The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
I sometimes struggle with horror. Not because I’m squeamish, although I can be, but to understand it’s appeal. Why I think films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are cinematic masterpieces and films like Hostel are utter derivative shite. Maybe it’s personal preference, maybe it’s my own interpretation of some moral ideal. I like Rob Zombie, the writer and director of The Devils Rejects, but I’m here like many I suspect because of 90s industrial goth rock legends White Zombie that Rob fronted. That band had an aesthetic that although macabre, was always a little tongue in cheek. I’m wondering whether that tone has carried through to Rob’s film career. It’s a promising start. We’re in rural Hicksville America, all sunshine and dust and it’s gory and unsettling from the start. I’ve gotta say I’m immediately impressed by the production values. I did not expect that at all. This is surprisingly well crafted. That’s not to say it’s not a trope-laden gorefest, with enough cheesy dialogue to choke a inbred redneck. The Devils Rejects are a family living in a shithole horror house out in the desert. They’re they dwell, peacefully capturing and killing until the local good ol boy police turn up guns blazing. Some Rejects are killed, some captured, some escape and its game on! The fuzz find the house full of bodies, body parts and scrap books detailing what the family have been up to. It’s like an extended version of the Sloth scene in Se7en and leads them to Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) a terrifying clown that puts Pennywise to shame. For all the blood, there’s a disarming amount of comedy... albeit not from the clown! Don’t be fooled though, it’s a mere respite from the kidnapping, rape and murder. There’s one big problem though, large parts of the plot go nowhere and it does get a bit gratuitous for the sake of it. Take Sid Haig out of this and I think it’d fall a bit flat. Although repulsive, there’s no denying his screen presence and he carries this. Essentially it’s a cops chasing the bad guys and girl caper, with the cops being just as detestable as the rest of the cast. It wears its B-Movie schlock with unabashed pride. I get the feeling that Zombie doesn’t care whether you like it or not, he’s making this stuff because he loves it. There are a few familiar faces, not big names, but you’ll recognise William Forsythe, Geoffrey Lewis, Michael Berryman, Brian Posehn and there’s no mistaking Danny Trejo. It’s a bit of a slog though and that early optimism does fade somewhat. I think it’s just too dirty, grim and sleazy for me to garner any enjoyment. Despite that, I certainly didn’t hate it even as it goes full slasher flick and it does wander dangerously close to torture porn in its finale. It goes out with a bang and as we reach its predictably blood soaked final scenes, with Freebird blaring, it does feel, dare I say, satisfying.