I don’t know what’s more morally painful: the fact that I liked this movie or the fact that I’m going to endorse it.
The Devil’s Rejects, Rob Zombie’s latest opus, contains abusive violence, rape, and horrific torture. Although rather mortifying to watch, it’s a real guilty pleasure to keep your eyes on the screen as you witness three of the world’s most wretched killers do their dirty work.
A Good Idea Made Great
Exploitation films which glorify violence have always had cult followers. Like Remy Belvaux’s Man Bites Dog and Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust, The Devil’s Rejects is almost sure to win over the hearts of many Fangoria readers and horror film geeks. Although Zombie’s first feature, House of 1000 Corpses, was a complete travesty, his distinct directing and writing style are starting to take a respectable shape.
His writing needs some work, yet a portion of the cheesy lines fit right at home with the absurdity of the plot. But the directing is where the picture really shines, coming straight from the twisted mind of Mr. Zombie right to the screen in a authentically gritty 1970s horror film look which would convince me that it was created by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) if I didn’t know better. Finally, many years after Herschell Gordon Lewis and Russ Meyer, I believe we now have an auteur worthy of a station in the horror genre.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that none of Zombie’s music was included in the soundtrack. It’s not that I find his music particularly bad, but it truly makes a mockery of cinema when musical artists use their celebrity to endorse their tunes. Rob Zombie didn’t make this scary film because he makes scary music; he made this because he wants to be a respected filmmaker.
Film with 1000 Corpses
Taking place shortly after the events in House of 1000 Corpses, Rejects begins with a police raid on the Firefly home (a family of deranged murderers) , where armed cops, led by Sheriff John Wydell (William Forsythe), brother of the sheriff slain in the first film, mow down Rufus Jr (wrestler Tyler Mane) and take Mama Firefly (Leslie Easterbrook, replacing Karen Black) captive.
The three Firefly family members on the run from the law are Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), Otis (Bill Moseley) and Baby (Sheri Moon-Zombie). After getting away from the police, we find them holding a traveling band of country musicians hostage in a motel. We see, up close, what they do to their victims before they flee to Spaulding’s brother’s whorehouse.
Much of the film focuses on Sheriff Wydell, who is on a quest for vengeance against the family for killing his brother. His anger takes over his conscience as he hunts down the trio and soon becomes as bloodthirsty as the people he’s tracking down.
The film is ruthlessly entertaining and visually stimulating all the way to the end. The finale brings satisfying closure to this gruesome epic, a closure that most horror films fail to provide.
A Horrific Pleasure
The killers are presented as cruel and inhuman creatures. Their actions are so desperate and horrible, we grow to hate them within the first few scenes. The dialogue doesn’t let us feel anything but contempt for them, even in some sentimental scenes. Nevertheless, they have a lovable and sympathetic quality to them that Zombie almost succeeds at showing us. After spending so much time with these anti-heros, we almost feel sorry for them in the end when their fate is ultimately decided.
Spoiler warning: a scene is revealed in this paragraph. Traveling around the road with them as they encounter many victims and allies is horror-film delightful. My personal favorite scene is a ghastly one where the family makes a woman wear the face of her skinned husband. They let her live, and she bursts out of the room, screaming deliriously through her husbands face. This surely is going down as one of my new favorite horror film sequences.
Some of the acting is rather poor, but isn’t that the way it should be? Melodramatic and overacted performances is a detail that makes the horror film genre so timeless. Some of the performances, however, are believable, which is all we really need.
I can see this film being a much bigger success then House of 1000 Corpse for many reasons, and not just because it is better, but because it surpasses the average horror flick in many ways. Zombie brings to the table what is needed for someone that is drooling for slasher films. It will definitely be the best horror flick you’ll see this year, or probably in the next few.