Horror review: The Devil’s Rejects

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, JULY 21, 2005

With 2003’s House of 1000 Corpses, former White Zombie main man Rob Zombie made a fitting transformation from over-the-top shock rocker to over-the-top shock filmmaker. The demented, evil-guy persona he nurtured on record and on-stage was child’s play compared with the bloody horrors of his directorial debut, a sadistic homage to exploitation flicks of the ’70s.

But if you think that feverish nightmare-maker was the ultimate in cinematic carnage, think again. For its sequel, The Devil’s Rejects, Zombie brings the torture and brutality to sickening new heights. After viewing Corpses, you may have felt like you needed a long shower, but the wicked residue of Rejects is not so easily cleansed.

All Zombie needs to get his meaningless tale of random murder rolling is three of the sickest individuals from the original, so he sets the perpetually pissed-off Otis Firefly (Bill Moseley), his hottie sister, Baby (Sheri Moon), and their clown-faced father, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), on the run from an equally bent Texas sheriff (William Forsythe).

The first thing Otis and Baby do after a botched police assault on their family compound is capture five innocent travellers at a backwater motel, where they proceed to systematically humiliate and murder all but one. The film hits the first of many depraved lows when one-time Three’s Company star Priscilla Barnes is forced to strip to her underwear and is molested with a gun barrel while her helpless hick hubbie (B-movie vet Geoffrey Lewis) looks on.

When he isn’t wallowing in the depiction of drawn-out pain and death, Zombie attempts to inject dark humour, as when he puts Elvin Bishop’s sappy “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” on the car stereo while Otis directs two unfortunates toward their grisly demise. Horror and B-movie buffs will enjoy spotting the faces of familiar actors like Lewis, P.J. Soles (Halloween), Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes), Ken Foree (the original Dawn of the Dead), Tom Towles (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), and everyone’s fave scar-faced baddie, ex-San Quentin inmate Danny Trejo.

Eschewing the hallucinogenic fun-house vibe of Corpses, the freeze-frame- and shaky-cam-crazed Zombie strives to give Rejects a gritty, realistic road-movie feel. And he does succeed at creating a twisted cross between The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Natural Born Killers, with some pseudo Bonnie and Clyde sentiments thrown in.

It’s obvious by the time the film reaches its Vanishing Point-style climax in a hail of bullets and wailing Lynyrd Skynyrd guitars that Zombie expects the audience to see his three main characters as something more than murdering scumbuckets.

The question is, why?

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