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3 From Hell

(I guess I should always say this, but SPOILERS)

The psychotic Firefly clan – introduced in Rob Zombie’s HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003) and made more vivid in THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005) are finally back in 3 FROM HELL, another mix of sun-soaked fugitive murder spree and stylized cartoon that’s at least a little bit of a comeback for Zombie after the crowd-sourced 31 (2016). That one had nice cinematography and performances but it was such a limp “I guess this is the kind of shit you expect from me?” greatest hits throwaway I couldn’t even muster the enthusiasm to write a review.

Since 3 FROM HELL is not as good as REJECTS, and not as big of a leap from its previous chapter, it doesn’t feel entirely necessary. And that makes it harder to ignore the hollowness of these movies. As far as I can tell they’re not saying much, just trying to be provocatively inappropriate, and they’re less about human beings than about Zombie’s fetishes: weird clowns, redneck chic, tattoos, bushy beards, satanic symbols, Manson Family nostalgia, ’70s rock montages, kitschy western gear over cheeky retro-t-shirts, black and white monster movies playing on old TVs. But I can appreciate most of that stuff, so I can enjoy an occasional dip into Zombie’s distinct mix of uncomfortably fucked up shit, cool visuals, some laughs and some stretches where you realize you’re too invested in these terrible people and feel like an asshole.

The first 10 minutes catch us up on the Fireflys’ one-in-a-million survival from REJECTS’ climactic “Free Bird” hail of gunfire through tabloid articles (complete with anatomical diagrams), news broadcasts and “documentary” clips. Not usually a fan of found footage or mockumentary myself, I was won over by Zombie’s impeccable taste in print design, ugly period fashion and faded film stocks (though this is the only in the trilogy to be shot digitally, it’s degraded to a gorgeously grainy quasi-16 mm look). I just got a big kick out of the way it turns their preposterous survival into lurid headline drama, introducing the theme that they’ve gone from a terrifying secret house of horrors to media celebrities. I knew I was on board as soon as a news anchor used the phrases “The Devil’s Rejects” and “House of 1,000 Corpses murders” in a sentence.

As for this latest sensationalistic title, there’s some bad news about the 3 From Hell, if you haven’t heard. Though clearly meant to refer to Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) Otis B. Driftwood (Bill Moseley) and Captain Spaulding (the late Sid Haig), the latter was too sick to film much, and only has one scene, in which his visibly poor health (made even worse by makeup, I think!) is pretty depressing. Zombie had to quickly rewrite so that the other two are joined by Otis’s previously unmentioned half brother. It works, though, because

1. I was never clear how many of these Fireflys there were anyway, it seemed like they were all over the place

2. Actor Richard Brake (DEATH MACHINE, HALLOWEEN II, MANDY) gives a very good, grounded performance

3. His character is named “Winslow Foxworth ‘Foxy’ Coltrane a.k.a. The Midnight Wolfman.”

My least favorite section is when Otis and Foxy home-invade Virgil Dallas Harper (Jeff Daniel Phillips, LORDS OF SALEM, SATANIC PANIC) the extravagantly mustachioed warden (of both male and female prisons?) to force him to help bust out Baby. It’s got some of that REJECTS/LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT style queasy torment of innocents, and suddenly a birthday clown named Mr. Britches shows up for no reason? You know how it is when clowns get the wrong address. It seems a little too “Really, Rob Zombie? Another clown?” On the positive side, the clown is played by Clint Howard, and his death sets up one of my favorite dialogue exchanges:

Baby: “What’s up with the dead clown?”

Otis: “I’ll tell you in the car! Come on, let’s go. We gotta go. Jesus Christ!”

The scenes of Baby in prison are better because they’re unlike the others in the series. She’s too crazy to put on a show for the parole board and then she breaks the nose of prison guard Greta, who I felt for, especially when I realized she was Dee Wallace, but like most Zombie characters she turns out to be a psycho. She tries to get revenge by locking Baby in a PENITENTIARY III style dungeon cell and letting some of the big girls jump her. Baby bides her time by hallucinating a black and white ballerina in a cat mask and manipulating Greta’s sexual attraction to her.

