The Devil's Rejects

on July 22, 2005 by Tim Cogshell
"The Devil's Rejects" is the follow-up to writer/director Rob Zombie's debut feature, "House of 1000 Corpses." The musician-turned-filmmaker is disinclined to call it a sequel. Indeed, this film is so superior to the fairly campy teenaged hack-and-slash fest that was "Corpses" that one is hard-pressed to note any similarities beyond the reappearance of the central characters: the notorious Firefly family, a clan of decadent sociopaths who torture and kill for the fun of it.

At the opening of "The Devil's Rejects," most of the Fireflys are under siege. Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe, "City by the Sea"), brother of "1000 Corpses'" late Lt. George Wydell, orders the Fireflys to surrender. There is a vicious old-school shootout during which Mother Firefly (formerly Karen Black, here played by Leslie Easterbrook of the "Police Academy" films) is caught. Only Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) and Otis (Bill Moseley, "Live from Baghdad") escape. As a statewide manhunt is undertaken, Baby and Otis arrange a rendezvous with their wayward father, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig, "Kill Bill Vol. 2"), the deadly clown who spawned this creepy family. In the meantime, they sadistically abuse, torture and kill everyone who crosses their path. This includes a prolonged sequence at a lonely motel with an unsuspecting family that is just about the most disturbing thing ever captured on film.

"The Devil's Rejects" is in a league of classic films that are legendary for how disconcerting they are, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Romper Stomper" and "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" among them. This is partly the result of Zombie's influences, which include the morally ambiguous thrillers and horror movies from before the age of CGI: the revenge films of Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood, "Straw Dogs" and most especially "Bonnie and Clyde." Homage is paid to all of those films here. Like "The Devil's Rejects," they are visceral and violent, and posed questions about the nature of evil and what is needed to combat it (often a larger evil). It's interesting stuff and Zombie understands how it works. There is a reason Captain Spaulding is a clown, that Baby is so beautiful and Otis looks like Charles Manson and, at the same time, Jesus.

"The Devil's Rejects" is not for the squeamish. It's also not for anyone who wants a good night sleep for several weeks after they've seen it. Starring Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, Danny Trejo and William Forsythe. Directed and written by Rob Zombie. Produced by Andy Gould, Mike Elliott and Rob Zombie. A Lions Gate release. Horror/Thriller. Rated R for sadistic violence, strong sexual content, language and drug use. Running time: 101 min

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