BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE DEVIL’S REJECTS

By • Nov 8th, 2005 •

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Okay, I admit it. I am a sick, twisted individual who enjoys taking forays into the cinematic dark side. I know I am not alone since horror movies are currently making their 7-year-cycle comeback. Case in point, a tremendous roster of horrific film releases…theatrical, pay cable and direct-to-video that are bubbling in the vats waiting to be released to the thrill-happy unwashed masses.

When a genre great like George Romero finally receives enough backing and clout to do yet another living dead film (19 years after the last one), it’s more than obvious that the money suits think horror is worth the investment.

Which takes us to Rob Zombie’s THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, the semi-sequel to his 2002 labor of love HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES. While his first film was a fun ride, it lacked many of the qualities that make good cinema…things like a coherent plot, dialogue, and a point. What it turned out to be was a kaleidoscope of wonderful set pieces and images slapped together by a “superfan.” Anyone familiar with Zombie’s music and videos would know that ol’ Robbie is obsessed with all things horror and exploitation. The kitschier, low budget, B-Movie-ish the better. HOUSE OF possessed the soul of every grainy, 70’s exploitation film. As you watched it unfold, you recognized every loving tribute. Yet the sum did not equal the parts in a way that made it original or vital.

What a difference a few years makes.

THE DEVIL’S REJECTS is EVERYTHING his first film was not. In fact, it is everything every other lame recent cinematic remake attempt at capturing the look and feel of that time is not. It is original, funny, clever, brutal, colorful, scary, thought- provoking and freakin’ fabulous. It’s hard to believe it was made by the same guy who directed that first film. Point of fact, it is the work of someone with such a complete understanding of the source material that it reads like an actual product of that time in every way…from the acting to the cinematography to the music. It is a searing, faithful homage to everything from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE to BONNIE AND CLYDE, with spaghetti westerns thrown in for good measure. I was so awash in it’s glories that I nearly wept with joy! Zombie has made an instant classic of its kind that speaks a language steeped in 70’s exploitation film glories. To love THE DEVIL’S REJECTS is to love everything about 70’s exploitation cinema, in all its sleaziness, debauchery and beauty! Zombie’s textbook understanding of the genre is spot-on perfect! More so than any other attempt I have ever seen.

Oh, uh…by the way…it helps tremendously if you do indeed love 70’s exploitation films…otherwise, the whole enterprise may hit you over the head like a ten ton block of blood engorged entrails.

To put it another way, it’s not for everyone.

Warning: Watch at the risk of your immortal soul. Heh-heh-heh.

There are no redeeming characters. No sympathy. No logic. No reason. It is a full throttle attack on the senses featuring four of the most loathsome, diabolical, sick, twisted, soulless characters ever put on screen. They kill innocents with such tremendous love and glee, you actually feel guilty watching. You’ll say to yourself, “Why I am enjoying this? What kind of sick individual am I that I am sitting here, grinning from ear to ear, loving every minute of the carnage and horror being flashed before my peepers?” But, love it I did, and I’m going to try to explain why.

THE CAST
This is a genre smorgasbord, utterly delightful and fulfilling. Zombie has filled his film with a potpourri of genre greats! It is a feast for the eyes to see these familiar faces wallowing in this joyful, blood-drenched, unredeemable filth! The heart, soul and sickness of the film resides within the capable bosom of Sid Haig. This 70’s exploitation genre heavyweight powerhouse portrays the delightfully twisted mass murderer clown, Captain Spaulding. (Oh, by the way, many of the characters’ names are based on Groucho Marx characters!) Haig is the film’s true delight! He is hysterical in his portrayal of a character that has all the iconic presence of a Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers or insert-famous-film-monster-villain-killer-here. ! Haig’s Spaulding has some of the funniest and most ruthless lines, delivered in a very demented, irascible, tongue-in-bitten-cheek manner. His clown make-up is downright creepy and he enjoys wearing it 90% of the time, especially during sex and/or murder. He is the pater familias of the Firefly clan. (Rufus T. Firefly…get it?) A more murderous, dysfunctional family does not exist in the annals of cinema. Members include his son Otis, played with intense violent Charles Mansonesque sickness and murderous humor by Bill Moseley, his daughter Baby, played by Zombie’s too-sexy-for-words and too-twisted-for-details real wife Sheri Moon Zombie…she of the dimpled ass and curly tresses, and Mother Firefly, essayed by the beautiful but deadly Leslie Easterbrook, who gives an insane performance of epic proportions.

The plot is simplicity itself. This sicko family of mass murderers is on the run from the law throughout the film; pursued by a revenge seeking Sheriff (whose brother was killed by the family in the first film), played to the southern Alabama ass-kicking hilt by the great character actor William Forsythe. It is a mayhem-filled road/chase picture that follows them on their trail of debauchery and terror, running into a variety of genre actors and actresses, gleefully killing them all in the process. When I realized their first innocent murder victim was none other than Mary Woronov, the Warhol superstar and EATING RAOUL accomplice to Paul Bartel, I knew I was in a place that was going to feel familiar, cozy and fun.