Baby is my favorite character in this one. I think Sheri Moon Zombie has found just the right level for her psychopath-who-skips-around-and-talks-like-a-little-girl shtick, and that’s before she finds a bow and arrow. Otis seems weirdly less evil in this one, sometimes even laid back before he gets into vainglorious-speechifying-about-being-The-Devil mode. One funny wicked moment is when he’s in prison and yelling for the cameras “I’m innocent! They got the wrong guy!”

One of REJECTS’ weak spots is how grating the siblings’ cursing at each other gets – here it’s mercifully toned down and sometimes replaced with a familial love, like in their conversation about missing Cutter (Captain Spaulding) and nothing being fun anymore. It’s touching if taken in isolation (or as a metaphor or something) but it ends with brother and sister warmly resolving to do more “fucked up shit” than ever. And we know how prolific they’ve already been!

A funny brother-sister moment is when they’re on the verge of both being killed for something Otis did and he says, “Let her go. She’s got nothin to do with this.”

“Yes I fuckin do!” she says, offended.

The Fireflys are famous now. They have groupies wearing their t-shirts at the courthouse and get in arguments about who’s most likely to be recognized checking into a hotel. That’s a practical consideration for fugitives, but it’s clearly more about pride to them. Foxy is insulted that Otis doesn’t consider his crimes to be that bad, and he hates how he looks in his mughsot on TV (wearing a “DISCO SUCKS” t-shirt, by the way). When Baby seduces a random dude he says she looks like that girl on TV, but it can’t be her, because she broke out of prison, and without hesitating she says “No, that’s me!”

The last stretch (LAST ACT SPOILERS) is the most different for the series. Like in a western, they hole up in a small town in Mexico. It looks a little more cheap and less controlled than the rest of the movie, but I kinda like that looseness. Zombie’s talent for giving fun roles to underappreciated actors rears its head in the form of Richard Edson (DO THE RIGHT THING, SUPER MARIO BROS.), absolutely going to town on a southern accent as the sleazy, treacherous innkeeper Carlos Perro. He provides them their artfully shitty accommodations and immediately sells them out.

I didn’t mention that during his breakout Otis executed fellow inmate Rondo (Danny Trejo). So it’s just his bad luck that he’s hiding out in the town where Rondo’s worshipful son Aquarius (Emilio Rivera, EL CHICANO, ACT OF VALOR, STREET KINGS, MURDER WAS THE CASE) leads a deadly cartel of luchadors called The Black Satans.

Sebastian (Pancho Moler, BAD NEWS BEARS, CANDY CORN) is another cool character, a noble local who, having no idea how terrible these people are, puts his life on the line to protect them. He’s a little person, so when Baby compares him to her late brother Tiny (my favorite character from CORPSES) he doesn’t know at first that she’s talking about a giant, and is insulted.

I like the way the movie messes with identification and the idea of good guys and bad guys by giving us characters like Sebastian and the hookers who are having fun with The 3 and never find out they’re From Hell. Aquarius is treated as a scary antagonist, but he has the understandable motive of avenging a murdered father. I didn’t remember that Trejo’s character was from REJECTS, so just like him I had no idea why Otis had it out for him. That made it kind of cool – a back-and-forth of unknown origins.

(in retrospect I realize he was one of the bounty hunters who came after the Rejects)

For the 3 it kind of turns into a hangout movie, though obviously Baby defeating some tough guys in a knife throwing contest also sets up what will happen later. The final conflict begins with an “oh shit it’s on” scene that’s funny because Baby at first doesn’t realize it has anything to do with her. Out the window we see an El Camino pull up with three coffins in the back. Then two vans pull up and a bunch of huge guys in nice black or white suits step out. They wear luchador masks with pentagrams on the foreheads and hold machine guns. Baby sees them and is excited – what’s going on down there? Until she sees Carlos pointing up to her window. Wait, what the fuck?

In my mind I can see a connection between 3 FROM HELL, MANDY, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS and hell, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO. They’re different tones and quality levels and I like them for different reasons, but they each exist in their own strange and heightened universes where exaggerated genre tropes are just a part of reality. Even when they’re not entirely working I like visiting the worlds of these drive-in movies from another dimension. And that should be a big compliment to a world as ugly and cruel as Zombie’s.

