Dir/scr: Rob Zombie. US.2005. 108mins.
A lot of horror movies self-profess to be brutal andout-there, but most modern genre pictures actually reveal themselves to belittle more than communal vehicles of squeamish discomfort. In the finalanalysis, their pursuit of as many pan-demographic dollars as possible ensuresthat they don't really want to cross the line into flat-out perversion andwantonness.
Writer-director Rob Zombie'swide-eyed, merrily depraved The Devil's Rejects, on the other hand, hasno such qualms. Refusing to cater or pander to a younger horror audience weanedon the teen-centric slasher flicks of the past half decade, the movie isunapologetically degenerate in just about every form and fashion. This means afilm-going experience that is at times borderline unwatchable, but - and here'sthe key - unwatchable on its own terms.
It unnerves more than justabout any other picture of the year, so pervasive is its sense of disgust anddread. These qualities mark it as certainly different from much of its moderncinematic brethren, though they won't necessarily make it good for mostaudiences.
A sequel of sorts toZombie's directorial debut House Of 1,000 Corpses - though that 2003film was such a bust and critical flop that its ties are being smartlydownplayed - the film follows some of the same depraved characters as theyescape a raid on their isolated country house and set off on the road, cuttinga bloody swathe of scattershot retribution.
Given its gritty wastelandsetting and unnerving sadism, the bulk of the film's financial returns shouldbe Stateside (it opens on July 22), where there's a hungry underground marketfor such product.
That said, initial boxoffice returns should be relatively limited (House took around $12.5m),as the film's violence for violence's sake will be off-putting to casual genrefans and all but kill off any potential crossover appeal. Ancillary returns,however, should be solid, as warped word-of-mouth will make this a definitepick-up for hardcore horror fans.
Set in 1978 to a countrifiedsoundtrack (including Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers Band, Muddy Watersand Terry Reid), the film centres around a murderous clan of hillbillies whoare chased from their torture-dungeon home and take hostages on their attemptedflight to freedom.
Demented matriarch MotherFirefly (Leslie Easterbrook) is captured by Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe)and his deputies in said raid, but Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie, the director'swife) and her white-haired brother Otis (Bill Moseley) escape and meet up withtheir equally psychotic father, the clown-makeup-smeared Captain Spaulding (SidHaig).
While the Fireflys hole upwith pimp and small-time drug peddler Charlie Altamont (Ken Foree), Wydelleventually enlists the assistance of two unsavoury bounty hunters to deal withthe murderers outside the official parameters of the law.
For all the unpleasantnessthat it conjures forth and its lack of nuance, The Devil's Rejects isdefinitely of a piece with exploitation movies of the ilk and era for whichit's aiming. Wydell is an irascible figure, the type of lawman-pushed-too-farcharacter you would expect to see Lee Marvin playing a couple generations ago,and Zombie brings a skeezy lasciviousness (freeze frames on violent beatings,macabre attempts at humour, psychological torture to match the physicalbrutality) to the entire affair.
Overwrought performances anda maniacal B-movie energy cap off what is an artful and graphic if whollyunoriginal to-scale rendering of exploitation cinema.
Cinematographer Phil Parmet,too, brings a grubby effectiveness to the proceedings. Shot entirely onlocation in the California desert communities of Lancaster and Palmdale, TheDevil's Rejects exudes a dusty, bleak palette that is in mortal lock-stepwith the desolation and desperation of the narrative.
Lions Gate Films
Devil's Rejects Inc
Lions Gate Films
Lions Gate Films
Sheri Moon Zombie
Diamond Dallas Page
Ginger Lynn Allen