After yesterday's movie, House of 1000 Corpses, left a bitter taste of "What the actual fuck did I just watch?" in my mouth, I decided to pass on Zombie's follow up. In the wake of Sid Haig's recent passing, I decided to revisit the movie, and my opinion of it has certainly softened, but I still wouldn't place it anywhere near my top ten.
After finishing the first movie, Tubi recommended the second one, so I figured why the hell not? Let's see what all the fuss is about! Besides, I'd be lying through my teeth if I said Haig's twisted portrayal of Captain Spaulding didn't leave me hungry for more than just hot, spicy fried chicken!
I was also naturally curious about Rob Zombie's growth as a filmmaker, since I loved his 2007 remake of Halloween. So let's take a look at the movie that bridged that gap in Rob Zombie's resume, 2005's The Devil's Rejects.
Seven months after the horrific events of House of 1000 Corpses, the Firefly receive a rude awakening as police surround their farmhouse. The family arm themselves and fire on the police. Rufus is killed, and Mother Firefly is taken into custody, while Tiny (who witnessed the police approaching) is missing. Baby and Otis escape through a hidden tunnel in the basement, and Baby contacts Captain Spaulding to warn him about the raid. Spaulding instructs her to meet him at a pre-chosen motel.
The leader of the raid is Sheriff Wydell, brother of one of the cops murdered in the previous film. Wydell becomes obsessed with capturing the fugitives, but he finds Mother Firefly less than cooperative. While waiting for Spaulding to arrive, Baby and Otis take a band hostage in their motel room and torture and terrorize them. Once Spaulding arrives, the Rejects drive away in the band's van, leaving a scene of carnage for Wydell to find later. When an old movie reference gives Wydell the lead he needs to track down his prey, he hires a pair of bounty hunters to hunt them down for him. Meanwhile, the Rejects take refuge with a pimp named Charlie, thinking they'll be safe, but the carnage has only just begun for the Devil's Rejects.
Many of the things I griped about in my review of House of 1000 Corpses are missing here. Where the previous film had a surreal, music video-like quality that often has the viewer questioning what's real and what isn't, The Devil's Rejects has a more traditional narrative approach to its storytelling. Whether this was at the studio's request or Zombie's own idea, I don't know. It even abandons the Rob Zombie-driven soundtrack of its predecessor in favor of songs handpicked to represent the time period, which is fitting considering this is essentially a road trip movie.
While the movie tones down the surreal visuals, it doesn't tone down the brutality or the blood. The movie plays games with your emotions, juggling your loyalty between the Rejects and the spiraling Sheriff Wydell. While any rational person should want justice for the Firefly Family's countless victims, It's easy to forget at times that these characters are despicable murderers who deserve no pity, especially when Wydell goes to work on them with a staple gun.
The Devil's Rejects proves that Rob Zombie doesn't have to resort to gimmicks to tell a compelling story. The movie is equal parts crime thriller and brutal horror, and the two genres blend together beautifully. While I find this film to be superior in almost every way, I'd recommend watching them back to back, just so long as you don't find Bill Moseley's dramatic change in appearance between the movies too jarring. Turn down the lights and pass the fried chicken!