There are no signs in 3 FROM HELL that Zombie is evolving or becoming more thoughtful about anything. I kind of doubt he ever will. But if you tend to feel overall positive about his movies, as I do, this is another one.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 18th, 2019 at 1:27 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

38 Responses to “3 From Hell”

  1. Apologies to Dan Prestwich for reusing this post I left on his review just this morning:

    I kinda loved it? And I kinda feel bad about that because it indulges in the sort of crowd-pleasing that literally every word I’ve ever heard Zombie say would indicate is some kind of massive betrayal of everything he believes in? Yet I’m not sure that’s the right take because the crowd-pleasing involves cheering for the heroic exploits of literally the worst human beings in the world so maybe this is all actually subversive as fuck?

    I don’t know, man. This is a weird one. On the one hand, it’s a real wounded duck. The budget is obviously much smaller. Brake is typically solid as the new guy (solid enough that I have decided not to go with the “Poochie Firefly” joke I had planned) but you can’t help but notice that he’s not, like, crucial or anything. They just needed a third for their trio and Sid was tragically unavailable so they did the best they could. And the aesthetic is so much glossier and phonier than anything Zombie has ever done (Raimi-esque CGI arrows?), to the point where you’d figure the decade-or-so-younger guy on the Devil’s Rejects commentary track would just make fun of it. There’s always been some crossover between the Robert Rodriguez and Rob Zombie schools of filmmaking but this one could almost be a collaboration between the two Robs.

    So on the one hand, it almost feels like a betrayal. But then I realized that this is exactly the kind of sequel a 70s horror film might get in the late 80s, so perhaps the exciting siege ending, complete with faceless minions and even some Rambo-aping bow-and-arrow action, isn’t a sellout move but more in line with Texas Chainsaw 2 style gratuitousness-as-satire? I really don’t know what to make of it, other than it is both more juvenile and less adolescent than Zombie’s previous insistence on rubbing our noses in shit at every possible opportunity. Maybe he just lightened up?

    Whatever he was going for, I had a ball. Somehow these revolting degenerate mass murderers have become totally lovable. Baby’s romantic subplot (I can’t believe I’m even typing those words) was, like, adorable? We just saw her gut a screaming naked woman for no reason and yet she’s totally believable in her flirtation with the noble and understandably smitten one-eyed little person. Ms. Zombie gives the tour de force performance of the piece, wringing new shades of mega out of each scene, somehow even turning Bill Moseley into the straight man. The part where she fucks with Dee Wallace (excellent in an atypical role for her) is a minor masterpiece.

    I can’t decide if this is a step forward or backward for Zombie, but I can’t deny that it worked on me. I kind of want to watch it again already.

  2. When I watched it earlier this week I thought it was okay but the more time I spend away from it, the more I’m starting to think I did not like it. Between this and 31 and I really hope Zombie is able to get some of or one of his drama projects off the ground because I think we’ve seen about all he has to offer in the realm of hillbilly-sploitation. I’ve already given up hope that we’ll ever see the far superior arthouse Zombie of HALLOWEEN 2 and LORDS OF SALEM again.

    Billion and one times better than the awful 31 though.

  3. Then it’s not just me!

  4. See, I always wanted to see Zombie utilize more of the dramatic potential he showed in H2 and SALEM (which I think he did somewhat in this, although it’s not really a showcase for it) but I came away from this movie thinking the opposite. So help me, the film’s dynamic blend of action, comedy, shocks, and camaraderie made me wonder what might happen if Zombie used his obvious wealth of talent and imagination in so many different facets of the filmmaking process to make something more mainstream and approachable. I swear to God, this movie is slick and fun enough that I could see him doing a Marvel. I’m not saying I want that to happen (unless El Superbeasto gets absorbed into the MCU or something) but I think there’s evidence here that he could pull off a real crowdpleaser if he set his mind to it.

  5. I just want to say that I have always wanted to see Rob Zombie tasked with doing a hard R, Deadpool-like dark comedy, intergalactic biker/murderer movie version of Lobo for DC. And I had always thought Momoa should play Lobo in such an adaptation, but that ship sailed with Aquaman.

