Synopsis: Rob Zombie’s first concert film, The Zombie Horror Picture Show is a feature-length concert film, recorded live over two sizzling nights in Texas. It captures Zombie’s elaborate, multi-media production of mind-blowing SFX, animatronic robots, pyrotechnics, oversized LED screens and state-of-the-art light show combined with his powerhouse band featuring John 5, Piggy D and Ginger Fish.
The Zombie Horror Picture Show puts the viewer at the center of the hot and nasty action for a blistering set of 16 Rob Zombie classics, including ‘Dragula’, ‘Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Super Town’, ‘Living Dead Girl’, ‘More Human Than Human’ and the crushing cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s ‘We’re An American Band’ from the seven-time Grammy® nominee’s Top 10 2013 album, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor.
eyelights: Rob Zombie’s showmanship. the direction and editing.
eyesores: the slowness of some of the renditions.
When Rob Zombie went solo, I couldn’t have cared less. I had somewhat enjoyed his White Zombie years, but I wasn’t drawn to his dialed-up solo version, especially given that the first single was called “Dragula”. Even though I met one of my friends when she walked into the video store I worked at one night with a magazine that flaunted this latest single, it left no impression on me.
When Rob Zombie started making movies, I was even less impressed. His ‘House of 1000 Corpses’ was a frightful mess, and there was too little of Baby in it. The soundtrack, however, was another matter altogether: it was a carefully constructed companion piece, and it was chock full of new goodies by Zombie as well as old ones by bands that he enjoyed (like the Ramones).
By that point, he was fully on my radar.
I don’t know when I made the transition from skeptic to fan. I know that White Zombie’s version of Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave” had something to do with it, but Zombie’s solo stuff was making an impression too. Soon I was on a quest to find each non-album track that White Zombie or Rob Zombie had released on CD, and compiled them all on an eartastic set of my own making.
I started to follow Zombie’s career more closely. His first two solo albums were tasty morsels. The first had the best tracks, but the second was more consistent overall. His soundtrack to ‘1000 Corpses’ had some of his career best, too. Frankly, not one release thus far has been bad (although some have disappointed me slightly). I always await another one of his albums with some interest.
The same goes for any home video release of his.
Ever since I picked up ‘Past, Present and Future’, his first career anthology, which included a DVD of video highlights, I’ve been intrigued by his work. His videos are always fascinating, mixing up classic horror with outrageous exploitation elements and a hint of titillation (frequently in the form of his nubile spouse, Sheri Moon Zombie). And he’s grown as a feature film writer-director.
So, naturally, I was interested to get my hands on his first live show on home video – especially since it was being released on blu-ray (meaning that it would kick all sorts of @$$). The fact that it came hot on the heels of his best studio album in a long while, ‘Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor’, was another motivating factor, because it meant that the show was bound to be one hell of a good time.
What some people might not know is that Rob Zombie directed the film himself – as he tends to do. This means that one can expect his usual grainy, washed out 8mm film shots and other classic exploitation touches along the way – on top of the high quality video. In fact, the film starts all grainy, with old school, shaky b+w credits. Then we follow the band to the stage, to the mid-eastern flavours of “17 Year Locust”
The stage was covered with a series a large digital screens (showing a constant barrage of images taken from various B movies and from Zombie’s own oeuvre), fire cannons, and a set of three dais at the front for Zombie, guitarist John 5 and bassist Piggy D – with drummer Ginger Fish at the back centre. All were all costumed in horror-themed outfits and had their faces painted in ghastly make-up.
Heck, even the spotlight guys were in costume…
After this short credit intro, this 80-minute undead rock spectacle, which consists of a couple of performances shot in Texas in August of 2013, blasted off.
1. Teenage Nosferatu Pussy: For the opening number to the show, Zombie showed up on a platform above the stage. It’s an excellent rendition of the track, the opening number on ‘Venomous Rat Regenerator Vendor’ and a good intro. Zombie doesn’t go too crazy on the editing (aside for the afore-mentioned 8mm inserts of the crowd or the stage), superimposing the members at one point, but that’s it. Otherwise, he keeps himself in check. 8.0
2. Superbeast: This highlight from ‘Hellbilly Deluxe’ is an uptempo number that I really enjoy; it’s got great energy. For this set, there’s fire all over the screens, painting the whole stage red. Zombie is moving about more manically here, now that he’s released from that platform and frequently whips his tangled, matted hair around. 8.0
3. Super-Charger Heaven: Another up-tempo number, this track is a single from his White Zombie days. It’s a super-catchy ditty that some people call “Devil Man” because of its chorus. For this one, Zombie has shed his coat, and a large big Dr. Satan puppet (from ‘The Haunted World of El Superbeasto‘) shows up on stage, towering above the band members. For this track, Zombie chose to use mirror images to enhance the action. 8.0
4. Living Dead Girl: Ah… one of his classics. Before he gets into this second hit from his debut album, Zombie addresses the crowd, asking where all the living dead girls are. Naturally, we are treated to tons of shots of topless female concertgoers. Unfortunately, I found the performance a bit lacklustre, turning this killer groove metal tune into (slightly) sluggish metal. It’s still good, just not as great as it could have been.7.5
5. We’re An American Band: Before going into this Grand Funk Railroad classic (which they covered on ‘Venomous’), John 5 played the star-spangled banner – partly with his teeth (hey, it worked for Jimi…). It begins with grainy tour footage and shots of various U.S. landscapes, before going to the stage, where Zombie is dressed up in an undead Uncle Sam-style costume. I dislike the original track, but this is a respectable rendition. 6.75
