By Steve Newton
Watched Rob Zombie’s 3 from Hell on Shudder last night, and I gotta tell ya, it wasn’t in the same league as his previous two studies of the murderous Firefly clan.
With 2003’s House of 1000 Corpses, the former White Zombie main man 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.
For its 2005 sequel, The Devil’s Rejects, Zombie brought 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 was not so easily cleansed.
In both films Zombie unleashed the terror through the psychotic actions of the perpetually pissed-off Otis (Bill Moseley), his hottie sister, Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon, soon to become Sheri Moon Zombie), and their clown-faced father, Captain Spaulding (genre veteran Sid Haig). At the climax of The Devil’s Rejects the three were shot repeatedly to the sound of the wailing guitar solo from “Free Bird”, and according to the latest film’s trailer their chances of survival were “less than a million to one”.
Those aren’t bad odds in Hollywood, though, so they all survived–although not for long for Captain Spaulding. He’s executed early in 3 From Hell, because Haig–who died in September of 2019–was in very poor health and could only be on set for a single day of acting.
Taking over from Captain Spaulding in the mayhem department is Otis’s half-brother Winslow (Richard Drake), who is only too happy to take the torch and burn folks alive with it–or watch Otis do the same.
As if realizing he was in trouble without Captain Spaulding’s demented killer-clown character, Zombie switches the focus to his wife’s portrayal of sexy psychopath Baby Firefly, but you can only see her switch from her sweet-little-girl persona to that of a maniacal, knife-wielding stabber so many times before it gets kinda tedious.
The trio from H.E. double hockey-sticks winds up down in Mexico taking on a vengeful drug lord in a ridiculous showdown where Baby’s bow-and-arrow proves more lethal than a dozen assault rifles.
Genre fans will get a kick out of hearing Winslow complement both Lon Chaney and Charles Laughton while watching the original The Hunchback of Notre Dame on TV, but the coolest thing by far is the inclusion on the soundtrack of three songs from the James Gang’s 1973 Bang album, featuring Tommy Bolin on guitar.