|The Devil's Rejects|
USA, 2005. Rated R. 101 minutes.
Cast: Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe, Ken Foree, Leslie Easterbrook, Geoffrey Lewis, Priscilla Barnes, Matthew McGrory, Kate Norby, Lew Temple, Dave Sheridan, EG Daily
|Grade: B||Review by Carlo Cavagna|
et's be clear: this is NOT my kind of movie. Totally gratuitous violence. Totally gratuitous gore. As sadistic a film as you'll ever come across. Didn't even see death-rocker Rob Zombie's first movie, House of 1000 Corpses. Refused to. Wouldn't have seen The Devil's Rejects either, if the press junket hadn't been held jointly with the one for Don Roos's latest endeavor.
So why did I like it?
That's easy. The Devil's Rejects has more sense of humor than the Resident Evil franchise, whose attempts at satire (with its recycled B-movie corporatist world of the near future) fall thuddingly flat, and Milla Jovovich's one liners even flatter. I liked it because it shows more clarity of vision that George Romero's return to the zombie genre (The Land of the Dead), in which he appears reduced to imitating his imitators. I liked it because it delivers more thrills than a whole host of scantily-clad-teens-running-from-the-scary-monster movies. Who gives a crap whether Paris Hilton gets a metal pole driven through her head anyway?
It's 1978 in a rural Deep South landscape that looks suspiciously like California. (Guess what? It is.) We pick up where 1000 Corpses left off (so I'm told), opening with the murderous family known as the Devil's Rejects holed up with its lair. (Actually the film opens with a huge Leatherface-type guy named Tiny dragging a nude female body through the woods for no good reason other than to establish that Tiny isn't in the house. Well, and there's the gratuitous exploitation, too. Much more of that to come.)
Led by pompous Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe, self-indulgent as always), local police surround the house and pelt it with bullets. Inside the house, groggy psychopaths awaken and prepare for battle in Ned Kelly-style bullet-repelling armor. For some reason the cops don't use their tear gas until after a few of them have been killed. I guess it's expensive stuff.
Sheri Moon Zombie as Baby, Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding, and Bill Moseley as Otis are The Devil's Rejects.
Mother Firefly (Leslie Easterbrook) is captured, but Otis (Bill Moseley)—mysteriously no longer an albino—and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie, the director's rock-star-girlfriend wife) get away. They call Baby's dad, a colorfully foul local clown character in need of serious dental work named Captain Spaulding (cult icon Sid Haig of Foxy Brown and THX 1138), to join them at a remote motel. There they take hostage a group of traveling musicians (including Geoffrey Lewis of numerous Clint Eastwood films and the last Three's Company blonde, Priscilla Barnes). Another cult icon, Ken Foree (the original Dawn of the Dead), is also on board as a not-very-successful pimp whose connection to Captain Spaulding becomes apparent later. Brutality ensues. A lot of it.
Rather than going for the hectic, carnival-of-the-grotesque music-video style that defined of 1000 Corpses (I'm told), Zombie successfully recreates a Seventies exploitation-horror aesthetic, referencing countless classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. For that reason alone, cult horror fans should find The Devil's Rejects highly satisfying. Contributing to the retro effect, Zombie eschews his own music this time, and douses the film with a fantastic Seventies rock soundtrack featuring the Allman Brothers, James Gang, Steely Dan, and Lynyrd Skynyrd (to name a few). It's probably a better classic rock collection than most classic rock collections.
Zombie also devotes more thought to his macabre funhouse of characters, conceiving the Rejects as a real, strongly bonded family that kills and goes out for ice cream cones together. By pitting them against Forsythe's wacked-out lawman, thus converting the supposed good guy into the film's antagonist, Zombie even manages to generate sympathy for the Rejects. A little, anyway. And, if your wintry heart can't warm to a group of vicious, raping, murdering, corpse-fucking fanatics, you can always ponder puzzling details like why Moseley doesn't bother to do a hick accent like the other actors (it's probably because he's doing Charles Manson, but maybe it's because he can't—the man has a Yale education) or how Sheri Moon Zombie's threadbare pants manage to stay miraculously on.
The total effect is a more dramatic film than the first, but not too much so, interspersed as it is with numerous comic moments such as Captain Spaulding's dream sequence with ex-porn star Ginger Lynn (and his comment on it upon awakening). Between the Rejects' melodramatic histrionics in the opening gunfight, Haig's antics, Easterbrook's overacting, William Forsythe channeling Robert Shaw as a cop aiming to deliver the wrath of the Lord up the evil doers' asses, and Zombie's dig at mustachioed morning TV critic Gene Shalit, the movie is actually pretty damn funny. When it's not exceedingly disturbing, that is.
The Devil's Rejects is not for everyone, and it's probably not for you. It is, after all, a low-budget hillbilly slasher movie. In the genre of low-budget hillbilly slasher movies, though, it's a masterpiece.
Read AboutFilm's interviews with the cast of The Devil's Rejects.
Read AboutFilm's interview with director Rob Zombie.
© July 2005 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2005 Lions Gate Films. All Rights Reserved.
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