If you ever saw THE HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES, there’s one thing you probaly remember. It’s this montage set to “I Remember You” by Slim Whitman. It’s got lots of slow motion and you can’t hear anything but the music as the cops discover a couple of the house’s thousand corpses unexpectedly, then get gunned down by the Firefly family. The montage ends with Otis (Bill Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 Moseley) holding a gun to a cop’s head and it sits there with 20 full seconds of complete silence and stillness before he executes him.
That movie was pretty good, I liked it overall for it’s spunk and what not, but it was real sloppy and uneven. And that “I Remember You” scene was the one part where the director, a guy named Rob Zombie (yeah I know, I think it’s Hungarian or something), seemed like a real filmatist. Well good news, Mr. Zombie’s new one THE DEVIL’S REJECTS is not as much a sequel to HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES as it’s a sequel to that scene. It’s about the brother of the first cop killed in the montage hunting down the Fireflies for revenge. And all the sudden the Zombie guy knows what the fuck he’s doing: real good framing, way better acting, expert use of slow motion and effective montagings edited to old country music, blues and classic rock. Very dirty and raw, lots of ’70s techniques like Peckinpah slo-mo and fancy wipes. Kind of what Jim Van Bebber was going for with THE MANSON FAMILY. Maybe not quite as authentic but way better thought out and more involving. It’s almost changed genres – now it’s less straight up horror and more of one of those sicko ’70s serial killer/crime/road pictures, or a revenge picture like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. It’s just as sick and inexcusable but more fun.
This honestly is the biggest part 2 improvement I can think of offhand, a serious leap forward for the Zombie. And the whole idea is ingenious. Obviously HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES took place mostly in the house, so this one starts out with cops surrounding the house, and the Fireflies who survive the battle have to hit the road of 1,000 corpses. Like that “I Remember You” scene and like many great ’70s pictures, this one takes place mostly in the daytime, in the sun, on dusty roads and in sleazy hotels. And at a whorehouse run by the great Ken “When there’s no more room in hell the dead will walk the earth” Foree, and his sidekick Michael The Hills Have Eyes Berryman. Now with wrinkles.
I mean, how come nobody ever thought of that before? What if instead of just showing up to hunt more victims in part 2, Leatherface, Jason or whoever got found out and had to run from the cops? Instead of unstoppable killers, they’re just criminals, outlaws without much time left on their clocks. They probaly know they won’t make it far but they’re gonna drive til the wheels fall off.
The biggest problem with HOUSE was that the villains were great, but the protagonists were less than good. Not just that you didn’t like them, but they seemed like amateur actors, they just didn’t work at all except when they were being tormented. So what this movie does is totally brilliant, they turn the horrible killers of the Firefly family into the protagonists, and at the end they have them being tortured and chased. And you can’t help but hope they get away. And it’s wrong. But it happens.
The victims are better too. This time instead of some smarmy kids it’s a family country group called Banjo & Sullivan. And these filmatists are so detailed in creating the world of the movie that a “Best of Banjo & Sullivan” CD is available now in stores. And there’s a song on there called “Lord I Hope I Don’t Die in a Cheap Motel.” Hmmm. Anyway there’s a couple scenes here that are real grueling. Even when they’re not stabbing people the Rejects do sadistic shit like force a girl to slap her own mother. Mostly their cruelty is stomach churning but there’s also parts where you can’t help but laugh, like when the clown Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig, absolutely great in both movies) carjacks poor P.J. Soles and completely unneccessarily decides to stick around to talk to her son and give him a life long fear of clowns. I saw about six walkouts during this movie (well, two groups of three anyway), but the rest of us sick fucks (and one baby – why does somebody always bring a baby to a movie like this) were laughing all the way through. I had unfairly assumed the couple in front of me was gonna bail before the halfway mark but I knew I was wrong when the blond girlfriend laughed hard at the mean clown tormenting the kid.
Just to be clear, in real life I am against clowns tormenting kids. This is ONLY okay in movies and arguably books. Otherwise let’s keep it clean, clowns.
Most of your favorite characters from HOUSE are back. (Not the movie HOUSE starring Cliff from Cheers, I’m talking about HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES again but this is how I will abbreviate it for now on. As HOUSE.) Mainly you got Spaulding (now known by his first name, Cutter, and sporting a Manson beard), Otis (no longer Albino, and sporting an even Mansoner beard), and Baby, the giggly blond chick that shows you her butt then murders your family. My #1 favorite character in the first one was Grandpa Hugo, but the actor who played him, Dennis Dimple, died. So they don’t mention him. #2 favorite was Tiny, the deformed giant. He’s not on the poster so I was worried he’d get killed right away. His part is small but it’s perfect: in the opening scene we see him walking through the woods with a burlap sack on his head, dragging a naked corpse with one hand. Suddenly he sees a convoy of sherriff’s trucks heading to his house. Lucky Tiny, he chose the exact right time to go dragging naked corpses.
