The Devil's Rejects

Director    Rob Zombie
Starring    Sid Haig, Sheri Moon, William Forsythe
3 stars


3rd August 2005

Anybody with a passing interest in rock music will know Rob Zombie and his interest in B-movie horror flicks. References are not only dotted through White Zombie albums but form the basis for the imagery and direction of the music - schlocky, good fun satire of Satan rock and all the cliches that come within. First we had House of 1000 Corpses, which was little more than Zombie's homage to drive-in horror flicks, and now along comes The Devil's Rejects, a follow-up of sorts featuring some of the original characters returning for a semi-sequel.

Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe) leads a raid on the family home of The Fireflys, the psycho family from the original film, but they escape, leaving only Mother Firefly at the hands of the law. The rest of the family take to the road and wreak havoc with Wydell in pursuit, lusting for revenge over the murder of his brother. That's the basic plot, and I won't bother going over it in detail - not for fear of spoilers, but because that about covers the plot - cop chases psychos. Is it any good? Yes and no. It depends on how you view it. If you watch as a fan and film geek of 1970s grindhouse horror (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes etc) you'll appreciate the very conscious effort to replicate that feel, which it does it very well indeed; it's all grainy stock, freeze frames and animal heads galore.

It reeks of sweltering 70's desert horror movies; Zombie clearly knows his stuff and treats it with the reverence it deserves for the fans. Characters look like archetypal 70's horror characters (big yellow aviator sunglasses, huge sideburns, women wearing hipster shorts and loose t-shirts) and the whole thing is visually a loving homage to the heady days of Tobe Hooper and friends. It pays no convention to modern horror - there are no skimpy teens trying to survive by hiding in cupboards (something the remake of Texas Chainsaw was guilty of), no irony, no discussion of film rules, no sex equals death formulas. None of it. It's just absolute grindhouse horror from start to end. Unfortunately, this also means that if you're unfamiliar with the genre, you're not going to enjoy it. This isn't Scream or The Ring, there are no jump moments, no misdirections to make you flinch. This is grindhouse, which means intense violence, graphic nudity and an extreme amount of mistreatment towards women.

The Devil's Rejects relishes its roots, revels in its filth and willingly puts its guts up there for all to see, making for uncomfortable viewing. Not in the Asian Extreme style that has teen boys swapping copies saying "Dude this is, like, really hardcore," because it's not about showing eyeballs being gouged and men cutting off their dicks with piano wire. Grindhouse is about exploitation, degradation and gleefully rubbing your face in fly-blown animal carcasses. When the film opens with a naked female corpse being dragged through the woods, inter-cut with photographs of corpses discovered, it's clear Zombie has nailed his colours to the mast from the get-go. There's some twisted humour at work too, with characters named after Marx Brothers characters and nods to early horror actresses - The Devil's Rejects was made for people that will appreciate a balls-out horror movie instead of lighting and shadow jumpfests. Hats have to be doffed to the classic twisted chase finale - it's here, but it's the murderously sleazy Baby, and she's being chased by the equally unhinged Wydell. It makes a change to be rooting against the fleeing woman for once.

The Devil's Reject's is certainly not a date film - don't take a prospective partner to see this, because you'll get no action if you profess a liking to this kind of insanity (somebody who's considering shagging you doesn't want to hear about how you loved Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Some scenes - like the one with the band in the motel room - push the envelope of what modern cinema goers will find acceptable, as there haven't been that many films this brutal since the golden age back in the 70's. You may well think "Cool! Extreme horror!" but you're missing the point. It's not about limbs being lopped off. It's about watching the grindhouse-esque exploitation of women, and I won't lie and say I didn't feel uncomfortable, but that's almost why I can admire The Devils Reject's, for refusing to wimp out in the light of today's attitudes towards sex and violence.

If modern horror films today are content with sneaking up behind you and shouting "BOO!" to make you jump before giggling and running back into the shadow to do exactly the same again in 10mins, The Devil's Rejects is crouching over you as you sleep, taking photographs of your partner as she sleeps and licking its lips as it strokes itself through its clown-pants. It's just bastard nasty. Dirty, grimy, sweaty, stinky, subversive, insidious and downright nasty. If you prefer Scream/Japanese horror/monster movies, you'll not enjoy this. If you like romantic comedies, you'll scream to ban this sick filth. And if you like watching women being stripped and assaulted, seek help. Andy

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