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The Devil's Rejects
(Hollywood remake or sequel, or film based on a comic book, book, play or video game # 36, since January 1st, 2005. Click for full list of Hollywood's lack of original ideas.)
Review written by: Alex Sandell
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
The Devil's Rejects is a grindhouse film, as brutal, gritty, grainy and disturbing as they made 'em back in the heyday of this blood-laden sub-genre for sickos. You won't have to find the dirtiest theater in the worst part of town to watch it, but this movie is so trashy and gleefully perverse; it could turn the shiniest megaplex on a hill into a rundown, back-alley stinkhole. This flick makes Cabin Fever and Saw look like Harry Potter. There's no moral compass, there's no heroes to root for, there's only darkness, death and despair. My friend, usually one with a strong stomach, left about 20 minutes into the film saying, "I can't stand anymore of this shit! I'll be next door watching The Fantastic 4!"
Sounds like I made that last part up, don't it? Trust me, I didn't. I wasn't even paraphrasing, and I have an entire theater full of people who heard my buddy's little tantrum and saw him storm out of the theater, never to return. At least 5 other people walked out before the end credits rolled. I'm guessing Fantastic 4 had a pretty good day at the box-office.
Make sure you have a strong constitution before walking through those theater doors, because the movie is one horrendous experience, from beginning to end, and I don't think Rob Zombie would have it any other way. The film has the smell of expired milk, the impact of a deer hitting your car, and the taste of moldy pizza left over from a Superbowl XX party. It's unpleasant, unforgivable and entirely without shame. I don't think we'll see another one like it for a long time, and a small part of me is grateful for that.
What, are you like some kind of pussy, or somethin'?
No. I'm as old-school as Joe Bob Briggs, have watched as many low-budget horror videos as Dr. Cyclops, and put the fear of God into Tony Timpone, but I still like someone to root for in my films. Even the most disturbing of grindhouse horror had a protagonist of some sort. Sure, they usually died by disembowelment, but we needed them to identify with them. We needed them to make the movie scary. Dammit, we needed to feel disemboweled along with them.
Screenwriter/Director Rob Zombie provided this type of protagonist character in House of 1000 Corpses. We were introduced to this nutty family through the eyes of their innocent victims. In the sequel, we are introduced to innocent victims through the eyes of this nutty family. As far as scares and suspense are concerned, it makes for a far weaker movie.
The film starts with a police raid on the farmhouse the family resides in. The cops come with guns, God and teargas to make sure they get these bastards, once and for all. The family has other plans, which include makeshift bulletproof armor and a convenient escape route through a sewer. Once the family escapes, all hell breaks loose.
They get to a motel and meet up with a lowbrow country western band. They then spend the next 15 - 20 minutes tormenting these poor people. Priscilla Barnes (Terri from Three's Company) gets the brunt of the torture. One of the killers makes her strip down to her panties and rubs a gun across her breasts and finally puts it down her underwear. He makes her say that she likes it. She truly looks traumatized. It's some harsh shit and it's not easy to watch (it's also the moment where my friend left the theater).
You want to root for this group of individuals, held captive in the motel room, hoping at least one of them will make it out, but it's too early in the film and you can tell that Zombie wasn't making a cat-and-mouse thriller. He was making a disquieting tale of torture and finally death. The entire way home my friend said it was just a step above a "snuff" film. I can't fully disagree with his opinion.
I am a firm believer that horror movies should be horrific, but this one was primarily just sadistic. It reminded me of finding a pubic hair in a rancid burrito. Finding the pubic hair's bad enough -- couldn't the surrounding burrito at least have tasted good?
Redemption (as if)
It's hard to use the word "redemption" in reference to The Devil's Rejects, but the movie has its good points. The most obvious is how far Zombie's came as a filmmaker since the first film. While I enjoyed House of 1000 Corpses more than I did The Devil's Rejects, Corpses looks amateurish when compared to the gritty cinematography and camerawork used in Rejects. The set and costume design in the film is Academy Award worthy. The picture looks like it was filmed in the 1970s. The clothing the people wear, the sideburns, the buildings, the cars -- I couldn't find a single flaw.
Rob Zombie made an excellent choice in using songs from the 70s, instead of the nu-metal crap that audiences more than likely expected. Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" is put to especially effective use in a scene that is moving, not for the scene itself, but for how the song is implemented with the action on the screen. "If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me? For I must be traveling on, now, 'cause there's too many places I've got to see. But, if I stayed here with you, girl, things just couldn't be the same. 'Cause I'm as free as a bird now, and this bird you can not change. Lord knows I can't change."
This is the perfect ending to an imperfect film. If Zombie doesn't fuck things up with some shitty sequel, The Devil's Rejects is destined to become a cult-classic in the way The Texas Chainsaw Massacre did, 20 years earlier. Who knows, maybe 20 years down the line, Michael Bay will make a slicked-up, product-placement filled remake for the masses to enjoy. For now, The Devil's Rejects is for a select audience with a select taste in film. For them, I recommend it, because in 1981, the last thing I would have wanted would have been some snot-nosed ass of a critic frowning down on me for enjoying The Evil Dead.
If The Devil's Rejects doesn't sound like your cup of tea, don't drink it. If for no other reason, this film deserves a recommendation for just being made. It deserves a "thumbs up" for making you feel like you've awakened from a drunken night having unprotected sex with a prostitute, and only now noticed the oozing sores around her genitalia. It's vile, it's twisted, it's blunt, it's ill-tempered and it's macabre. It has no likable traits, it won't make you feel good, it won't make you want to own a cuddly pet bunny, and it definitely won't make you stand up and cheer. On the other hand, it may give you a strong and sudden urge to watch The Fantastic 4.
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