The Devil's Rejects

How do you make a successful sequel to one of the most reviled films of the past decade? Taking a page from "Seinfeld", write/director Rob Zombie admits to using the "Costanza method". In order for The Devil's Rejects to succeed where it's predecessor House of 1000 Corpses did a belly flop, Zombie instructed his returning cast and crew to do the exact opposite of whatever they did last time. The result isn't just an improvement on the original film, but a pretty good gore flick in its own right.

The Devil's Rejects picks up the story of the Firefly family, though you don't really need to know anything about their previous adventure in killing to follow this one. This movie opens with their dilapidated, corpse-filled farmhouse being raided by the cops. In the ensuing gunfight, most of the family is either captured or killed except for psycho hillbilly clown Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), eminent serial killer sage Otis (Bill Mosely), and the hot but twisted daughter named Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie). On the run from the law, the three sadistic hillbilly killers hole up in an old motel. There, they terrorize, torture, and brutally murder a folk band, of the type that could have dropped straight out of Christopher Guest's A Mighty Wind. Soon the cops are hot on their trail, including the local sheriff, who's more out for revenge than justice. His brother was a former Firefly family victim, and now he's out to wipe the remaining members off the face of the planet in order to ease his brother's restless soul.

Zombie's film is both depraved and brutal, he takes sadistic glee in letting Spaulding's gang dismember and slaughter their victims. As a gore-fest, The Devil's Rejects is a serious success. The characters are bizarre, and it's impossible to turn away. The blood is copious, creative, and free flowing. The film is sick, twisted, and just plain wrong. In this case, that's exactly what Rob was going for. The script has a strong narrative structure too; it's not just random scenes of violence that string it together, but an actual story for audiences to latch onto. If there's a problem, it's that there's simply absolutely no one here to root for. There are no winners, there are no heroes. Are we supposed to root for the mentally ill killers? Gore hounds will love it, this is the genre at the top of its game, but there's not much here for the rest of us.