The Devil's Rejects
Dir. Rob Zombie (2005)
The Firefly Family returns, with Baby, Otis, and Captain Spaulding fleeing from police after the events of the original films.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Just as gritty as House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects takes more of a crime angle than an outright horror while focusing more on the further exploits of the renegade Firefly Family than on events covered in the previous film. The film opens with the Firefly house surrounded by police, and an epic shootout unfolds that leaves Mama Firefly in custody and Baby and Otis on the lam. Captain Spaulding, who was revealed to be part of the Family at the end of House of 1000 Corpses, joins them when he learns that the police have raided the Family’s house and discovered his connection. Along the way they interact with a variety of interesting characters, like Ken Foree’s Charlie Altamont and his working girl employee Candy (played by the same woman who voiced Tommy Pickles in Rugrats, which is an extremely disturbing fact), as well as a pair of bounty hunters played by Danny Trejo and Diamond Dallas Page. There’s also a mini cameo by PJ Soles, who is totally a horror movie favorite. Baby, Otis, and Captain Spaulding rendezvous at the Palm Motel, where they run into a musical group that has unfortunately decide to stay the night. While House of 1000 Corpses is a Rob Zombie version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Devil’s Rejects is his ode to Last House on the Left, and the motel quickly becomes one of the more disturbing scenes of the series.
The Devil’s Rejects is a tour de force of our three main stars, and while House of 1000 Corpses has grown to be a cult favorite, this film is a fantastic sequel that not only provides a tonal shift for the series but also serves to elevate the Firefly trio into almost folk antihero status. They’re obviously exceptionally evil, but they’re also incredibly compelling characters from whom we can’t seem to remove our eyes. Generally, characters as despicably fucked up as these tend not to draw the praise of fans the way that these three do. Sure, slasher villains like Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Voorhees draw in the fans, but you don’t see a whole lot of folks who go to conventions dressed like Krug from LHotL or Henry Lee Lucas from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. The fact that the Firefly trio have managed to attain this cult status is pretty incredible when considering the type of movies they are featured in. It’s a testament to the incredibly effective performances by Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Mosely, and Sid Haig that they were and remain as popular as they are.
Three horror icons, even if you only count this film.
While the three main characters are fucking amazing, I have to give an especially big shout-out to Bill Mosely’s performance as Otis Driftwood. He’s got some amazing lines, like the endlessly quotable Mark Twain quip he delivers in the motel, as well as his iconic “I am The Devil and I’m here to do The Devil’s work.” He’s ominous and mean, a big dirty brute of a man who would literally just as soon kill you as look at you. He’s an outstanding character, and Mosely delivers his performance with a brutality and grace that is extremely rare to find in a horror movie. He is, by all accounts, an incredibly nice man in real life, but by God I would hesitate to walk up to him if I saw him at a convention, so convincingly he plays a total fucking psychopath.
For a dark, gritty crime thriller, Devil’s Rejects is the best of its kind. It’s got plenty of horror elements to please horror movie fans, but its focus is definitely more along the line of a bizarro-world Bonnie & Clyde. It’s got the rogue cop who would rather commit violence than stop it, the outlaws running from the po-pos, and all of the victims strewn along the way. This one’s just a tad more psychotically charged, with a psychosexual element that is as disturbing as any before caught on celluloid. Rob Zombie grew up in the grindhouse, and this film makes it even more apparent than House of 1000 Corpses. The tortuous way that Otis dispatches of the two male members of the singing group is particularly notable. His witty banter is so carefree and matter-of-fact as to be so much more unsettling than it must’ve appeared in the script. Baby and Otis’ handling of their captives is so much more repugnant than any of the things that Krug and the Gang did in LHotL, especially the last persecution of their final victim.
It puts the lotion on its skin.
As the police officers loss of discipline is paralleled directly with the Rejects’ potential loss of freedom, the film spirals to its inevitable conclusion in probably the most iconic scene that Rob Zombie has filmed yet. As the Rejects’ car barrels down the hill towards the waiting police blockade, Skynyrd’s Free Bird blares over the action. This brings our heroes to their Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid over-the-cliff moment which will determine the course of the final film in the trilogy. It’s an outstanding scene, and while the film itself is also stellar, this scene alone makes the entire two hours worth the trip. The Devil’s Rejects is a great film, and while it misses a lot of the grime from its predecessor, as well as a lot of the horrific scary-movie elements, it works, and some would argue its Zombie’s best film. I’m a bigger fan of the first film in the trilogy, but whichever way you go you can’t really be wrong. Both are excellent and worth your time. Unfortunately, as we will see shortly, the same cannot be said for the third…
Who this movie is for: Fans of House of 1000 Corpses who want to see how the story plays out, Any horror or crime movie fan, Chicken fuckers
Bottom line: It really is an excellent film and is absolutely worth a watch. It’s got a bit more existing-star power, whereas a lot of the previous film had stars before they shot to fame. The movie is packed with action scenes and some of the most disturbing dialogue ever caught on film, particularly when all of the characters are cooped up in the motel. This is Mosely’s shining moment (in a career full of them) as Otis Driftwood, and possibly the best singular role of his career. Whether you believe that this film or its predecessor are Zombie’s best, both are stellar foundations for one of the better horror trilogies ever made. Check it out.