April 24, 2019

The Devil's Rejects (2005)
Grade: 69/100

Director: Rob Zombie
Stars: Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie

What it's about. A sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, which I have not seen. That film, and The Devil's Rejects, are the first two features directed by Rob Zombie, who also wrote the screenplay.

It is set in 1978 rural America. Three hardcore murderers comprise the Firefly family. They are Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), a bald middle-aged man who wears clown makeup; Otis (Bill Moseley), an intense, malicious, and lanky long-haired killer; and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie, wife of the writer/director), a femme fatale if there ever was one. Otis and Baby are brother and sister.

These three are on the run, and on a crime spree. They are pursued by Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe), a strange and obsessive man out to avenge the death of his lawman father at the hands of the Fireflys. Wydell's hatred for the Fireflys has made him ruthless and violent. He hires two mercenaries, Danny Trejo and Diamond Dallas Page, to help him hunt down and corral his quarry.

Geoffrey Lewis, Priscilla Barnes, Lew Temple, and Kate Norby are terrorized victims of Firefly violence. Ken Foree shows up as a pimp who associates with the Fireflys. Leslie Easterbrook is the apparently insane mother of Otis and Baby. She assumes the role played by the late Karen Black in House of 1000 Corpses.

How others will see it. This is not a family film. Little Johnny probably shouldn't watch it, and those that do watch it should always keep in mind, "It's only a movie, and no humans were harmed in the making of this film."

That said, there are fans of the horror genre who will enjoy this remarkably violent movie. It is arguably a comedy, or a crime drama, but ultimately it is a gorefest in which evil just might triumph over good. And good, for that matter, is relative.

The Devil's Rejects was a modest commercial success, but undoubtedly performed better in video sales, where the uncut, unrated movie the director envisioned can be seen in its full gory. The movie picked up numerous trophies on the horror festival circuit, and has a respectable 86K user votes at imdb.com.

The user ratings unsurprisingly decline with advancing age of the viewer, from 6.9 under 30 to 6.5 over 45. Nonetheless, these are fairly high numbers for the genre.

The user reviews are predictably polarized, but for every writer who states "please hate this movie, I did" there is another that exclaims "this movie is a masterpiece."

You know whether or not you will like the movie, before you even see it. Enter the haunted house not if you dare, but only if you have a sick sense of humor, somewhere inside of you.

How I felt about it. Is The Devil's Rejects an abomination? Is it unethical to make or support such a film? Is it exploitative? The answer to all such questions is No. Ultimately, it is just a movie. And, for what it's worth, much better than most family movies.

Some will regard it as a comedy. It isn't, really. It is, instead, a sick horror movie that is unexpectedly good.

The real question to ask, then, is why is The Devil's Rejects so good, when it should be so bad. One has to give some credit to the cast, especially the three leads. But the director, Rob Zombie is primarily responsible. This is a man who loves and respects the horror genre, and doesn't regard it from a commercial, cynical, or exploitative perspective. He knows that you can't go too far, and all characters are expendable.