  6. Thanks to all of you for giving me reason to be excited! I usually enjoy Zombie, but….31. I could not abide 31, and that’s coming from a guy who’s seen Lords of Salem more than once.

  7. And 100% yes to Zombie/Lobo. I’m both thrilled and depressed that isn’t happening immediately. Bastich.

  8. I still have trouble being excited for it, although I enjoyed most of Zombie’s output more than most people do (or at least are willing to admit), even 31, although that is his weakest (Tied with his first HALLOWEEN). It just seems like a sad act of desperation. He pretty much rivals Guillermo del Toro and David Fincher in terms of “talking about his next movie than then never happens” and he mentioned some interesting stuff through the years (like “a remake of THE BLOB with the blob”, a biker movie named TYRANNOSAURUS REX and his Groucho Marx biopic. I seem to remember him even wanting to make a MUNSTERS movie.). Then he had to crowdfund 31, all while constantly saying he won’t do any more Firefly clan movies.

    Maybe he saw INCREDIBLES 2 and thought “Hey, if someone like Brad Bird can sell out like this, I definitely can too!” It sounds to me like his INCREDIBLES 2. Not bad, but a bit half-assed.

    Also thanks to James Gunn, Rob Zombie already is part of the MCU, so who knows?

  9. *”withOUT the Blob”

  10. DC was actively looking for takes on Lobo in 2015. I think the temperature has cooled though. Also, you can find concept art for THE BLOB that gives a sense of it. Sorta like season 3 of STRANGER THINGS. And the Tyranasauras Rex script is online. It’s huge… but not good.

  11. The Tutti Fuckin’ Frutti scene from REJECTS is one of my favorite scenes in a horror movie, so if this one has more of that kind of thing as it sounds like it does, then I’m excited.

  12. Years ago, I sent Rob a treatment for “Redneck Monster Hootenanny” and I’m still waiting to hear back. For whatever reason, I think it may be right up his alley…

  13. Vern I’ll be completely honest in saying I love 31. Doom Head is a great character. I don’t know. Honestly avoided it for a time because I’d heard bad things. For better or worse I love it.

  14. 3 From Hell? Just finished watching it. I liked it a lot. I have a feeling he’ll never surpass Devil’s Rejects. In my opinion it remains his best film.

  15. How great would it be if they made a Joker sequel that did for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest what the first one did for Taxi Driver/King of Comedy? And gave it to Rob Zombie to write and direct? He’d sure come up with a litany of weird characters and get a bunch of great performances from weird actors* and he could even cast Sheri Moon as Dr Harleen Quinzel. Plus, it might help get Zombie out if horror.

    * Clint Howard would be in his therapy group for sure!

  16. To those who enjoyed 31… I just saw it. What did you like? Obviously, Doomhead is an interesting character, but did it feel like it meant anything? Did the non-ending not bother you?

  17. I don’t think the non-ending bothered me as much as the non-beginning and non-middle.

  18. Thomas Caniglia

    April 17th, 2020 at 9:09 am

    The trailer from 3 From Hell was so great and promised so much, but the movie itself is cold and bleak. I really missed the sunbaked feel of Rejects. I felt cold just watching this one. That does lend itself more to Terry Reid songs though. In addition to the blue temp, I was VERY disappointed at all the hand-held camerawork. You can’t follow up Phil Parmet’s great cinematography on Rejects with something that looks like I shot it.

    Sheri’s bold performance is the best thing about it by far. H1C was Captain Spaulding’s movie, Rejects was Otis’s movie, and 3FH is Baby’s movie.

    Richard Brake is a great addition to the Fireflies, and makes me wish we could get another movie with them just so I could watch him shine some more.

    Anytime I can see Richard Edson is a good time, and I really like Kevin Jackson and Jeff Daniel Phillips. Honestly I think Rob should make a movie just about those two guys as wardens.

    Otis’s being mellow is so problematic. There is no reason or logic for him to be tired. The 3 survived the shooting because they run on pure meanness and having an unquenchable fire in them to do wrong. Then Otis spends ten years in a penitentiary, which should have had plenty of opportunities for him to cause and benefit from violent chaos, so if anything he should have been worse than before. I guess Rob wanted to explore the character differently, so that’s fine. I don’t think it’s what anyone was hoping for, though.

