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THE DEVIL'S REJECTS

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, Ken Foree, Matthew McGrory, William Forsythe, Leslie Easterbrook, Michael Berryman, Geoffrey Lewis, Priscilla Barnes
Director:  Rob Zombie
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Lions Gate
Features:  See Review
Length:  109 Minutes
Release Date:  November 7, 2005

"I AM the devil...and I'm doing the devil's work."

Film ***1/2

As my man Ed here at DMC stated, leave it to Rob Zombie to finally get a 70s styled horror movie right.  I couldn't agree more.

The Devil's Rejects is the real deal.  Forget Land of the Dead.  Forget 28 Days Later.  Forget the remakes of Dawn of the Dead, Amityville Horror and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  In fact, this is the film the TCM remake SHOULD have been.

It's a sequel of sorts to Zombie's instant cult classic House of 1000 Corpses.  It follows the same characters, but with a different tone.  It's less campy, more focused, and more driven...also a lot more frightening and unforgettable. 

It opens with a bang, as the new Sheriff Wydell (Forsythe) has staged a rage on the Firefly household, where we last saw was the site of some rather unholy deeds.  Wydell was in fact the brother of the deputy who got dispatched in that movie, so his interest in the family is a little more than just good old fashioned law and order.  He captures Mother Firefly (Easterbrook), but Otis P. Driftwood (Moseley) and Baby (Moon) escape.

Now on the run, they arrange to meet up with everyone's favorite sociopathic clown Captain Spaulding (the hilarious Haig), whom we now learn is Baby's daddy.  He arranges for them to hide out at a bizarre western themed adult entertainment ranch run by his brother (Foree), but before they reach their destination, there will be much mayhem and bloodshed. 

A hotel encounter with a traveling country act is just the beginning, but not the end.  Your stomach will definitely tie itself up, but relief is still a long way away.  I don't want to give away the film's surprises, but I will say that Wydell and the family eventually have their inevitable confrontation, and it's probably the single most unsettling sequence I've seen in a horror movie since the dinner table scene in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Rob Zombie is a walking lexicon of classic and cult horror movies...fans of his music know that well; his knowledge of fright flicks has added spice to his albums for years.  If anybody could make a true throwback to the kind of independent, small budgeted but influential and unforgettable pictures of the 1970s, it was him.  Compare his movie to some of the other recent movies I've mentioned and you'll see what I mean.  Zombie knows that it's more than copious amounts of blood and gore that made these pictures work.  It was a real sense of dread and tension that had to be tautly woven into the fabric of the film.  Without it, all that's left is a pointless vomitorium of an experience.

His script is tight, well paced, and allows his characters space to develop, and for their relationships to be defined.  In other words, there are emotional investments at stake here, even if we're talking about a family of killers.  Most similar movies make the mistake of having us feel nothing for the victims nor the killers, so we watch as though we were seeing a train wreck on TV, with a morbid fascination but an emotional detachment.  The Devil's Rejects is a gripping, harrowing film in more ways than one...that's why it stands above the competition.

He instinctively knows that gore is only gore if it's not inventive.  What he has to show us in his film will definitely activate a gag reflex or two, but no one can say it's not imaginative and creative.  Better still, he understands how important humor can be in a horror movie.  In between scenes of shock and fright are quotable bits of dialogue that will have you laughing out loud just when you need it most.

Credit must also go to his stars, who are all much better performers than these kinds of films usually demand or receive.  Bill Moseley injects Otis with an inexplicable appeal despite his misdeeds, to where we're both frightened and drawn to him at the same time.  Sherri Moon Zombie (now the director's wife!) has developed Baby past her squeaky voiced giggling cherubic faced villainess into a more palatable character.  And the great Sid Haig has given cult fans the newest and one of the best fright film anti-heroes with Captain Spaulding.  The three of them are so good, I only hope they'll be back to do more films with Zombie.

And yes, friends, Zombie is the real star of the show.  In just two films he's shown tremendous growth as a writer and a director, and has learned how to channel his love for the macabre into something substantial.  He's done what many big-named artists like Michael Bay and George Romero have failed to do, and that's to deliver a picture that truly frightens rather than just shock and startle.  The Devil's Rejects delivers on the promise of House of 1000 Corpses and then some.  I can't wait to see what other tricks Rob Zombie has up his black sleeves.

BONUS TRIVIA:  Ken Foree and Michael Berryman are both 70s horror movie veterans themselves, from Dawn of the Dead and The Hills Have Eyes, respectively!

Video ***1/2

The Devil's Rejects is a throwback film in every sense of the word, including the look.  Zombie's stylistic choices include deliberate use of grain and less saturated colors from time to time.  The overall effect is quite striking, and this anamorphic presentation keeps the unique quality of his vision intact.

Audio ****

This is a helluva soundtrack (no pun intended).  Sound is critical in horror, and the 5.1 mixes (Dolby Digital and DTS) are strong and enveloping, with great dynamic range that goes from subtle to explosive.  The music is particularly good, with lots of classics from acts like The Allman Brothers, Otis Rush, Lynryd Skynyrd and more.  In fact, you may never think of "Freebird" the same way again after seeing this movie!

Features ****

The unrated director's cut is the way to go, friends...not only does it preserve Zombie's vision and purpose, but it's loaded to the gills with goodies.  There are two great, informative and entertaining commentary tracks.  One is by Rob Zombie himself, who discusses the making of the movie in great detail and is depreciating enough to point out his own mistakes and errors.  The second features cast members Bill Moseley, Sherri Moon Zombie and Sid Haig, and is an absolute scream (again, no pun intended) to listen to.

There is a short blooper reel with some creative uses of text, and two of Captain Spaulding's TV commercial in their entirety:  the "Mary the Monkey" spot from the film and the unused "Santa Claus" one.  You can also see the untrimmed version of "The Morris Green Show", as well as Otis' "home movie" about the missing cheerleader.

There are deleted scenes (presented in one sitting; you can't watch them one at a time), some trailers and TV spots (same deal), a classic music video from Buck Owens, make-up tests, a still gallery, and a tribute to the sadly recently-departed Matthew McGrory, who played Tiny in both movies.

And that's the first disc.  The second disc contains a 144 minute VERY detailed documentary on the making of the movie, with behind the scenes footage that goes from pre-production to the last day of shooting.

The menu screens are also well done, but not quite as much as the DMC Award winning Best Menu Screens for House of 1000 Corpses.  All in all, a generous and fun-filled package of extras!

Summary:

Rob Zombie has officially grown from cult horror's number-one fan to its premier benefactor.  I hope Hollywood producers with their deep pockets and shallow ideas will pay attention to The Devil's Rejects and learn something from Zombie's approach.  Horror fans will be much better off if they do.

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