The Devil's Rejects (2005)

Rob Zombie has a habit of throwing everything at the audience at once.  That is why his music is good in small doses, either with videos of his best songs or the occasional album where he decides to deviate from formula.  The House of a 1000 Corpses was just like that, sampling old horror films much the way his songs do and pretty much bludgeoning the audience for about 90 minutes.  There are a lot of reasons why it should not have worked, but it did, and a good part of that were the performances of Sid Haig and Bill Moseley.  Haig, in his first major role in years, played Captain Spaulding, a clown that runs a roadside attraction at a gas station, while Moseley played Otis Firefly, perhaps the most depraved of the entire Firefly family that preyed on people passing through.

The House of a 1000 Corpses, with the garish colors and Dr. Satan finale, was in many ways framed as a comic book movie while being heavily influenced by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  However, unlike the film that inspired it, there is no respite for our final girl as we find out Spaulding was in on it all along when Otis rises from the back seat of Spaulding's car and our heroine finds herself on Dr. Satan's operating table.  However, like I said, things get much more interesting when Rob Zombie deviates from his time-worn formula.

In 1978, some time after the events of the first film, Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe) leads a raid on the Firefly house.  A number of officers are killed and Mother Firefly (Leslie Easterbrook) is captured, but Otis and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) escape.  They contact Spaulding to let him know what's up and they agree to meet at a rundown desert motel.  Unfortunately for a group of traveling musicians Otis and Baby decide to amuse themselves while waiting for Spaulding to rendezvous with them.

On the road again they seek refuge with Spaulding's old partner in crime Charlie Altamont (Ken Foree), a pimp operating out of a frontier land park.  Wydell, meanwhile, has decided that it is his holy duty to remove the Fireflys from the face of the Earth, and after tracking the trio down with the help of a pair of bounty hunters (Danny Trejo, Dallas Page) he begins to exact his revenge.

The first thing one notices about The Devil's Rejects is that this time around Zombie is trying to make a movie of his own.  The 1970s setting still recalls the exploitation and grindhouse movies of the time and owes more than a little debt to Bonnie and Clyde, but this is one of the few times that I believe we got a true, honest representation of him as a filmmaker.  Most of his movies either wear their influences on their sleeves to the point where they fail in comparison or, unfortunately, were remakes.  This and 31 have a similar filthy demeanor in which one can almost smell the rancid mixture of blood, sweat and dirt coming from the screen. 

While Zombie never makes the mistake of getting the audience to sympathize with the trio he also doesn't give them any comfort in the so-called hero.  Sheriff Wydell in his own way is as sick and twisted as the Firefly family, driven to avenge the death of his brother George (Tom Towles) that occurred in the first movie.  Still, to drive home the point that we are not supposed to sympathize or even consider them antiheros, the whole episode in the hotel room is the most uncomfortable part of the movie to watch.

I was surprised to find out about the abundance of digital effects, particularly blood effects that Zombie didn't have the time to set up practically.  They blend well, which is surprising since CGI blood is usually horrible.  There is also a healthy dose of strange humor, most notably when Spaulding and Baby annoy Otis into stopping for ice cream and when Charlie and his friend Clevon (Michael Berryman) go to buy chickens and the guy selling expresses concerns that they may get intimate with his poultry.  

What The Devil's Rejects proves is that Rob Zombie does have it in him to be a much better director than he seems.  Unfortunately, he continues to chase the dream of being as financially successful with his movies as he has been with his music.  By this time, after failing to even pay homage to The Munsters with his own prequel to the television show, he should understand where his strengths lay.  

The Devil's Rejects (2005)
Time: 107 minutes
Starring: Sid Haig, Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, William Forsythe, Ken Foree
Director: Rob Zombie



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