The Devil's Rejects

Sheri Moon Zombie

Road Kill

Trussed Nobody

Tiny Fire

Devil's Rejects Banner

In 2003 there was a spate of 1970’s style horror films including WRONG TURN (d. Rob Schmidt), THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (d. Marcus Nispel) and Rob Zombie’s HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. WRONG TURN was a welcome return to form for US horror, inspired by THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977, d. Wes Craven); it was short, exhausting, and nasty. The TEXAS CHAINSAW remake was forgettable multiplex fodder full of flashy but banal shocks, book-ended by pseudo documentary-style footage. Once again, the emphasis was on a crazy families, terrible homes and downbeat endings. Out of the three, Rob Zombie’s film was the most interesting; it also divided opinion amongst horror fans right down the middle - before they had even seen the film. I have to admit that I was one of the most sceptical people at the time, but when I finally got to see the film on DVD, I was impressed. Whilst HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES was far from perfect, it still showed potential. It mainly took its inspiration from 1970’s horror, films such as Tobe Hooper’s THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) and FUNHOUSE (1981, for arguments sake I’ll refer to 1981 as the late 1970’s). Unfortunately the film kind of lost its way during the last act; the 70’s feel being replaced by visuals derived from films such HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1999, d. William Malone).

Set a few months after the first film, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS begins with the Firefly family involved in a shoot-out at their isolated home. Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe) and a squad of armed cops have arranged an ambush. The family don makeshift armour (styled after Australian outlaw Ned Kelly) and take part in a fierce gun battle. Only Otis (Bill Moseley) and his sister, Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), manage to escape the barrage of bullets unharmed. Hiding out in a backwater motel, they wait to rendezvous with their fried-chicken selling, psychotic clown of a father, Captain Spaulding - gratuitously torturing and killing whoever happens to stand in their way. In fleeing the terrible family home, the remnants of the Firefly family become itinerant maniacs more akin to Krug and Co. in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972, d. Wes Craven), and indeed the film features similar themes of sexual humiliation and murder - followed by bloody revenge.

Revenge this time comes from The Law, in the form of Sheriff Wydell. Wydell is hell-bent on avenging his brother, George’s death. George (Tom Towles, who makes a brief reappearance in this film) was shot by Mother Firefly in HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. Now, Sheriff Wydell isn’t averse to murdering his prisoners - in the name of justice, and employs the Unholy 2, a couple of murderous, mercenary Hell’s Angels to assist him in his quest. Their combined methods are as repulsive as anything the Fireflys can come up with, and consequently, more innocent people die.

In a rather revealing scene, we are shown the Firefly clan revelling in Charlie Altamont’s (Ken Foree) brothel to the strains of Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way”. Zombie cross-cuts this with shots of Sheriff Wydell practising his lines of retribution (TAXI DRIVER style) into a mirror; he repeats the phrase, “Lord I am your arm of justice”. This sequence serves to blur the boundaries between the forces of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, and refers back to an earlier scene where Otis tells one of his victims, “I am Satan, and I am here to do Satan’s work”. Wydell is doing God’s work, and Otis is doing Satan’s work - but all the work is the same.

Rob Zombie clearly wanted to confuse the hell out of his audience, and he succeeds. Who are we supposed to root for here? If not the vengeful sheriff, then surely not the murderous Firefly family! To confuse us further, in between the violence, we are shown happier scenes of the Firefly clan sharing an idyllic time in the countryside, or bickering over ice-cream. This has a humanising effect on the terrible family, and we are forced to sympathise with them. This leaves the viewer feeling somewhat uncomfortable.

THE DEVIL’S REJECTS is a much more accomplished and unified film than its predecessor. It succeeds in capturing the essence of 1970’s films with its realistic and documentary-like use of the hand held camera. Other plus points, from a realist angle, is the fact that nobody wears make-up, apart from Captain Spaulding and Tiny, and thankfully, the Dr Satan character has been dispensed with. Zombie counterbalances the scenes of violence by adding humourous sequences, such as the scene in which Sheriff Wydell enlists the help of a Marx Brothers expert to assist with the police investigation. It is to Zombie's credit that he handles this combination of violence and comedy much more effectively than Wes Craven did in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.

