Judge Patrick Naugle rates this somewhere between Astro Creep 2000 and Hellbilly Deluxe.
A tale of murder, mayhem, and revenge!
So, you say you want a movie with blood and guts and guns and swearing and sex and violence and grizzle and evil and nastiness and all that jazz. Okay, partner, have I got a movie for you! How about you take a seat and pop in Rob Zombie's epic splatter-fest sequel The Devil's Rejects? If you thought the precursor, House of 1,000 Corpses, was the equivalent of drinking the contents of a used barf bag, you may want to steer clear of this gruesome follow-up. If, however, you're sick and depraved, read on!
Facts of the Case
At the end of House of 1,000 Corpses, the insane Firefly family—Otis (Bill Mosley), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Mother Firefly (originally played by Karen Black, here reprised by Leslie Easterbrook), Tiny (Matthew McGrory), and the clownish Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig)—terrorized a few tourists and exposed a house filled with more skeletons in the closets than Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, and John Wayne Gacy combined.
The Devil's Rejects takes place a short time after the events of House of 1,000 Corpses. While resting up after a hard days slaying, the Firefly family's home is suddenly under siege by Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe), whose brother was killed by the notorious villains. Otis and Baby manage to escape while Mother Firefly is captured by Wydell's officers. Otis and Baby flee to a local motel—where they terrorize a traveling family—and meet up with Captain Spaulding while attempting to stay two steps ahead of the law. But the relentless Sheriff Wydell is a bloodhound (emphasis on the word "blood") that will stop at nothing to see that these monsters are brought to justice or, preferably, tortured, mutilated, and dismembered.
Let the gruesome game of cat and mouse begin.
You know you've got a gruelingly violent movie on your hands when the filmmakers up and call it The Devil's Rejects. In other words, the villains in this movie aren't just the Devil's minions or servants, but his flippin' rejects. I guess you've gotta be some kind of bad to be rejected by the king of all evil, Beelzebub himself. It also takes a big pair of southern maracas to title your movie The Devil's Rejects—you are announcing to the film going public that it's a guarantee your movie will be vile, offensive, and morally reprehensible. No one can ever accuse writer/director Rob Zombie of being an underachiever.
The Devil's Rejects is a hard movie to endure—like Schindler's List, I can't really call it "entertaining" (and I'm sure I'll get letters for comparing a holocaust movie to The Devil's Rejects, but it's a chance I'm willing to take). If you aren't aware, this is a sequel of sorts to Zombie's directorial debut, House of 1,000 Corpses (another movie with a name that shoots for the moon). I give Zombie creativity bonus points for The Devil's Rejects; whereas most sequels—especially to horror movies—are pale retreads of their former glory, The Devil's Rejects is a gleefully odd hybrid of Natural Born Killers, a Quentin Tarantino flick, and the offspring of Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter. To say that Zombie has issues he's working out on the big screen is a vastly enormous understatement.
House of 1,0000 Corpses ended up a teen slasher movie in the vein of Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It had to do with a psychotic family carving up unsuspecting teenagers in a house filled with a thousand corpses (note: not that I was counting). That movie was a full-fledged horror roller coaster, and better than most people expected. Now here comes The Devil's Rejects, which isn't really a horror movie, per say—it's an action movie with a few elements of horror injected into its rotting veins.
This time around three of the main characters from the Firefly family are the focal point: whacked-out Otis (Bill Mosley), sexy but dangerous Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), and the demented Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig). The Firefly family escapes police capture and heads into the desert to do what they do best: intimidate, mutilate, and kill hapless victims. Bill Mosley (best known as Chop-Top from the cult classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2) is eerily believable; in a just world it would garner an Oscar nomination, though Academy members may fear that would be a sign that the four horsemen are drawing near. Sheri Moon Zombie is daffy and delectable as the insane Baby, the type of woman who would sleep with you as well as kill you. Rounding out the main cast is Sid Haig as the demented Capt. Spaulding—though he's disturbing to look at, it's nice to see true character actor getting his due on screen.
