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MVPs of Horror: How Rob Zombie grew up to be 'Alice Cooper, Steven Spielberg, Bela Lugosi, and Stan Lee'

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When Rob Zombie was a very young boy, he already knew he wasn’t like other kids — “on a different wavelength than 99 percent of [his] peers” and just plain “weird,” as he puts it. But he had a dream of growing up to be “Alice Cooper, Steven Spielberg, Bela Lugosi, and Stan Lee.” And he pretty much did just that.

Not only did the legendary shock-rocker go on to sell millions of albums — both solo and with his Beavis and Butt-head-championed metal band White Zombie — but he became an acclaimed horror movie director, creating cult classics like House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects, The Lords of Salem, and a remake of 1978’s Halloween.

“My mom used to keep this book where they put your school picture from first grade, and then you fill out what you want to be when you grow up. And sometimes I’ll go back and look at ’em, and I’m like, ‘Well, I guess I stuck to the plan!’” Zombie tells Yahoo Entertainment while sitting at L.A.’s monster-filled prop studio Dapper Cadaver, where he is shooting segments for the “Rob Zombie’s 13 Nights of Halloween” movie marathon, airing on HDNet Movies through Oct. 31. “I’d say, ‘I wanna be a comic-book maker,’ or ‘I wanna make movies.’ And yeah, I sort of just stuck with the first-grade plan.”

Things didn’t go exactly according to plan when he was little, however; Zombie’s first attempt at a DIY Halloween costume went hilariously awry.

“It was ridiculous,” he laughs. “I ordered, through the back of a comic book, a caveman mask that was like, 99 cents. … And then I took a sweatshirt, because I was really into monsters and hockey. It was like, 1972 or something. And I wrote all this weird stuff all over this sweatshirt, and put on the caveman mask, and I thought, ‘This is badass!’ I looked like a mental patient. So, I go to school, where they’re having the Halloween party, and all the kids were all wearing perfect costumes. Like, ‘Can everybody’s mom sew perfectly?’ Like, perfect Superman outfits and stuff. And I look like a complete nut that wandered in. I was like, ‘My costume sucks!’ But I still remember it.”

Zombie says he was “totally a misfit kid,” which is what made him gravitate toward horror at such an early age; his earliest memories of being terrified by movies include watching The Shining, the Spielberg-directed Jaws, and the “super-duper scary” flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. And he always related to the monsters and villains, not the supposed heroes, in the frightening flicks of his youth.

“In all the movies that I grew up [with] as a kid — Frankenstein, or King Kong, or Godzilla, whatever — it was that the monster was never bad. They were just always being crucified because they were misunderstood,” Zombie explains. “Like, King Kong wasn’t bad. He was like, ‘I was minding my own business until you came to Skull Island, and now you’re running me around New York City!’ And Frankenstein was like, ‘Hey, anybody wanna hang out?’ And I think subconsciously, you just relate to that as a little kid. And so you don’t latch onto the hero. I didn’t care about the hero. You latch onto the monster. … You focus on the weird guys, and they become cool.”

And that attraction to weirdness, to otherness, to outsider-ness, eventually influenced Zombie’s musical tastes. “When you have the Alice Coopers and the bands like Kiss that come around, you go, ‘Oh, Gene Simmons!’” says Zombie. “I wasn’t attracted to the good-looking singers. It was always the freaks. I was like, ‘Yes! That’s what it’s all about.’”

That being said, when asked to suggest his own freaky Fright night party playlist, Zombie has some surprising, sentimental Halloween choices. “I like older, classic stuff,” he says. “I mean, it’s really lame but I really like ‘The Monster Mash,’ because I think I had that on a 7-inch when I was a little kid in the late ’60s. So that, instantly, is Halloween … and anytime you hear the Peanuts music from The Great Pumpkin, that’s like — it’s Halloween. Instantly.”

So, why does It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown score have a place on Zombie’s party playlist alongside more obvious rock ‘n’ roll tracks by Alice Cooper, the Cramps, and the Misfits?

“Because whatever you first experienced as Halloween as a little kid — like when you’re a little kid and your parents go, ‘This is this thing called Halloween, and we’re gonna put you in a weird costume, we’re gonna walk you around the neighborhood, and you’re gonna get candy from strangers, and then I’m just gonna let you eat it,’ and you go, ‘OK, that sounds like really bad parenting, Mom and Dad, but we’ll go with that, I guess!’ — that’s the soundtrack to that [time]. And so it’s always stuck in my mind.”

Check out Rob Zombie’s 10 favorite scenes from his own horror movies here.

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