    I was appalled at the waste of Clint Howard and Danny Trejo. Absolutely appalled. I learned a while back not to get too excited over Rob’s casting picks, because they might only get a minute of screen time, but still. CLINT HOWARD AND DANNY TREJO! DO SOMETHING WITH THEM! Those plot elements really crushed my hopes.

    Overall, the biggest problem with this is the hostage scene, which was basically redundant to the hotel scene from Rejects. That scene wasn’t supposed to be something we enjoyed, or so I thought at the time. I thought it was supposed to be a horrid shock to the viewer. Doing it all over again as if it were just something to expect was really unwelcome.

    Since people are also talking about 31, I absolutely hated that movie. The idea of these clowns having a woman as a sex slave for a year is just absolutely vile, not to mention that she gets chainsawed while tied to a palette with barbed wire. There is no way for me to enjoy a movie once it’s gone to that place. Rob has a really rapey aspect in most of his movies, and I think he should maybe see a therapist about it, because it seems to appear in his work so effortlessly. I’m not trying to virtue signal, because I freely admit to liking lots of gratuitous content, but there is a point where for me there is a line, if that makes sense.

  19. Have only seen REJECTS, LORDS OF SALEM, and his HALLOWEEN films, and there’s probably not much more for me to say, but I won’t let that stop me. The unflinching bleakness of Zombie’s perspective can be surprisingly affecting at times, like when young Michael Myers murders the bully in H1, the PTSD and grief elements of H2, and a lot of SALEM. But whenever he juxtaposes the grim and heart-wrenching elements too closely to his white trash carnies-on-steroids motif, it ends up feeling gross and sloppy, as they seem to mutually undercut one another. And, yes, that motel scene in DEVIL’S REJECTS is WOLF CREEK-level upsetting for me. Sure, I’m enough of a horror fan wannabe edgelord whatever that I will watch such a film to wrestle with the darkness and try to come to grips with it, but I experience an almost spiritually oppressive evil in the raw, stripped down sadism of either of these films that is deeper, more concentrated, elemental, and disturbing than HOSTEL and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS set atop an entire WAL-MART bargain bin stack of shitty slasher movies. Impressive in their ability to disturb even the desensitized, but makes me queasy and sad more than anything else. Good job, I guess?

  20. It is indeed a bit weird how Zombie, who is usually described by everybody who worked with him, including one guy I know personally, as the nicest and most humble man you will ever meet, has such a talent to come up with sadistic shit, that is at least surface level repugnant and at most psychologically deeply disturbing, often including an almost casual way of showing the most horrifying sexual violence in his work. And at the same time it comes across like “Heyyyyyyy, kids, you like my carnival ride of terror? It’s fun to shock the squares, isn’t it? But don’t worry, it’s all good fun.”

    And Thomas, it does make sense. We all have our lines of fictional violence, that shouldn’t be crossed. For example one guy I know hates when kids die in movies. He is a guy who collects the most hardcore splatter shit you’ve ever seen, yet one scene in FEAST 2 or 3, which includes the fate of a baby, offended him so deeply, he spent a full week ranting about how sick and subhuman a filmmaker must be, to include that in his movie, especially in something, that is supposed to be a comedy, even if it’s a gross out horror kind.

    For me, as I have mentioned several times before, it’s violence against cats. I remember turning off SLEEPWALKERS after less than a minute, because the movie starts with a house full of dead cats. And because of this, I have no intention to ever watch any version of PET SEMETARY. (Or PET SEMETARY 2, after I learned about the kittens.) So yeah, I think your objection is totally fine.

