Worth A Look: 12.83%
Pretty Bad: 8.55%
Total Crap: 53.62%
9 reviews, 250 user ratings
|Devil's Rejects, The
by Doug Bentin
Well, here’s just what the world is clamoring for—another review of Rob Zombie’s cinematic opus 2, “The Devil’s Rejects.” Yes, ghoul-musician Rob Zombie has birthed a second feature film, supposedly a sequel to the gloriously titled “House of 1,000 Corpses.” It isn’t really a sequel although it deals with the central white trash homicidal maniacs introduced in the earlier picture. I mean, they have the same names but their personalities are different. They’ve lost the sick humor that was part of their characters and turned just plain nasty.The first film was set in 1977. This one opens in 1978 and the law is closing in on the Firefly family. Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe), brother of the Sheriff Wydell who was killed in Zombie I, leads the pack of lawdogs, spouting Bible verses as if he really believed them but dead set on revenge. Maybe we should count our blessings. If he were the brother of Deputy Steve Naish (Walton Goggins) from the first film, we might have had to listen to another Slim Whitman recording. I mean, horror is horror, but give us a fucking break.
"It’s either a perfect movie or a pile of junk—but which?"
After a raid on the Firefly house—which doesn’t look anything like the house in Zombie I—two members of the family escape. These are Otis B. Driftwood (Bill Moseley) and his sister Baby (Sherri Moon Zombie). They soon link up with Baby’s father, Capt. Spaulding (Sid Haig), leaving Mother Teasdale (Leslie Easterbrook, filling in for Karen Black) to the mercies of Wydell.
These family relationships are a little confusing, not that it matters much. Baby is Capt. Spaulding’s daughter, and she is Otis’ sister, but Otis doesn’t act like he’s Spaulding’s son. As long as we know they are all somehow related, not much else matters. The family link is important, but the exact nature of the relationships isn’t.
Yes, you’re right, the men in the gang take their names from Groucho Marx characters. Why? Who knows? In Zombie I, this was just part of the over-all surreal quality of the whole package. Nothing was made of the names and they were an in-joke for the discriminating in the audience. This time, much is made of the names to no effect.
At one point, the new Sheriff Wydell calls on a movie reviewer to ask his advice, thinking, I guess, that Groucho Marx may have turned into a sadistic serial killer at some point. Spending that much screen time with Margaret Dumont will do that to you.
Actually, this is just Zombie’s way of tarring all reviewers with the brush he should be using on the assholes alone. Don’t tell anyone I mentioned this, but yes, some movie reviewers are not cinema literate enough to hold a qualified opinion. I’m not saying that the ones who are all loved “House of 1,000 Corpses” but I came finally to recognize its good points so draw your own conclusions.
Anyway, the reviewer in the picture takes a little less ridicule than Siskell and Ebert took in Roland Emmerich’s “Godzilla,” but his inclusion for no plot reason is still a cheap shot. But I guess that’s rock ‘n’ roll.
We’re getting to the damning point in Zombie II, and it’s this: the picture is overflowing with sound and fury with no pay off. The gang kidnaps a group of country singers, toys with them, tortures them, kills them, and so what? That sequence leads nowhere. Zombie is a big fan of Tobe Hooper’s “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” and drew heavily on if for his first film (this one owes more to Wes Craven’s “Last House on the Left”), but nothing in TCSM is included without a reason. Sure, fucking with the country band goes a long way in showing us what monsters the Firefly siblings are, but we knew that from Zombie I. Otis and Baby were sadistic cretins then and they still are.
Let me give Zombie some probably undeserved credit by saying that the point of the film may be that shit happens. I know, it’s not adding much to our understanding of the cosmos, but maybe it’s all we know or need to know.
Much has been made in several reviews of the hatefulness of the main characters—even I admit that calling them “protagonists” would be going well beyond the bounds of critical definition—but no one really gets that brotherhood-of-man feeling while ogling the unfortunates in a freak show, either, and that doesn’t keep us from visiting one. Empathy is the goal of tragedy, but melodrama’s aim is more direct and easier to accomplish. It’s simply the reminder that the fate of Everyman is in the hands of Everyotherman, and if some zealot with a bomb decides to blow up the subway car we’re riding in, or disenfranchised kid wants to start shooting up the pep rally we attend, or a family of homicidal hillbillies is determined to go on one last killing spree, we’re screwed. That’s all, folks. Sayonara, suckers. La comedia es finito.
Now let me add that Zombie II aspires to be a pastiche of 1970s exploitation movies, a goal it reaches nicely. This is the point at which I have to admit that if Zombie’s sole goal was just to replicate one of those grind house gut-wrenchers, he did it and “The Devil’s Rejects” has to be considered a perfect movie for being everything its maker intended it to be.
But is the perfection of style enough? MGM’s Latin motto translates as, approximately, Art for Art’s Sake, but none of those old genius blowhards would have settled for a picture that looked good but was as empty as a busted balloon. If “The Devil’s Rejects” is simply about itself, an empty skull behind a Halloween Krug Stillo mask, there’s really no reason to see it. If its only message is Bad-Things-Happen-to-Good-People-But None-of-the-Characters-Here-Are-All-That-Good-So-You-Don’t-Have-to-Be-Upset-When-They-Get-Fucked-Over, well hey, that’s worth ten bucks of anyone’s money. Or is it?
So what the hell is this thing? It’s not a horror movie. It’s not a good sequel. It’s not a satire. It’s not, despite some good lines, a black comedy. (I did appreciate the television anchorman who relates for his audience every horror committed by the Fireflys and then signs off with the catch phrase, “Bringing the world to your living room.”)
I know—it’s a story about a clan of homicidal hillbillies who stand by each other when the chips are down.Yeah, that’s what “The Devil’s Rejects” is—a movie about family values.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12301&reviewer=405
originally posted: 08/02/05 05:19:02
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