On reflection, however, the film plays more like a western than a horror movie - this isn't a bad thing though. It owes a great deal to the films of Sam Peckinpah; in particular the revenge theme from BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (1974), and THE WILD BUNCH (1969); Rob Zombie’s film begins and ends with a bloodbath. Peckinpah’s films were awash with violence and nihilism, and appeared in the wake of Arthur Penn’s BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967), a fact that Zombie seems to acknowledge with the final scenes of THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, and Mother Firefly’s resemblance to Faye Dunaway.

As well as the most welcome return, and great performances of Bill Moseley (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, 1986 and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, 1990), Sheri Moon Zombie, and Sid Haig, veteran of one of the first crazy family films, SPIDER BABY (1964, d. Jack Hill) and numerous horror and sleaze films, Rob Zombie has assembled an impressive cast of supporting characters that includes:

William Forsythe (ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, 1984, PALOOKAVILLE, 1995) is outstanding as the vengeful Sheriff Wydell.

Geoffrey Lewis (THE CULPEPPER CATTLE COMPANY, 1972, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, 1973, SALEM’S LOT, 1979) plays the ill-fated country and western singer who claims to have met, and played with Johnny Cash.

Ken Foree (DAWN OF THE DEAD, 1978 & 2004, FROM BEYOND, 1986, LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III, 1990) stars as pimp Charlie Altamont. His name refers to the 1969 free festival held by The Rolling Stones and immortalised by the film GIMME SHELTER (1970, d. Albert & David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin). The Hippie ideals of the 1960’s died at Altamont, with the murder of Meredith Hunter, at the hands of the Hell’s Angels, who had been hired as concert security. The Angels claimed he had pulled a gun on Mick Jagger. Elsewhere, Charles Manson's Helter Skelter was coming down fast on the Summer of Love. The 1970's loomed...

Oh, before I forget, the fact that Rob Zombie managed to make both Joe Walsh and David Essex sound cool in 2005 is no mean feat.

On 26th December 2005 Momentum Pictures will release the DVD of THE DEVIL'S REJECTS in two versions: a film-only single disc at £15.99 (or UMD at £19.99) presenting the wide-screen UK theatrical version of the film - running time 104 minutes, 5.1 Dolby Digital audio - and a limited Special Edition 2 disc version presenting a 106 minutes version of the movie. Both versions of the film are presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16 x 9 anamorphic.

As well as the commentaries on the first disc, there are a multitude of extras included in the special edition, the highlight being the 30 DAYS IN HELL documentary, which is a day-by-day journal of the film’s production, rather than a phoney ‘making of’ short film for TV promotion. At 2 hr 25 m, we go through the entire production process; casting, choosing locations, first readings etc., which gives a great insight into the film making process.

Features

DISC ONE

Special Edition version - running time 106 mins.
5.1 Dolby Digital audio (with 6.1 option).
Audio Commentary by director Rob Zombie.
Audio Commentary by stars Bill Moseley, Sid Craig and Sheri Moon Zombie.


DISC TWO

'30 Days In Hell: The Making of The Devil's Rejects' (2 hrs 25 mins)
Blooper Reel (5:40)
Deleted Scenes (14:40)
'The Morris Green Show' (8:23)
Buck Owens' video: 'Satan's Got To Get Along Without Me' (2:10)
Captain Spaulding's Xmas Commercial (1:30)
Otis' Home Movie (1:10)
Make-up Test (13:30)
Matthew McGrory Tribute (2:20)
'Mary The Monkey Girl' Commercial (1:30)
'Bloody Stand-Up' Video (2:40)
Stills Gallery
Theatrical Trailer