Along the way, we get dynamite doses of familiar genre faces like Michael Berryman (THE HILLS GAVE EYES), Steve Railsback (HELTER SKELTER, LIFEFORCE), Ken Foree (DAWN OF THE DEAD), Tom Towles (HENRY, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER), P.J. Soles (ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, HALLOWEEN), Ginger Lynn Allen (70’s & 80’s porn star supreme), Geoffrey Lewis (ANY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE), Priscilla Barnes (THREE’S COMPANY), and EG Daily (Singer and voice of many cartoons, most famously Tommy of RUGRATS). This is only a partial list of the cast delights. Of course, if you don’t know any of these actors, it in no way detracts from the film’s power and authenticity. But knowing them makes it seem like every scene reveals another delicious Cracker Jack movie prize!

By casting these tried and true genre dynamos, Zombie not only pays homage, but also gives them a new vehicle that allows them to expand their abilities by playing original characters. You are not reminded of any of their previous roles. It is only their faces and presence that provide the first wave of recognition.

THE STYLE:
Zombie and his cinematographer Phil Parmet create the kind of grainy, 16mm, fuzzy feel that was a staple of 70’s exploitation films. Throughout the entire movie I just kept nodding my head, saying, “This feels so right! This feels so 70’s!” Yet, it was not shoved in my face. It just had a natural flow that really made me feel as if the film WAS made in the 70’s. Even the acting style, editing choices, sets and costumes give off a 70’s feel that was truly striking. There is no doubt that much time and effort was placed on making this film seem like a living, breathing time tunnel. You can almost smell the stale popcorn, feel the sticky floors, see the soda-splashed screen and hear the moaning of dates doing nasty things three rows behind you.

THE MUSIC:
All 70’s, all the time! The credit sequence is cut to the Allman Brothers classic “Midnight Rider,” and it works beautifully. Alternating between footage that is occasionally freeze-framed (in true 70’s style) as the action takes place (a car-napping/murder), this really sets the tone for all to follow. Other classic songs include the David Essex standard “Rock On,” Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around And Fell In Love” and a rousing finale cut to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic “Freebird.” The soundtrack alone is worth the price of admission, and Zombie weaves it in and out of the film seamlessly.

THE FX
In the grand tradition of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, much of the violence is implied rather than shown directly. However, when it is shown (and yes, it truly is in some scenes), it is brutal, unnerving and realistic. A jolt!

What I found most amazing about this film is the way it slowly makes you actually CARE about these horrible people…. more so than you ever care about their victims.
In fact, the victims seem stupid and worthless for a variety of reasons. They’re all just kinda dumb hick-like cannon fodder. I know this is going to sound sick, but it’s true…I didn’t want to see any harm come to the Firefly clan! I loved them! Perhaps it’s because as evil and horrible as they were, they derived such unbelievable joy and rapture from what they were doing that you just kinda join in mentally. Just as Shakespeare created his Richard III to be a murderous psychopath, we still love him because he speaks to the audience and lets us join in on his feelings and reasons. He’s letting us in on the hell and it’s actually sorta cool. After all, we all have a bit of evil in us now, don’t we? Doesn’t mean we have to act it out…that’s why movies like these are so popular: they’re cathartic.

THE DEVIL’S REJECTS is a genre film that respects its history and pays loving homage to it, while creating an entirely new kind of mythos and fun house freak-out that is true to itself and wholly original. Rob Zombie has done what so many others with their remakes and re-imaginings have tried and failed to do…he has created a homage that is a classic unto itself.

UNRATED DOUBLE DISC DVD EXTRAS:
This baby is packed with them! Blooper reel, Deleted scenes, Stills, Trailers, TV spots, music videos, a tribute to Matthew McGrory (the giant actor who plays “tiny” and died not long after the film was completed) and full versions of some fake TV broadcasts created for the film for the characters to watch, which shows the meticulous detail Zombie employed to get the mood just right. Along with a very informative director’s commentary, as well as a rousing cast commentary track, you’ll be able to delve deep into the heart of the film, it’s cast and crew, via an extensive 144 minute (longer than the film itself) documentary on the making of THE DEVIL’S REJECTS entitled 30 DAYS IN HELL: THE MAKING OF THE DEVIL’S REJECTS. This impressive addition allows the viewer to really get an idea of what these folks went through on a daily basis to bring this sick puppy to life. Blood soaked kudos to all!


Cast:
Captain Spaulding: Sid Haig
Otis: Bill Moseley
Baby: Sheri Moon Zombie
Charlie Altamont: Ken Foree
Tiny: Matthew McGrory
Mother Firefly: Leslie Easterbrook
Roy Sullivan: Geoffrey Lewis
Gloria Sullivan: Priscilla Barnes
Sheriff John Wydell: William Forsythe
Wendy Banjo: Kate Norby
Adam Banjo: Lew Temple
Danny Trejo: Rondo
Clevon: Michael Berryman
Susan: P.J. Soles:
Abbie: Mary Woronov:
Sheriff Ken Dwyer Steve Railsback:
Candy: EG Daily:
Sheriff George Wydell: Tom Towles:

Credits:
Director: Rob Zombie
Producers: Mike Elliot, Rob Zombie, Andy Gould, Michael Ohoven,
Marco Mehilitz
Prod. Co. Cinerenta
Screenplay: Rob Zombie
Photography: Phil Parmet
Editor: Glenn Garland
Sound: Buck Robinson
Music: Tyler Bates
Art Director: Timothy Kirkpatrick
Costumes: Yasmine Abraham

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