  21. I have no access to Zombie’s inner self, but he has said that he feels a responsibility not to portray fun movie violence (although I think he slipped up on 3 FROM HELL, which is a total hoot). I’d imagine he believes that not including a sexual component to his serial killers is unrealistic. And he’s sort of right. It’s naive bordering on childish to imagine that these types of sadists who get off on murder will gleefully mutilate anyone they meet but draw the line at rape. It’s a fiction on par with “Batman would never ever kill anyone even though he spend every minute of his life throwing bladed boomerangs at people’s faces” or “Rambo could totally take out an entire army by himself because he’s the best.” These are fantasies we accept because it allows awesome movie shit to happen. In real life, though, Batman would eventually nick a vein and kill someone, Rambo would get his ass blown away just standing there firing an M-60 at a dozen armed opponents, and most serial killers end up doing what they do because it gets their dicks hard. To Zombie, pretending there’s no sexual component to this kind of brutality merely serves to let the audience off the hook. An asexual killing machine like Jason is a fun, harmless transgression; a clan of otherwise likable rapists like the Fireflies is a whole other level of troubling. The fact that we embrace the Fireflies anyway is where Zombie’s minor but undeniable genius lies.

    I’m okay with childish fantasies and fun movie violence, so I don’t need all of my serial killers to fuck. But I’m glad Zombie is also out there doing it his way, making audiences uncomfortable with the unspoken motivations behind its bloodlust.

  22. Majestyk, I understand and appreciate that as a coherent logic and auterish point of view, though I bristle at the implication that it’s necessary to show that or that not doing that is some kind of cop out. Even if the implication or logical inference is that Freddy was a pedophile, I don’t really need that personally. And especially in like a Jason film, for the most part, I don’t want to identify with the victims or the abjectness of it all — I want to see Jason dropkick Crispin Glover don’t into a wood chipper while a beautiful young woman screams with her tits bouncing.

    I do relate to the power of showing true horror, followed to its logical, unflinching ends. I think a film like the PLEDGE does that to an extent. UNDER THE SKIN has one of the more upsetting scenes I’ve ever scene, horror movie or otherwise. I’m not opposed to looking over the edge into the chasmy abyss, I’d just prefer not to see Bill Forsythe and Clint Howard in the background smoking a j and head-banging to Skynrd. There is just too much of a “this is fuckin cool” vibe when you mix Werner Herzog energy with BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD energy. Doesn’t suit my palate in general, though I do think he sometimes knocks it out of the part (H2, LORDS OF SALEM).

  23. I’m definitely not saying that it’s a copout not to make all violence off-putting and sexual and nauseating. Quite frankly, I would rather just watch a latex-and-Karo geek show with limbs coming off like autumn leaves than open the Doorway To True Evil like Zombie and his ilk prefer. I’m just saying I think that’s Zombie’s philosophy, and it more or less works for him. I used to think it was just unpleasantness for unpleasantness’ sake, but a run-through of the Zombography last Halloween somehow made it all click. His mix of carny schlock and in-your-face sadism is still an acquired taste and I totally understand why it doesn’t gel for most people, even dedicated horror fans.

  24. This may be simplistic, but since it seems that Zombie fetishizes ’70s exploitation flicks that are legendary rape-crazy, it’s only natural his own movies would follow suit.

  25. I do respect that the man has a vision and has mostly stayed true to it and mining its potential. I always reach for David Lynch as a stock example of a weirdo “auteur” (because I’m lazy and not that well-versed in film history), but in many ways I see Zombie similarly, and I’m glad he’s him, because he’s doing movies that really only he would ever do, even if he is influenced by 70s exploitation . And even if others id come along and emulate or extend his style and build out the Zombie psychobilly sub-genre, it would still owe its existence to him. So, like the Dude, it is good to know he’s out there doing his thing for all us sinners.

    The similarities and differences to other horror stuff, including “torture” horror are something I find interesting by way of exploring the nuances of psychological reaction to these films — or the nuances of my own reactions, at least. WOLF CREEK has a much more consistent tone and obviously has none of Zombie’s particular redneck curiosities, so, I can’t accuse WOLF CREEK of juxtaposing weird tonal elements to a weird and unpalatable effect.

