Rob Zombie is a controversial director to say the least. His films, while far from being critically praised, have a devoted audience and have all attained some sort of cult following; the soon-to-be trilogy centering on the Firefly Family being the most popular. This series consists of House of a Thousand Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects, and the upcoming 3 From Hell. These films—and I’ll admit that I’m making an assumption for 3 From Hell—have all received generally so-so reviews; some loving them for their warped humor and unique sense of direction and cinematography, while others find them to be nothing more than torture porn.
Regardless of one’s views, the films helped skyrocket Zombie’s career as someone who does brutal, unrelenting violence well. In 2007, he was tapped to direct a remake of John Carpenter’s legendary slasher film: Halloween. The film was considered to be less-than stellar, though there was, as always, a niche audience for it. The sequel on the other hand, not so much. This resulted in Zombie returning to his own original projects which consisted of Lords of Salem and 31.
Prior to those two however, Zombie had another film planned. One that would’ve deviated from his normal genre of violent horror. This film was called Tyrannosaurus Rex and it remains one of the most frustrating canceled films in my eyes for the simple fact that its premise remains one of the coolest and most intriguing to date.
In spite of the film’s name, Tyrannosaurus Rex had nothing to do with dinosaurs. Rather, it was an “homage” to exploitation action films from the 1970s. This would have marked the first time Zombie would have done what I can only presume to be a straightforward action film—his other films primarily being horror films, though I’m sure you would have guessed that given titles like “The Devil’s Rejects” don’t exactly scream “family-friendly comedy”.
As for the film itself: T-Rex (as I will be calling it from here on how) was announced back in February of 2008, roughly six months after Zombie’s Halloween remake came out, and was was scheduled for release on August 28, 2009. Beyond that, Zombie kept details of the film under wraps, simply saying:
“My next live action feature is called TYRANNOSAURUS REX. I don’t want to give away any details yet, but I will tell you that it has nothing to do with dinosaurs.”
Four months after the initial announcement, and much speculation that maybe Zombie was toying with expectations so he could surprise us with Jurassic Park, a teaser poster was released for the film.
A stylish, visceral work of art if I do say so myself. I love it.
Anyways, a little more detail about the film was released through an anonymous source told Bloody Disgusting, supposedly detailing a little bit about the plot to the film:
“T-REX is about a wrestler named Tyrannosaurus Rex who is on the run from a biker gang from hell. Furthermore, the idea for the film is loosely based on the comic book Zombie did with Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) entitled THE NAIL.“
Zombie later post the cover to a comic on his MySpace account (no, I’m not making that up) stating that this was the “comic that started it all.”
Some time after that synopsis was leaked, two things happened. The first was that Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, was cast in a role. This was to be expected as she’s been in every one of his films. What her role was isn’t certain, but given that she’s generally in a lead role for her husband’s films, it can be assumed she would have been the ex-convict’s/T-Rex’s love interest.
The second thing to happen was that Zombie later revealed the actual plot to the film and in true to his normal fashion, it was as bonkers as one can imagine.
Described as being akin to “an incredibly violent 70s action movie”, T-Rex centered on an ex-convict and former boxer who joins the world of underground boxing. Presumably from there, things would have escalated to the normal standards of a Rob Zombie film where blood flies, bones break, screams of agony mix in with the film’s soundtrack, and all hell breaks loose until the land is bathed in a healthy five inches of blood.
And then: nothing. August 28, 2009 came and instead of Tyrannosaurus Rex, we instead got the oh-so beloved Halloween II, in spite of Zombie having stated he wouldn’t direct a sequel, he went against his word and did so anything. The question on everyone’s mind was naturally: why? The answer can be answered with three simple words.
The Weinstein Company.
Yes, the company that was run by the now disgraced and universally loathed Harvey Weinstein and his brother, Robert “Bob” Weinstein, is generally regarded as the reason that the film wouldn’t be made. I could—and I someday will—devote a blog to the authoritarian control they frequently took when producing projects, such as with Wes Craven’s Scream 4 (a series that the Weinstein’s didn’t even want to make initially as they had no faith in it until they saw the opening scene). In the case of T-Rex however, their reasoning wasn’t so much a lack of faith as much as it was the film’s cost. According to Blooding Disgusting, the film was “extremely expensive” and this case the Weinstein’s cold feet. Despite their fears, they still “held [the film] over Zombie’s head” as they knew he wanted to the make the film badly.
The Weinstein's, being the extortionists they are when it comes to anyone and everyone whose surname isn’t “Tarantino”, gave Zombie a proposal. Direct Halloween II and in exchange, he’d get the rights to the script back so he could shop it to other studios. Among all of this, Dimension Films would get the sequel to Halloween they oh-so desperately wanted and no Halloween fan wanted.
Well, Halloween II came out and it was lambasted by critics and fans everywhere, many of who saw it as yet another disgrace to John Carpenter’s legendary 1978 classic. Somehow, in some brutal way, the film managed to break even, grossing $39.4 million dollars against a $15 million dollar budget. There is a silver lining to this in the form of it grossing less than half of what the 2007 remake did; that film’s budget being the same as the sequel, but its grossing being $80.3 million. Lucky for fans, nine years later in October of 2018, the original Halloween would get a sequel from director David Gordon Green and producer Jason Blum that would be both a critical and financial hit.
As for Rob Zombie, he stated that he’d make T-Rex after Lords of Salem, a film centered on the vengeful souls who died during the infamous Salem Witch Trials. That film was made and garnered mixed reviews, many praising its atmosphere but criticizing it for not being exactly scary and instead more of what one would expect when Rob Zombie’s name is attached to a feature length film.
Although Lords of Salem saw a limited release in April of 2013, T-Rex never went anywhere in the way of production, instead remaining as stagnant as the fossil of one of its titular dinosaur relatives, instead making 31 in 2016 and 3 From Hell, which is slated for release at some point this year.
Whether or not Zombie tries to get T-Rex made after 3 From Hell is released is unknown. Although his films may not be the most successful in the way of critical reception, his fanbase is as dedicated as those of any other cult filmmaker. While his films personally aren’t my thing, I’ll forever love to know how this film would have played out. Its premise is one that I think has a lot of potential to be visceral and exciting; something that isn’t often seen in movies these days. My proof comes in the form of some concept art and posters that were released over the years. Tell me what you think of them.