The Devil’s Rejects (18)

Written and Directed by Rob Zombie
Screening at Odeon and UGC from 5th August 2005

Reviewed by Adam Ford

In the 1990s, Robert Cummings achieved a certain kind of infamy with his alter-ego Rob Zombie's comedy horror techno metal band. Though demons and monsters were his stock in trade, all but the most moralising listeners knew that tongue was firmly in cheek. After contributing countless songs to film soundtracks, Zombie decided to branch out in making movies of his own.

The Devil’s Rejects is a follow-up to Zombie’s debut (House Of 1000 Corpses), although it stands up on its own undead feet. The Fireflys - who are a bit like the Manson family without the 'politics' - are holed-up in their rickety compound. The police, lead by Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe) instigate a shoot-out, but almost all the family escape to wreak more mayhem. There follows an unrelentingly pessimistic but bizarrely sunny chase around the Texas badlands to an appropriately inappropirate southern rock soundtrack.

In a sense this is a brave film, since it simultaneously tips its blood-spattered top hat at seventies horror while refusing to add two of the genre's most important ingredients, namely humour and some semblance of psychology. Though there are a couple of funny scenes, Zombie seems to have abandoned the joyful cartoonish pastiche that made his music so listenable. Instead, we are pummelled by sadistic scene after sadistic scene. OK, the grotesque characters are given the odd human moment, but we are left waiting for the big revelation when we find out why the wonderfully horrible clown 'Captain Spaulding' (Sid Haig) is a serial-killing Marx brothers obsessive, or why his poisonous daughter 'Baby' (the director's wife Sheri Moon Zombie) gets off on it all so much. And where she gets her hair done, come to that.

Maybe it says something about the black-and-white nature of most box office fodder, but it is also very difficult to watch a film where there is no-one you are obviously meant to root for, where the unspeakable are pursued by the equally unspeakable. Pistol-raping Otis Firefly (Bill Moseley) might glibly announce that "I am the devil and I am here to the devil's work", but an unfortunate misreading of the Bible has apparently led the sheriff to believe he is "the Lord's arm of justice" - a role he undertakes with hideous glee. So who do you pick? None of the above? Then you are condemned to a nasty passivity.

I can’t exactly advise you to watch this, since doing so may severely damage your health. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. The Devil's Rejects may be the most gratuitously violent film to get a major release since The Passion Of The Christ, but if you think that sounds like a recommendation then go for it. Otherwise it’s probably best to run away screaming for your life.

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