I mean look, it’s his morning routine. He coulda been jogging, he coulda been pulling weeds, reading the newspaper, whatever. Tiny likes to drag a naked dead lady through the leaves. I don’t agree with that behavior either but let’s not be too hard on him. There are worse people in his family so let’s be thankful for what we got.
Completely absent and not mentioned at all is Dr. Satan, or whoever that weird cyborg dude was that showed up at the end of HOUSE. I guess he’s the Jar-Jar of the thousandcorpsesverse. I woulda liked to see him in handcuffs though.
There’s a bunch of small new characters, like Danny Trejo and some wrestler I never heard of as bounty hunters known as “The Unholy Two.” And Ken Foree is real likable as Spaulding’s brother Charlie Altamont. Why the fuck don’t we see tis guy in more movies? I never forgot him from DAWN OF THE DEAD and he’s still just as charismatic, but I think last movie I saw him in before this was a thankless cop role in some straight to video garbage about a killer sandman. And that was years ago. (He also had that cameo on the Dawn of the Dead Remake, but they HAD to give him that. How about giving him the roles he DESERVES, too?)
Also joining the cast is William Forsythe as the vengeful Sheriff Wydell. I love this motherfucker because of his over the top roles in OUT FOR JUSTICE and STONE COLD. In OUT FOR JUSTICE he’s a wannabe mobster with a death wish, going around shooting strangers point blank and smoking crack in public. His character here is completely psychotic, but to my surprise he plays him more real than in his classic action villain roles. You don’t like him at all, you’re kind of rooting for the bad guys, but you can’t blame him for anything he does.
By the way before I forget, there’s been alot of discussion of how there’s no fuckin way there’s a thousand corpses in that house in the first one. This one mentions 75 murders but also says there’s a mass grave of decomposing corpses under the house. So the possibility is left open. Let’s not call the title a liar until all the facts are known.
Also I wanted to mention, this will be the ONLY review of DEVIL’S REJECTS on the internet that will not use the word “grindhouse” in it. That’s my personal guarantee. You know, when Tarantino was out promoting KILL BILL it was grindhouse this and grindhouse that, next thing you know everybody on the internet gotta use that word anytime it’s even halfway appropriate. This looks like a GREAT grindhouse movie! Can’t wait! Grindhouse grindhouse grindhouse! Then Tarantino has to go and announce that his next movie is even CALLED Grindhouse. So now it can’t be stopped. Grindhouse in a box, grindhouse with a fox, grindhouse here there and everywhere. Even BEWITCHED can somehow be traced to its grindhouse roots I bet. And the fucked up thing is if I understand the word right, DEVIL’S REJECTS is one of the few movies of this decade that actually earns that adjective. So you will probaly see some reviews of the movie that are just the word grindhouse 75 times with a “the” every once in a while, maybe an “of”, and a couples “rules” or “owns,” if not “blows” or “sucks” and something about a gay guy. Anyway, this review will NOT contain that word, I’m not even gonna say which word because I’m not using it in this review.
Anyway you definitely got the same sensibilities as HOUSE in this one but this time it’s more real. The same sort of fetishes show up but they’re more restrained, it’s less art direction and more location shooting. Kind of a grindhouse fee– ah fuck I blew it. Just kidding that was on purpose. That was a test. Anyway the Fireflies play it a little more real, they even got a couple moments of caring for each other which maybe makes it harder to take how horrible they are to everybody else.
The crowd I saw it with seemed to really love it, everybody laughed even when you weren’t supposed to and one guy clapped at the end. Even the baby liked it I bet. Like I said before we’re a bunch of sicko scumbags, but I think with this kind of unanimous agreement among those who stayed for the whole movie, it has a good chance of crossing over to mainstream Oprah type audiences as well. This is sure to be a big crowdpleaser like HITCH or KEN PARK or something along those lines. I recommend you bring the family, even grandmothers. And like I said it is baby tested so bring babies too.
Okay maybe that’s a little too optimistic, the truth is this movie definitely is not for everybody or even for all babies, but if you like sick shit like this, you will like it. By definition. Unless you don’t like it. But I did. Keep up the good work Zombie. I will send you a ribbon for most improved.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.