Sunday, October 9, 2016

31 Days of Horror: THE DEVIL'S REJECTS (2005)

Welcome, horror fans, to Day 9 of the 31 DAYS OF HORROR! We're back with another film in our lead-up to Halloween, and this time, we continue where we left off yesterday with the sequel to Rob Zombie's film, House of 1000 Corpses, the dark, bloody, and violent...THE DEVIL'S REJECTS. Enjoy!

One thing that's worth noting immediately about The Devil's Rejects is that it's worlds different from House of 1000 Corpses. If you liked the first, you'll probably enjoy this movie, but for completely different reasons. House of 1000 Corpses was a silly, almost cartoony ode to 70's schlock, exploitation, and low budget grindhouse. The Devil's Rejects, meanwhile, can only be described as "the road trip from hell." Rejects trades out the schlock for the grindhouse. It trades the fun for the pure, unbridled, twisted darkness. It trades in the satanic, otherworldly evil of Dr. Satan for the all too human evil of sadism, wrath, and revenge. Whereas House featured a man turned into a "fishboy" Tusk-style, Rejects features Bill Moseley as one of the most chillingly real killers in years telling his victim, "I am the devil. And I am here to do the devil's work."

While it is a sequel, you don't have to have seen House of 1000 Corpses to appreciate this film, though you will be familiar with the characters and catch one or two tiny nods to the original. The story here features the Firefly family being ambushed at their farmhouse after police track them there following a series of grisly murders are traced to them. Of the Firefly family, the only two who escape are Baby, played by Sheri Moon-Zombie, and Otis, played by Bill Moseley. After escaping the firefight, they meet up with the Firefly patriarch, a local clown known as Captain Spaulding (one of the best characters from the original film). Once reunited, the trio hit the road in search of refuge from a posse of cops, led by a vengeful sherrif whose brother was killed at the hands of the Firefly family back in House of 1000 Corpses, though even that fact doesn't require you to have seen the first film. What follows is a bloody road trip of the Fireflies on the run, and killing anyone who gets in their way, and the sheriff who is willing to do anything to see the Fireflies get what's coming to them.

Instead of the pure style and schlock that was on display for the first film, the star of this show is the acting and a cinematic eye that Rob Zombie can finally show off in full. The opening sequence featuring the firefight at the Firefly house and the escape in the aftermath shows Zombie truly commanding an action sequence. The cinematography leaves something to be desired, though, as it has a tendency, especially in that opening sequence, of focusing a little too much on close ups. Fortunately, the shaky cam is almost entirely absent after that initial shootout, giving us a full look at the violence, which is more of the point this time around.

Much of the focus is on the trio of Otis, Baby, and Spaulding as the protagonists and their vile deeds they commit as they try to outrun the cops. What we get as a result is almost as examination of why these people are the way they are and why we fall in morbid love with criminals and serial killers in our culture, as shown in how people like Bonnie and Clyde have become folk heroes. The previously funny antics of the Firefly family are now put into gruesome context in a film with a much darker aesthetic than the first film. Bill Moseley, in particular, delivers a chilling performance as Otis, a sadistic, insane, bloodthirsty lunatic that you can't help but keep watching. In the end, though, the film doesn't fail to turn the lens back on us. The last act brings things full circle, and (without spoiling anything) reminds us that there's more than one kind of monster in this film. And that the vile crimes of the Fireflies are all too human.

The Devil's Rejects is a different kind of horror. More Texas Chainsaw than it is Friday the 13th, it's about the horrifying things we create and that were all capable of. It's about what happens when you let the evil you fight consume you, and it's about the most horrifying creature on Earth...ourselves.

Tony's Score: 9/10

Be sure to stay tuned throughout the rest of the month! We're posting a new horror review every day all throughout October, both old and new! Check back to see what movie we'll have you covering your eyes from next!

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