The Devil's Rejects is peppered with B-movie's famous faces. Look closely and you'll spot Ken Foree (the original Dawn of the Dead) as a pimp, the imposing Michael Berryman (Pluto, from Wes Craven's classic The Hills Have Eyes), Pricilla Barnes (a long way from TV's Three's Company) as one of the Firefly victims, and Leslie Easterbrook (the Police Academy series) as the insidious Mother Firefly. The crème de la crème of the group is William Forsythe (Dick Tracy) as Sheriff Wydell, the obsessive officer hunting the Firefly clan. Forsythe brings a focused determination to his role—he's a kindred spirit to Tommy Lee Jones's character in The Fugitive, except his demeanor is slightly less friendly (he's about as cuddly as a teddy bear filled with asbestos and covered in wood ticks and hypodermic syringes).
The Devil's Rejects is a bloody mess of a movie. There are shootings, impalings, multiple deaths, and scenes of torture and mutilation that would make Ed Gein flinch. This movie is not a pretty sight. Please don't go into it thinking it's going to be a fun time. On the contrary, expect to come out of this film with a nihilistic attitude and maybe even a slight case of depression. Then again, not all movies are made to lift your spirits and make you feel like a sunny, shiny rainbow.
The Devil's Rejects is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. You can't fault Lions Gate for not giving their all on this transfer—the image looks very good. The graininess and muted colors are intentional—Zombie was trying to make the film look like one of those low-budget '70s exploitation films. He succeeds; the look of this film is as stark as the character's souls. Overall fans of the film will be happy with the way this picture turned out.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX as well as Dolby Digital 6.1 ES. The 5.1 mix is excellent—there are a lot of surround sounds and directional effects to be found in this mix. Zombie also makes good use of classic songs like "Free Bird" (used well over the closing climax) and Steely Dan's "Reelin' In The Years"—the music is pumped loud and clear through all five speakers. Hiss or distortion is noticeably absent. No alternate subtitles are included on this set.
Aside from being an unrated director's cut of the film (featuring more violent gore), Lions Gate has served up a two-disc edition of The Devil's Rejects filled with mind-altering extra features. Disc One features an audio commentary by writer/director Rob Zombie (a fun listen for fans of this franchise) and a second track with actors Sid Haig, Sheri Moon Zombie, and Bill Mosley (a real trip—all of these actors seem very weird). Also included on Disc One is a blooper reel that isn't very funny, four commercials/TV shows featured in the film ("The Morris Green Show," "Mary The Monkey Commercial," "Spaulding Christmas Commercial," and "Cheerleader Missing—The Otis Home Movie"), "Satan's Got To Get Along Without Me" music video by Buck Owens, a few deleted scenes presented in non-anamorphic widescreen (including one that gives us a follow-up on the notorious Dr. Satan), make-up tests of various characters from the film, a tribute to the late Matthew McGrory (who plays Tiny Firefly in the film and was a real life giant), a still gallery, a theatrical trailer, and TV spots for The Devil's Rejects.
Disc Two contains the nearly two and a half hour documentary titled "30 Days In Hell: The Making of The Devil's Rejects." To say that this feature is comprehensive is an understatement; fans of the film will get a blow-by-blow look at how the film came together, starting at pre-production to the final day of the shoot. Interviews with various members of the cast and crew (including director Rob Zombie, actors Haig, Mosley and Moon Zombie, among many others) litter this documentary. Everything from the script to make-up to special effects to the music score is covered. If you're a fan of everything Zombie—or you just really, really dug this movie—this expansive companion piece may be worth your time.
I'm conflicted: the moral, Jeddah Christian man in me wants to tell you to steer clear of this movie. But the giddy little 15-year-old boy who snuck downstairs at two in the morning to watch Friday the 13th Part 2 says check it out.
The Devil's Rejects is a success (in the loosest sense of the word), but I'm not sure what kind of success it is. Time to wash my hands clean of this well-constructed filth!
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary with Director Rob Zombie
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