The Devil's Rejects
Rob Zombie's sophomore effort fails to right many wrongs.
Sometimes the life of a dedicated film reviewer is a sour one. Every week we here at TheOneliner drag our sorry asses to the multiplex to absorb all manner of cinematic pap in the hope that we might filter out the very worst and protect our beloved readers from the foulest efforts celluloid has to offer. It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it, and we'd rather the psychological burden was ours than yours. Every now and again, though, something wonderful happens. There's a wedding, a birthday party, a retirement do or a raging house fire that affords us a legitimate reason to not go to the cinema. I don't personally remember what that reason was on the fateful night that Scott and Drew were forced to endure House Of 1000 Corpses, but by all accounts I consider myself a lucky man for having avoided what my good friends considered to be an unremitting pile of fetid horse apples.
Having originally been shelved for the best part of three years by distributors, House Of 1000 Corpses saw the light of day during the early half of this decade's horror renaissance, yet still managed to do stark business. Undeterred by this, director Rob Zombie clearly convinced someone in a suit that the cost to yield ratio warranted a sequel, and so we now find ourselves suffering The Devil's Rejects; a movie so lacklustre and aimless that it offers those involved about as much redemption as it does you or I any glimpse of worthwhile social commentary. Picking up from where House Of 1000 Corpses left off, The Devil's Rejects sees everyone's favourite murderous family the Fireflys surrounded by cops lead by the vengeful Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe). Having outflanked those responsible for the murder of his brother, Wydell has little intention of allowing Team Firefly a fair hearing, and in a Ned Kelly-inspired shootout the cops and killers wail on each other with enough firepower to sink the Bismarck
Needless to say the felons flee the scene relatively unscathed, but not before inflicting heavy casualties on the five-oh and witnessing Mother Firefly (Leslie Easterbrook) being carted away for questioning. Enraged by their escape and fuelled by the kind of hatred I would normally reserve only for the French, Sheriff Wydell sets off in hot pursuit as the Firefly family wage a new war on the hapless residents of some barren, sandy US state or another. For whatever reason. And there's my first and foremost gripe with Rejects; there is absolutely no point whatsoever to this movie. Putting aside technical merit (for now at least), Zombie's movie would clearly like to think it's some kind of meditation on family values or other such tenuous social comment, which it most certainly is not. As a revenge movie it's even more redundant, with the "you killed my brother / aunt / entire platoon in 'Nam!" motivation of Wydell shallower than a goth's annual bath.
Clearly Mr. Zombie likes his anti heroes. Throughout the movie their random acts of senseless violence are glorified by seventies split-screen and still-frame optical zooms accompanied by a variety of what one presumes to be the director's favourite tunes from the era. All very fine and well (and, admittedly, stylish), but to suggest that there is some justifiable motive to the antics of the Firefly family is to insult one's audience beyond all reasonable belief. At least Zombie has the sense to paint Forsythe's character with similarly ambiguous strokes, leading to some interesting verbal exchanges at various points throughout the film. The film does redeem itself marginally when, for your money, you can expect random expletive-filled diatribes about the God-like status of Elvis, and it's to the director/writer's credit that such black humour runs throughout. Had it not been for this I might well have found myself looking for inventive ways to end our misery using only a mobile phone and a jacket.
It's clear Zombie has more flair for humour and visuals than he does character development or plot, and there's actually enough here to suggest that he'd do well for himself if he simply sat down and penned an out-and-out black comedy. The cast are at best serviceable, save for the wonderfully refreshing Sid Haig who reprises his role as the inimitable Captain Spaulding; never have I laughed so hard at a clown threatening a small child. It's a shame Zombie's token blonde rock-chick wife Sheri Moon doesn't fare so well, as her husband sees fit to rest a fair amount of exposition on her shoulders where it fails to sit comfortably. Still, a little eye candy if nothing else, eh?
The Devil's Rejects is as shallow as they come, and by the movie's drawn-out conclusion that seems designed simply to a) mistakenly portray the Fireflys as Bonnie and Clyde-style vigilante icons and b) allow Rob the pleasure of hearing a favourite track played out from start to finish while blood squibs burst in boring slow-mo, you'll be lucky if a cursory glance around the cinema reveals more than a handful of happy faces. Since most of those will be fat, greasy goth kids who can't tie their shoelaces, you can pretty much discern the audience this will appeal to without too much expenditure of the old grey matter. In fairness, Zombie shows traces of promise, but clearly at this point the movies he wants to make are not the movies anybody who works hard to earn the entrance fee wants to see. Maybe one day he'll marry his obvious knack for black humour with less of a childish motivation and we'll finally be getting somewhere. For now, however, you'd do well to steer clear. This is one for the Clearasil Crew only.
I award this movie 2 out of 5 Units We Use
Sid Haig (Captain Spaulding)
Sheri Moon (Baby)
Bill Moseley (Otis)