    Still, WOLF CREEK upsets me in a lot of the same ways, because of it’s pure, undiluted sadism. Particularly, the thing I remember is the implication of him doing this stuff to children, which is almost too much for me to bear psychologically. Super upsetting stuff for me. Freddy and Jason are never upsetting, even when they were quasi-scary, it was still more of a somewhat tongue-in-cheek straight-ahead monster film. And even with something like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, the procedural elements are so strong, and it’s more about Clarice’s journey, and you don’t get to spend much time with the victims. WOLF CREEK is a little too real, though I remember finding it a very compelling piece of filmmaking, very effective and well-done. I can respect that a little more as an experiment in a very stripped down, believable-ish, no punches pulled descent into a nightmare of pure sadism and forsakenness. It’s a really tough watch, but I guess it’s a bit less of a gross feeling for me, because it keeps to the seriousness of the subject matter and the suspense-horror, never dipping into cartoonishness or random Fangoria convention cameos. Zombie is kind of like the Fangoria biker redneck Tarantino or some shit.

    HOSTEL is one that was less of a tough watch, even though it does have its moments. For me, HOSTEL 1 can get away with some of its humorous and absurd elements and somehow sticks the landing in its combination of horror, suspense, weirdness, and ANIMAL HOUSE bro movie humor. Even though it sprinkles in all of these elements, they seem to cohere and flow pretty well in the service of the story and its narrative objectives vs. just being fetishes. HOSTEL is more fun and accessible and generally competent while still being fairly weird and subversive in its own right.

    Not really going anywhere with all of this, just thinking aloud.

  26. Majestyk, that’s a great post, and I agree with it, but doesn’t the director’s cut of his HALLOWEEN have a version of the escape from the mental hospital where Myers literally draws the line when he witnesses an attempted rape? It bothered me for precisely the reason you mention: I don’t believe a brutally sadistic multiple murderer is holding that ethical conviction.

    I interviewed Zombie in my early twenties. He gave all my questions a lot of thought, which meant a lot to me. He has a way of talking where everything he says sounds sarcastic, but that’s just a GenX affectation.

  27. Palermo: This might be out of date, but the one criminology class I took in college taught me that there are two main types of serial killers: sexual sadists and paranoid schizophrenics. The Fireflies are the former. Zombie’s Michael is clearly in the latter category. He kills because his brain receives messages only he can hear, not because he gets a boner from killing. As far as we know, anyway. Who knows what Michael would have gotten up to if Zombie hadn’t been working with an established property? I’d imagine the Weinsteins would put their foot down about turning their big merchandising opportunity into a rapist.

  28. I totally agree that Michael should not really have an ethical code. I do like how H2 has this idea of Michael idealizing his mom and trying to sort of reconstitute his family. As much as a lot of the backstory-excavating stuff seems like a famously bad impulse, I think Zombie managed to do something really interesting there, so, my hat’s off to him. I thought all that trippy Sheri Moon-Zombie shit in H2 was a bizarre masterpiece. But the idea of Michael idealizing his mom or family is really not about any kind of abstract ethical principle, it’s just about this weird, imagery-driven inner fantasy life Michael has constructed and that has become this weird sort of prime directive for him, almost like weird psychoanalytic stuff meets animal imprinting-on-mom type behavior. I thought that was really inspired. But, as far as caring about violence against other people, Michael should be indifferent. He has no moral code, just the kill imperative and, in Zombie H2’s case, the additional follow-mommy arc. I still think it’s cool the way Zombie’s hulking, furiously violent Michael found its way into HALLOWEEN 2018’s characterization, which for me is kind of a mash-up of Carpenter’s and Zombie’s Michael. The Zombie’s Michael DNA managed to swim its way into the Carpenter/Jamie-Lee/Shape storyline!

  29. Honestly, I never took Michael’s escape in the director’s cut as “Oh no, I need to stop this”, but more as a “Hey, that seems like a good opportunity to leave”, but this movie is in neither version high on my watchlist, so it’s been a while since I saw it.

  30. Maybe Zombie thinks otherwise, but come on, by the time you’re making fuckin’ 31 or DEVILS REJECTS, you’re so far away from any kind of objective “reality” that the idea you are trying to teach people a lesson about the unpleasantness of violence is straight-up comical, like Dave “The Demon” DeFalco claiming CHAOS was “to educate and, perhaps, save lives.”

