Mired in horror shock rock with love letters to KISS and Alice Cooper in his attire, music and stage performances along with imagery garnered from horror sitcoms such as The Munsters and The Addams Family with dashes of dialogue and character development from the seediest of grindhouse exploitation theatre, Rob Zombie I would honestly say is probably one of the most well rounded horror fans out there. His fandom flows through all his work especially the music all the way to directing one of his first music videos, Ozzy Osbourne’s Dreamer which is one of the most beautifully crafted music videos I’ve ever seen. Having directed music videos, Zombie went to work on his first feature film with Universal Studios which in a sense was a dream come true for a horror fan like Zombie having loved the Universal Monsters. House of a Thousand Corpses introduced us to a hillbilly group of deranged killers known as the Firefly clan and gave us a throwback film to an era of 70’s grindhouse that doesn’t exist anymore combined with references to late night horror hosts like Svengooli and a soundtrack supplied by his own band. While I love House as its own film it does suffer from a few things. As a first film coming off of directing music videos the narrative is pretty choppy and has a lot of random flashes of color, imagery and other things that make it look like a giant music video. It’s fun but not perfect. After Universal sat the film on a shelf for years fearing how hardcore it was the film was finally picked up by Peter Block at Lionsgate whom had helped acquire and release many “difficult” horror films in his tenure at Lionsgate. It was this acquisition and newly formed friendship between Block and Zombie that helped bring us what I would call Rob Zombie’s greatest masterpiece, The Devil’s Rejects.
The Firefly clan has finally been tracked down by officer Wydell as he had sworn to track them down after they killed his brother who had been searching for the missing kids they kidnapped. All the members awaken to their farm surrounded by a huge police force armed to the teeth and begin arming themselves to fire upon the police with deadly force. A firefight erupts and in the chaos one of the members is gunned down as Baby and Otis make their escape out the cellar of the house and through the woods. Wydell is hellbent on capturing them and avenging his brother putting out APB’s and constant news bulletins asking for assistance in their arrest. Captain Spaulding hearing of these reports gets a call from his daughter, Baby, who asks him for help. The three make their way across the South slaughtering everyone in their path trying to find a good hiding place from Wydell.
A lot of people look at sequels and if they are good they usually use the term “Godfather 2” to describe a good sequel. While this is a sequel it’s also a standalone film that has two films within it. In general this is Rob Zombie’s Godfather. You have villains at the forefront and they are your protagonists. House follows a group of kids that are plagued by the Firefly clan and here you are watching them in the forefront of the film as its main characters. After the first big firefight in the movie we follow Otis and Baby just killing people mercilessly trying to meet up with Captain Spaulding. The scenes of them running and killing in the beginning are put to the tune of classic rock which is very calming set against the brutal images put before you. We then get a torturous section of the movie as Otis and Baby find a traveling band and make them do all kinds of horrendous things and demean them in any way possible. Otis takes joy in making a husband watch him humiliate his wife. Baby has sadistic ways of showing herself off to the men and making the sexual tension completely uncomfortable. Captain Spaulding punches out a mother (PJ Soles from the original Halloween) steals her car and tells a kid to come up with a reason why he doesn’t like clowns or he’ll come back and kill his whole family! This section of the movie is just hurtful to watch and completely messed up. It can be really summed up in the line Otis gives, “I am the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s work.”
The Godfather aspect comes in right when the three are united and all the horrible atrocities we witnessed them commit are a thing of the past as we watch the three bicker like a family about ice cream. This one scene and tonal shift just relaxes you after what you’ve seen and honestly makes you like the characters a bit because you feel like you’re watching a different film. They just become fun loving, family oriented, loud and foul mouthed rednecks and you kind of love them for it. Just as they shift into being loveable, Wydell, who you really feel for in the beginning as he is haunted by the memory of his dead brother, becomes a complete jackass and becomes pretty sadistic in the things he does. By the end when he begins torturing the family you’ve come to like them and their chemistry so much that you don’t know who to root for. Wydell deserves revenge but the three love each other so much that as he’s torturing them each one asks to be tortured to spare the other. It’s such s genius switch that messes with you as an audience member there are very few films like it.
The aesthetics, character development, editing and the use of music in this film are genius that I think are in fact partly due to the fact Zombie had the guidance of executive producer Peter Block this time around. What really helps sell the film are Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding, Sheri Moon Zombie as Baby and Bill Moseley as Otis. Each one fell perfectly in their characters here and I would say this is Bill Moseley’s Oscar worthy performance. He is utterly terrifying in his role. It’s Zombie’s best film ever and this is what I always hope he can achieve when I sit down to one of his films.
4 More Days Til Halloween! Halloween!
4 More Days Til Halloween! Silver Shamrock!