumstances is incredibly difficult. But if you’re 80 and having health problems, it’s impossible.”
While Zombie knew he had to find a way to include Haig’s character in the film given his importance in the previous two movies, there were difficulties with getting the actor cleared to be on set. Older actors often have to go through physical tests to get approval from insurance companies (which Haig didn’t pass), but Zombie found a good way to wrap up the character’s storyline.
“I discussed with Sid a lot that it was very important for his character to be in the movie, and I knew he wanted to be in the movie, and I knew he had to be, somehow,” Zombie says. “Lionsgate was nice enough to let us sort of secretly bring him in one morning to shoot so I could get enough footage of him to complete his storyline. I know a lot of fans right now are like, ‘Why isn’t he in the movie?’ thinking they don’t get to see much of him, but eventually they’ll just be happy for what they got because it was a miracle even that happened.”
When it became clear Haig wouldn’t be able to participate in the entire film, Zombie had to rewrite the entire script he’d been working on for the past few years. This led to the introduction of Richard Brake’s character Foxy who joins Otis and Baby to form the three from hell. “At one point, I wrote a version where there was just Otis and Baby because nobody knew the title, so I could have called it anything—it could have been Two From Hell,” he says. “I think it works better with three characters, though.”.
Zombie toyed with the idea of reviving a character from the previous two movies but says those stories were essentially complete. He knew the choice to introduce a new character with well-established ones was a risky choice, but after working with Brake on his film 31, he knew it would be a good fit.
“He’s a really terrific actor, and I knew he had the right vibe because he worked with Sheri [Moon], and they worked well together, and I assumed he would work great with Bill,” he says. “Richard was off in Spain shooting a movie, so he basically finished a movie there, landed in L.A. and walked right on set. We didn’t have any prep time, so he fit in right away, but each day he got better and better. The three of them together have great chemistry, and I think it’s fantastic.”
3 From Hell is obviously fear-inducing, but there are many moments where viewers will find themselves laughing. The comedic aspects of the movie often lead to genuinely shocking horror, though, which Zombie says is due to the characters staying true to who they are. The director says he isn’t a fan of straight-forward comedy happening in horror where filmmakers are trying to get laughs, but he enjoys allowing character’s personalities create dark humor naturally.
“I think those two things are at odds with each other,” he says. “But if your characters stay true to their [roles] and there is some sort of sick humor that comes from it, that’s what I like. In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre—the original one obviously—that is a very grim film, but the characters are so fucked up and weird, there is some really demented humor that comes from them. It never feels like we’re stopping for a comedy moment, though.”
Despite the three deranged characters being wildly fun to watch (and you can often find yourself hoping they come out on top), they’re still horrible people, and Zombie made them that way on purpose. He explains that although they don’t have any redeeming qualities, that’s what makes them more interesting to the average person because they lack relatability.
“I always wanted them to be charismatic and funny and cool to follow their journey,” he shares. “Most horror movies are about rooting for the good people to survive, whatever the situation is. Which is fine, but I didn’t care to make movies like that. I would always lean toward making the villains more fun and charismatic than the victims. Most people don’t do these things, and that’s why people are always interested in Hell’s Angels or something like that because they are outside the norms of society.”
As a child, Zombie remembers the first horror-type film he ever watched was King Kong and how the destruction caused by the main character caught his attention. He elaborates on monsters such as Frankenstein or King Kong being relatable for many people because they are simply monsters being provoked into causing mayhem and how that differs from what he created with his films.
“The term horror movie didn’t even exist to us,” he points out. “We called everything monster movies. I think as a kid, you feel like this weird misunderstood thing, and [in] all of those movies, the monster is a misunderstood creature that isn’t trying to wreak havoc but is just at the mercy of everybody. You side with King Kong and Frankenstein because he’s not trying to do anything wrong. He’s just wrong in the world.”
One thing film viewers will certainly notice is 3 From Hell feels more open ended than the conclusion of The Devil’s Rejects. The characters don’t truly receive a proper ending to their story, leaving the possibility for another film to be made. Zombie says it’s unlikely he’ll create another film in the series.
“I have no plans to do that,” he opines. “I haven’t thought about it at all, but probably not. Who knows what could happen in 15 years, though. There was over a decade until I even thought about [making another sequel] much, but the answer is probably not. I think the three films work together well as a trilogy.”