    Rob Zombie obviously kind of gets off on some pretty gross rape-and-violence fantasies, or at least the simulacrum of those fantasies from the cinema of the 70’s. That’s just a fact. You can see it right there on-screen. And you know what? As far as I know, he’s never hurt anyone in real life. He’s taken that shit and put it into his art. Which is what art is for! I’d respect him much more if he just admitted this is an antisocial fantasy playing off tropes from older movies from a less enlightened era, rather than trying to slap some phony self-servining moralizing on it.

  31. I think what he actually said was he doesn’t “like“ when the onscreen violence is too fun. It takes him out of the movie. That’s a different thing than trying to teach a lesson about violence. Like, I don’t really like that fancypants Cirque du Soleil wirework style of kung fu, but it’s because I think when a fight is too beautiful it kinda misses the point of what makes a fight scene entertaining, not because I think the filmmakers have a responsibility to not sanitize real-life violence or whatever. That’s probably closer to where he’s coming from.

  32. That is a helpful distinction, Majestyk.

    Subtlety, you make a good point about Zombie just owning his fetishes as such, but I think that takes a level of vulnerability and self-awareness that most people, even artist types, are not capable of. And even if they are privately capable of such introspective honesty, the downsides of publicly owning those views might outweigh the upsides, especially if you’re dispositionally a private person who doesn’t enjoy commenting on your art or having the publicity aspect of things maybe blow up in your face. For awhile there for, e.g., James Gunn, it looked like there was such a thing as bad press.

    People tend to be guarded about sharing sexually transgressive views. The polished up talking point Zombie is peddling is a lot more palatable and artist-sounding than “So, here’s the thing guys, I’ve got a real rape fantasy sploitation fetish thing, but I don’t actually practice or condone rape. I mean, that’s basically all of us, amirite? Can’t we all just get along?!”

  33. @Skani

    Would that scene in UNDER THE SKIN happen to involve a beach?

    I found that scene so deeply upsetting that I have no opinion on the rest of the movie. I suspect it’s very, very good. But that scene on the beach gave me a literal adrenaline-spike fight-or-flight panic response. That’s as close to truly not being able to handle a movie as I have ever been pushed. Probably didn’t help that I was a new dad at the time (let’s say, two months in?). I get why the scene is there, it’s not pointless, and I’m not offended or mad at the movie. I just really, really, really wish I hadn’t watched it.

  34. @Skani

    Would that scene in UNDER THE SKIN happen to involve a beach?

    I found that scene so deeply upsetting that I have no opinion on the rest of the movie. I suspect it’s very, very good. But that scene on the beach gave me a literal adrenaline-spike fight-or-flight panic response. That’s as close to truly not being able to handle a movie as I have ever been pushed. Probably didn’t help that I was a new dad at the time (let’s say, two months in?). I get why the scene is there, it’s not pointless, and I’m not offended or mad at the movie. I just really, really, really wish I hadn’t watched it.

  35. Yes, Dustin, that’s the one!

  36. Mr M — yeah, that makes more sense with his MO. He doesn’t like it when violence is “fun” because fun isn’t intense and edgy and in-your-face. It’s not about ethics, its about aesthetics.

    Skani — I agree that not all artists have the wherewithal to articulate the complex interplay between art and fantasy; in fact, if they did, they probably wouldn’t need art. I’m rather of the opinion that we’re spending too much time these days trying to force them to, when we’d be better off examining our own reaction to their work.

  37. Absolutely! I mean, I like all of it — thinking about what was driving it for the individual artist, how and how much the film is reacting to or engaging with the cultural moment, what kind of reactions the film is triggering in others, what it’s eliciting from me. All of the above. But I think all of that will be more fruitful if each of us is trying to own and articulate our own experience with it, including the idiosyncratic baggage we bring to the film, and how we’re interacting with it — vs. just projecting all of our reactions onto the film itself, as if we had the view from nowhere.

  38. Absolutely! I mean, I like all of it — thinking about what was driving it for the individual artist, how and how much the film is reacting to or engaging with the cultural moment, what kind of reactions the film is triggering in others, what it’s eliciting from me. All of the above. But I think all of that will be more fruitful if each of us is trying to own and articulate our own experience with it, including the idiosyncratic baggage we bring to the film, and how we’re interacting with it — vs. just projecting all of our reactions onto the film itself, as if we had the view from nowhere.

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