The Devil's Rejects Review
By Shawn McKenzie 07/22/2005
When I reviewed rocker and writer/director Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses over two years ago, I hated the movie. It was during a period where horror movies like Wrong Turn and Corpses were making me sick of seeing killer hillbillies. Normally when you have a bad horror movie, its sequel isn’t going to be much better. The Devil’s Rejects proves that theory wrong this time.
In 1978, Sheriff John Quincy Wydell (William Forsythe), along with his men Sheriff Ken Dwyer (Steve Railsback) and Officer Ray Dobson (Dave Sheridan), make a raid on the house of the Firefly family. They have evidence of over 75 people being killed and stored in their basement. The media calls them “The Devil’s Rejects,” and Wydell wants to serve justice to them. His motives aren’t exactly about protecting mankind; he wants revenge for the murder of his brother, Lieutenant George Wydell (Tom Towles), who was killed in the first movie. During the raid, Rufus “R.J.” Firefly Jr. (Tyler Mane, replacing Robert Allen Mukes from the first movie) is killed and Mother Firefly (Leslie Easterbrook, replacing Karen Black) is detained. Her adult kids, Otis B. Driftwood (Bill Moseley) and Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie), escape through a secret tunnel in the house. The only member of the Firefly family who isn’t there, Tiny (Matthew McGrory), is busy dragging a corpse through the woods. Otis and Baby steal a car from a nurse named Abbie (Mary Woronov) by having Baby pretend to be unconscious in the middle of the road and then having Otis stab the nurse in the back with his knife. Wydell sees several pictures of Baby’s father, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), a killer who dresses like a clown. After having a dream about having wild sex with a woman named Fanny (Ginger Lynn Allen), Spaulding sees a news report on TV about the raid. Right after that, he gets a phone call from Baby, telling him what happened. They agree to meet up at the Kahiki Palms Motel and plan their next strategy. He then calls Charlie Altamont (Ken Foree), the proprietor of Charlie’s Frontier Fun Town (which is actually a brothel), to tell him that they will be heading there soon to hide out from the law. Charlie tells Spaulding that he doesn’t want the Firefly clan there, a fact that he tells his assistant Clevon (Michael Berryman) and his two main prostitutes, Candy (E.G. Daily) and Casey (Deborah Van Valkenburgh), but the clown ignores him and says that they are coming anyway. Otis and Baby kidnap a country band called Banjo & Sullivan once they get to the motel. The band consists of two married couples, Roy (Geoffrey Lewis) and Gloria Sullivan (Priscilla Barnes), and Adam (Lew Temple) and Wendy Banjo (Kate Norby), along with their roadie Jimmy (Brian Posehn.) Otis kills Jimmy and commences to torture the country band. Spaulding has car trouble and steals the car of a woman named Susan (P.J. Soles) and her son Jamie (Jordan Orr) in order to get to the motel. After torturing and killing most of the country band, Otis and Baby, along with Spaulding (who has now arrived), leave the bodies there in the motel for Maria Gomez (Jossara Jinaro), the maid, to find. Wydell shows up on the scene at the hotel, and he enlists a pair of bounty hunters called The Unholy Two, Rondo (Danny Trejo) and Billy Ray Snapper (Diamond Dallas Page), to find the Firefly family. Wydell also finds out from a local film critic named Marty Walker (Robert Trebor) that all of the Firefly family members and their associates have aliases named after characters portrayed by Groucho Marx. Spaulding’s character was in 1930’s Animal Crackers, Otis was in 1935’s A Night at the Opera, Rufus was in 1933’s Duck Soup, and Charlie was in 1941’s The Big Store, except that he went by that movie’s alias, Wolf J. Flywheel. It is through the Charlie connection that Wydell knows where to find the Firefly clan. He doesn’t care about taking them to jail…he just wants to torture them in the same way that they tortured their victims…and pay them back for killing his brother.
The main reason that this movie is better than the first one is that it has an original concept that I have never seen before in a horror movie. While the Firefly family are definitely murderers, they become sympathetic characters who all love one another and are very loyal, so when Wydell ends up being as murderous as the Fireflys, they almost look like the families who have been tortured by the cannibalistic clan in the past. Wydell becomes a horror movie killer himself, but his victims are restricted to the Firefly family only.
The acting is a little better this time around. The three main Fireflys, Haig, Moseley, and Moon Zombie, seem to have taken some acting classes since the first movie (actually, I didn’t think that Haig was that bad in the first movie either.) The rest of the cast seems to be a greatest hits of ‘70s and ‘80s has-beens. Foree (the original Dawn of the Dead), Railsback (“Helter Skelter”), Easterbrook (the Police Academy movies), Woronov (Rock ‘n’ Roll High School), Allen (ex-porn star), Lewis (High Plains Drifter and many other Clint Eastwood movies), Barnes (“Three’s Company”), Soles (Carrie; Stripes), Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes), and Valkenburgh (“Too Close for Comfort”) have all seen better days. This was a fun way for them to earn a paycheck.
Another thing that was cool about the movie was the soundtrack. Zombie used old classic rock and country songs to enhance the plot. The Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider,” Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” almost become characters themselves. Not that “Brick House 2003” with Zombie and Lionel Richie from the first movie wasn’t entertaining, but the soundtrack in this movie fit the mood better.
As much praising as I have been giving for The Devil’s Rejects, it is far from being a perfect film. I don’t know where I can put my finger on it, but I can’t exactly give it a perfect score. Zombie fans and anyone who is into gory horror will love it. It might even appeal to fans of Quentin Tarantino or of Oliver Stone’s 1994 movie Natural Born Killers, because it almost feels like those movies instead of a horror movie. Now…is Zombie finally going to branch out into another genre…or is he going to pigeonhole himself in horror? I don’t know the answer to that question, but at least he has learned how to be a better filmmaker in general.
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