Sitting in an air-conditioned trailer near his sweltering trio of haunted houses — part of his Great American Nightmare show, which recently set up shop in Scottsdale, Ariz. — Rob Zombie is frank when he talks about his fears.
Zombie shivers when he thinks of one exhibit, The Lords of Salem in Total Black Out, which forces horrorcore fans to put bags over their heads. He blames the idea on co-producer Steve Kopelman, who assured him that fans would “love it.”
“To me, it sounds horrible,” Zombie says with a laugh. “My wife is, like, ‘I am not putting a bag over my head.’ But people are loving it. It’s so weird.”
Kopelman explains he was just looking out for the rocker by taking it a step too far. “Because it is a Rob Zombie event, it’s gotta be far superior than anything else in the marketplace,” he says during a separate interview. “The challenge is trying to make it as true to the movies as possible. We kind of look at these attractions as immersive theater. Rather than watching the movie, you’re in the movie.”
Wearing a Jaws t-shirt, frayed jeans and jacket, Zombie was at Scottsdale’s WestWorld venue to give the Great American Nightmare’s latest stop the once-over. “I just got here today so I’m seeing everything in person for the first time,” he says.
“So far, it’s better than I thought it would be. We did it last year, and this year they’re taking it even further. They’re building those facades and it’s almost like a little play that goes on as people are standing in line. It’s so much more elaborate than last year.”
This year, fans take the “sensory-deprived journey” through The Lords of Salem in Total Black Out, before visiting the intense debut of Captain Spaulding’s Clown School in 3-D and The Devil’s Rejects house.
Zombie is bringing his macabre haunted house triple threat to Chicago later this week, where patrons will also indulge in The Lords of Salem in Total Black Out, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto 3-D and Haunt of 1,000 Corpses — first seen in 2013 at the inaugural Great American Nightmare in Pomona, Cali.
At that event, Zombie was inspired to write his next film, 31, for which a crowdfunding campaign is underway. “I was at the event watching people just being scared and chased around by murderous clowns and different crazy things,” says Zombie.
“I came up with this idea for a really simple film: Let’s make a movie of people being abducted on Halloween. I realized that’s the one day of the year the facts say that most people go missing for whatever reason. That’s kind of a scary thought.”
31 finds five people randomly abducted and taken to a secluded location.
“It’s kind of like The Most Dangerous Game,” Zombie says. “They’re forced to fight for their lives for 12 hours until the night of Halloween is over. If they’re alive, they’re set free. If they’re not, they’re not, obviously.
“That was sort of inspired by this event. When you go through these mazes, even though you know it’s fake, they’re so intense that you feel like you’re actually in danger for your life. My wife won’t even go through them, even though half the characters are dressed as her from the films. She doesn’t dig it. It’s pretty funny.”
The crowdfunding campaign is one that’s important to Zombie, who will start filming the movie after the holidays. “I was always torn on the crowdfunding thing,” he says. “I wasn’t sure what I thought about it. We’re not asking anybody for free money. It’s like, ‘Well, if you donate this month you get this.’ When you go to a concert you buy a T-shirt. I was trying to make it more in that spirit. Seems like it’s working out really well.”
Zombie is a renaissance man of sorts, given his multi-hyphenate career in music (he’s wrapping up work on a new album) and film. He says that it “gets really crazy” sometimes. “Being on tour is busy enough, but we’re finishing up a new record, too, and doing these events and prepping this new movie,” he says. “Every once in a while I feel like I’m losing my mind.”
As part of the grand opening celebration in Scottsdale, Zombie performed along with opener Powerman 5000, featuring his brother, Spider One.
Zombie is also set to take the stage in Chicago on Sept. 26. The haunted houses run Sept. 26-27; Oct. 3-4, 10-12, 16-19, 23-26 and 30-31, as well as Nov. 1.