THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Sadistic Violence, Strong Sexual Content, Language and Drug Use

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Directed by: Rob Zombie

Written by: Rob Zombie

Starring: Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe, Ken Foree, Matthew McGrory, Leslie Easterbrook, Dave Sheridan, Danny Trejo, Brian Posehn, Tom Towles, Michael Berryman & P.J. Soles

Two years after he broke into the horror filmmaking scene with HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES, Rob Zombie returned with a sequel. THE DEVIL’S REJECTS follows the same band of psychopaths who originally appeared in HOUSE, but couldn’t be more different in tone and execution. That’s a very good thing as it shows Zombie’s overall improvement as a filmmaker and storyteller. The film isn’t perfect, but it is a dark, gruesome ride straight into hell.

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Set seven months after the events of the first film, DEVIL’S REJECTS kicks off with Sheriff John Wydell (brother to the dead Sheriff in the previous film) leading a violent raid on the Firefly clan’s house of horrors. In the fiery fray, Otis and Baby escape onto the road, while Mama is captured and interrogated. Getting word that the coppers on his tail, crazy clown Captain Spaudling also takes to the road. Together, this trio of redneck psychopaths (Otis, Spaulding, and Baby) come across new victims and attempt to outrun the law, all while Sheriff Wydell resorts to drastic measures to nab them.

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While 1,000 CORPSES definitely had its share of disturbing exploitation-heavy moments, I feel that DEVIL’S REJECTS better captures the gritty feeling that most disturbing 70’s grindhouse films carried. I’d liken the tone of this to something like the original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. There’s a grimy atmosphere that runs through the entire film. In spite of having some pretty damned disturbing sequences, the screenplay also has a few extremely dark bits of humor. While some of the more obvious ones (a quick trip to an ice cream shop) didn’t work for me at all, other pieces of dialogue came off as hilarious in a really twisted way. These mainly come in little off-hand comments that Otis makes to a small group of future victims.

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Otis is played by a returning Bill Moseley and though his demeanor has changed to resemble Charlie Manson, his demented delivery is still the same. Sheri Moon Zombie also returns as Baby. I wish I could say that she’s not as annoying as she was in the first film, but the only reason that Rob seems to have cast her was to get numerous shots of her butt. Captain Spauding (Sid Haig) is given more wiggle room than he received in CORPSES. He’s one of the main characters this time around, but we only get a few scenes of him in the full-on make-up. Leslie Easterbrook serves as a fitting replacement for Karen Black as Mama Firefly. While the psycho-killers are as interesting as ever, William Forsythe steals the show as good-cop-turned-bad Sheriff Wydell. Forsythe serves as the character who the audience should be rooting for, but his psychotic side increases with each passing second. Side characters include various horror veterans: PJ Soles of HALLOWEEN, Michael Berryman of THE HILLS HAVE EYES, Ken Foree of DAWN OF THE DEAD and Tom Towles of HENRY. Also, Danny Trejo shows up as a blood-thirsty bounty hunter, so that’s worth mentioning.

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This sequel may be vastly superior to Zombie’s directorial debut, but he shows a penchant for a distractingly excessive amount of profanity. When a script is well written and contains cursing, the swearing blends naturally into the dialogue. However, Zombie makes ever single F-bomb stand out. These lines don’t fit well, especially when compared to the better pieces of dialogue in the film. There are a number of great scenes throughout this movie (including one intense kidnapping in a motel), but then we cut to conversations than consist entirely of characters yelling “fuck you!” at each other. It’s a bit jarring to say the least. However, this is the only major complaint that I have with DEVIL’S REJECTS.

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THE DEVIL’S REJECTS is a definite improvement for Zombie’s directorial talent and writing abilities. The characters, as psychotic and repulsive as they might be, are fascinating to watch. There’s also a pitch-black sense of humor that works in various bits of dialogue. The story flows far better than one might expect, especially give the general premise of the film. While certain scenes (I can’t express how much I hate the ice cream scene) stick out like a sore thumb, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS is a remarkably horrific experience. If it sounds up your alley and you haven’t seen it for whatever reason, check this one out!

Grade: B+

DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 7 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

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Directed by: George A. Romero

Written by: George A. Romero

Starring: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger & Gaylen Ross

Ten years after George A. Romero delivered his masterpiece that introduced the modern zombie, he returned to the well that he essentially created. After NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, it only made sense to continue with the DAWN. More people will be familiar with the 2004 remake, which turned out to be a great re-imagining, but this 1978 classic stands as one of the greatest zombie films ever created. Watching the master of the flesh-eating ghoul return to tell another story in the world he created is something special indeed.

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It begins in the wee hours of the morning after the dead have risen to feast on the living. Francine and her boyfriend, Stephen, work at a TV station that has been reporting on the mass hysteria. Together they meet up with two SWAT members, Peter and Roger, and take to the air in the station’s helicopter. After picking up a little extra fuel, they land on top of a mall and find shelter within the massive shopping center. The unlikely group form a strong friendship. They must work as a team if they ever expect to live through the outbreak that has spawned two kinds of menaces: the dead and the living.

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Much like NIGHT, DAWN isn’t a film about the zombies, but the living affected by the monsters. The characters are all likable to watch as they develop, forming a real tangible bond through the movie. I won’t say who dies and when, but suffice to say that not all of them are alive when the film concludes. It is upsetting when you see bad things happen to them. The actors playing the parts all do a phenomenal job, which one would expect when they found out that the filming process took four months. Clearly, they had a lot of time to live within their roles.

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Even though DAWN was made a decade after NIGHT and was filmed in glorious color (a better way to see Tom Savini’s nasty gore effects), the film wasn’t given a massive budget. In fact, it was made for little over half-a-million and Romero resorted to guerilla filming tactics to the complete the project by shooting in the mall location after hours. Those raised on the gruesome likes of THE WALKING DEAD are sure to scoff a little at the pale blue complexion of the zombies and the red paint that substitutes for blood. Even though the gore has aged a bit, it doesn’t take away any of the power that the film packs.

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Romero was never one to just do an average zombie flick (at least, in his early career). He always had a deeper social commentary. In this case, he satirized consumerism by showing just what a safe haven the mall turns out to be in the zombie apocalypse. The zombies want to get into the mall, not because they know there are four pieces of fresh meat inside, but because the slight part of humanity they retain tells them that they want to get in this place for some strange reason. While NIGHT was a horror film as bleak as they come, Romero sprinkles in bits of dark humor throughout the story of DAWN.

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A biker gang is introduced late into the film and provide some grim laughs, including how even at the end of the world, one of these gang members will still find time to pick pocket (from a zombie in this case). The music score by Goblin (also known for their famous work on Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA) sets the mood perfectly, including a memorable piece titled “The Gonk” being played over the mall intercom system as the final scenes play themselves out.

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With DAWN OF THE DEAD, Romero created a sequel that works perfectly in his original DEAD trilogy (NIGHT, DAWN, and DAY). It’s also a biting piece of social commentary, one of the absolute best zombie films ever made, and an essential horror classic from the 1970’s. If you haven’t seen it and you love zombies, then remedy this immediately!

Grade: A+

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