Movie Review
The Devil's Rejects
The Devil's Rejects poster
By Scott Sycamore     Published July 26, 2005
US Release: July 22, 2005

Directed by: Rob Zombie
Starring: Sid Haig , Bill Moseley , Sheri Moon

Running Time: 109 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $16,901,126
{The} good things are undercut by amateurish direction and an aimless story.
I'm not exactly sure how Rob Zombie made the leap from lead singer of White Zombie to filmmaker "extraordinaire" (he must have directed some of the music videos back in the day or something). But alas, here we have his second theatrical release, The Devil's Rejects. It is apparently a sequel to his first film, House of 1,000 Corpses (I always love actual numbers in the title), which I have not seen; this was my first "Zombie Experience." To the film's credit, it is gritty as hell and pushes the level of sadism to a point rarely seen in mainstream theaters; these elements are good for the genre. Yet, these good things are undercut by amateurish direction and an aimless story.

The whole deal starts with a bunch of local dustbin cops raiding a creepazoid farmhouse (I believe it's the previously-titular House of 1,000 Corpses). We learn that the abode belongs to the Firefly Clan; they are the ones who produced all the dead bodies. There's a big shootout and Mother Firefly is captured. Other kin Otis and Baby escape out of a drainage pipe. They meet up with the patriarchal Captain Spaulding who missed the raid due to his bizarre whoring escapades. The Capt. likes to wear clown make-up, especially in the service of freaking out little kids (further confirming the theory that clowns are scary and people hate them). The trio then goes on the lam, attempting to defy the long arm of the law while at the same time satisfying their appetite for murderous shenanigans. Actually, the plot is quite minimal; it is more a series of stretched-out sequences connected by the common story and characters. Besides various forms of depraved activity, not much actually happens.

The performances are the best thing about this movie, and they are in a place that one would not expect. William Forsythe gives a powerhouse turn as Sheriff John Quincy Wydell, a cop so hard-bitten that he makes the family of mass murderers seem timid. This is the last guy on planet Earth who you would want on your tail; he is such a rabid dog that the audience actually expects him to do some of the things he does later in the film. And it's funny that he's a big-time Jesus/Elvis freak (I'm sure Zombie is not trying to send any messages here). Also excellent is the acting on the part of the Rejects themselves. Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding is vile, dirty, mean, sick, ugly, and...somehow likeable. Haig brings so much charm to such an evil psycho that it might scramble cherished thought-patterns; people will want to like him while morally understanding that they shouldn't. Bill Moseley is very effective as Otis P. Driftwood, who is basically Charles Manson had he never gotten caught. And Sheri Moon (Zombie's real-life wife) brings the right balance of sweetness and savagery to her role as Baby Firefly. All these thespians do a fine job.

The problem with the film is that Zombie's craft leaves something to be desired. The look and tone is retro-grimy and that is pleasing, but production design alone can't provide what the movie is going for. The tone is also quite uneven, jumping from goofy comedy to scenes of intense torture without enough padding in between (although I'm not sure there's any proper segue between such things). Zombie is obviously trying to go for an ultimate cult movie experience, but it plays as a mediocre attempt at that niche rather than a true classic of its kind. This movie lacks the psycho-spiritual weight of the best 70's horror movies, as well as the creeping shock value of the original slasher flicks - Zombie has simply made a homage and not much more.

While there is a lot to like in The Devil's Rejects, I can't recommend it because it lacks that urgent energy. The movie desperately wants to grab you by the throat and not let go, but in fact it never really grabs you. Horror buffs will do okay to check it out, but I don?t think most folks will enjoy it very much. I like these kinds of movies, but I wish this one were better.
Scott's Grade: C+
Scott's Overall Grading: 417 graded movies
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