6. More Human Than Human: Without a doubt the most recognizable song in the whole White Zombie repertoire, this industrial-groove metal number is a genre classic. Unfortunately, it feels a bit slow here (much like “Living Dead Girl”). During the performance, bubbles started to float around the stage. Bubbles? Really? Then a tall Murray the Robot puppet (also from ‘El Superbeasto’) wandered about on stage. Zombie pretty much danced/grooved the whole way through on this one. 7.5
7. Sick Bubblegum: I really like this single from ‘Hellbilly Deluxe 2’, but the rendition pales in comparison to the album version. It’s still good, though. For this track, they brought out big multi-coloured balloons – when they pop, there are paper sprinkles everywhere. 7.5
8. Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy): I quite like the original version of this, which can be found on ‘The Sinister Urge’ but, again, it feels slightly slow compared to the original. Maybe it’s just my memory playing me tricks, but it’s not bad anyway. 7.5
9. Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga: Such a ridiculous song title, but somehow Zombie makes it work; it’s got a great groove. Don’t even ask me to sing along, though – it’s too much of a tongue twister. To start, Zombie gets the crowd to recite the first part of the chorus as practice. He’ll later have the words on screen to help them out. 7.5
10. Meet the Creeper: This one starts with a short drum solo by Ginger Fish. This gives Zombie time to get aboard a sorta steampunk robot carriage/vehicle thing, which he rides the stage with. I quite enjoy the original version of the track because of all the layers, but this version isn’t as slick; it lacks flavour. But I guess all the production of that first album gets dropped in a live context. It’s normal, but a darned shame. 7.25
11. Theme for an Angry Red Planet: Originally, this acoustic guitar intro was merged into ‘Mars Needs Women’. But on the ‘Hellbilly Deluxe 2’ reissue, it was separated into a distinct track with its own title. It makes sense to give it its own space – it’s a good track and it’s actually not attached to the other song musically. 7.5
12. Mars Needs Women: This one is a rhythmic number, very much rooted in the drums. I’ve always been only so-so on it (it drags a bit), so it doesn’t make much more of an impression on me here. For this one, Zombie is still on that weird vehicle, moving about stage. 7.25
13. House of 1000 Corpses: Culled from ‘The Sinister Urge’, his sophomore solo effort, it carries the same title as his debut film feature, which came out two years later. Although I found it too slow for my taste at first (my favourite Zombie tracks are the faster ones), it has grown on me because of all the textures and the mood of it. For this one, we start by watching grainy video of zombie girls doing a choreography in the parking lot (?) outside. On stage, snow-like stuff floats about. Zombie’s mic stand is moveable and has a six-armed skeleton on it; it’s clearly unwieldy, not the best gimmick ever. 7.75
14. The Lords of Salem: Released on ‘Educated Horses’ a full seven years before his eponymous film, this is probably the weakest of the songs that evening (‘Educated Horses’ is also probably his weakest album – hardly surprising that only one track from it is featured here). It’s a super slow version on top of that. There’s footage from the film on the concerts screens, and we’re treated to shots of concertgoers moshing/fighting on a lawn somewhere (ahem… classy). In some ways, this felt like the last song of the night because John 5 destroys his guitar at the end. But it’s not. 7.0
15. Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown: Also from ‘Venomous’, we’re finally back into the fast lane. Nice. For this one, Zombie is on top of a huge ghetto blaster, and he gets the crowd to sing along to the chorus. The fact that this ghetto blaster showed up out of nowhere suggests that there may have been some downtime between this and the previous number. “The Lords of Salem” may very well have been the final part of the main show. But you can’t tell from the way this is edited. 7.5
16. Thunder Kiss ’65: Taken from ‘La Sexorcisto’, this is another White Zombie classic (in fact the one that got everyone to notice them back in 1993). It’s a rousing piece of groove metal. What makes this rendition special is that, towards the end, there’s an extended guitar solo (or a series of solos, as the case may be), while Zombie goes out into the crowd and stalks about with a handheld light. Afterwards, the band transitions back into the song. Nice. 8.0
17. Dragula: The lead single from ‘Hellbilly Deluxe’ and by far the most recognized Rob Zombie track, this is a killer tune. I hated the title at first, but I softened my stance when I discovered that it was merely a Munsters reference – not some corny invention of his own. This version starts with slow drums and a rhythmic riff, and then the song proper kicks in. Classic stuff. Sadly it slowed down at the end. But it was still quite good, and a fitting end to the show. 7.75
Aside for the show, there is only one special feature on this disc: a high resolution picture gallery. A short one. Oh well.
If ‘The Zombie Horror Picture Show’ did anything, it was to confirm that Rob Zombie is a terrific showman. I always suspected as much, based on his predilection for all things theatrical and ghastly, but he’s proven his worth here. Frankly, if not for the standard-issue mosh pit (something I try to avoid because I like to actually see the artists I’ve paid good money to see, not fight my way through the concert just to keep my spot), I’d love to see him live.
It also continues to prove that Zombie has talent as a director. Oh, sure, he’s misfired a few times in his filmmaking career, but he still has mucho talent. What he does here is balance the cutting done for entertainment’s sake and the integrity of show. He does it well, giving a sense of what took place all the while stimulating us at the same time. He also doesn’t hide his vocal lapses, proof that he wanted the show to stand on its own.
Based on this film, Rob Zombie’s concerts appear to be a real party. Between the band members’ costume changes, the costumed crowd members, the special effects, the gimmicks, the large screen filled with all sorts of eye candy, the energetic performances and the genre of music that Zombie serves up, it’s quite the spectacle. ‘The Zombie Horror Picture Show’ is a perfectly fitting title for what Zombie has delivered.
Date of viewing: November 16, 2014