Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Sadistic Violence, Strong Sexual Content, Language and Drug Use
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!