Almost an apology for HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS radically changes everything that was connected to part 1. The characters that are back from the original have been altered along with their relationships with each other. The style of the film is completely different. It's really more like an extremely violent western similar to the Italian Western CUT THROATS NINE. Being a huge fan of HOUSE I was eagerly waiting the somewhat delayed DEVIL'S. I read everything I could find on the Internet. I studied every article in FANGORIA. The news was that this was a much more realistic darker sequel. Gone were the colorful monsters like Dr. Satan and the Professor because they didn't fit into this new more realistic darker reality. This wasn't going to have the humor of the original. No laughs here. I'll be honest. I was a little apprehensive seeing this film. How could DEVIL'S be a darker film? I was nervous as I was watching the movie in the theater fearful of what the more realistic violence will do to my fragile little mind. But then some of the characters on screen started talking about STAR WARS and my fears dissipated. Hey, Zombie! This ain't freakin CLERKS!
So THE DEVIL'S REJECTS starts off with some words telling us about Sheriff Wydell doing a "search and destroy" mission on the Firefly family's home. I guess "search and destroy" means following police procedure, firing back when fired upon, arresting suspects and collecting evidence to use in a criminal trial long down the road. Hmm...The term "search and destroy" probably sounded better when it was written in the script. The reason Wydell is there is because................I don't know. We are never told why Wydell would be compelled to raid the house. What evidence does he have to go to that house? The film gets a little ahead of itself. Baby and Otis escape and spend most of the movie terrorizing a country music singing group in a motel waiting for Captain Spaulding who is now Baby's dad. Wydell's mind unhinges as he breaks the law with his murderous rage to hunt and kill the Rejects.
The great contradiction of this film is the portrayal of the Firefly family. The first half of this film takes place in a hotel room. Baby and Otis spend much of the film's run time terrorizing the country music folks. They beat, molest, rape, humiliate and ultimately murder the singing group. This whole part of the movie has nothing to do with anything except to pass the time. It is suppose to show how horrible Otis and Baby are. We are suppose to sympathize with the singers cringing in discomfort at the horrible way they are treated. Otis is compelling even though his character is way more granola than his previous incarnation in HOUSE. He is less artsy fartsy and more FREEBIRD!!!! Baby comes off more as an actress who is in this film because she is married to the director. Her acting is rather uneven. Sometimes she is passable other times her lines come out forced and unconvincing. After spending SO MUCH TIME murdering these people Spaulding shows up and suddenly the film magically changes these murderous evil doers to lovable, "keep on truckin" sympathetic heroes. They have a funny argument debating whether or not to stop for freakin ice cream. Did they pay for that ice cream? Hey the law is after us! Let us stop and risk getting shot in the face by the cops so we can get TOOTY-FREAKIN-FRUITY! That makes sense. Then at the moment they are about to die at the end we are treated to family home movies of the three of them prancing around in an open field under the sunshine being happy and appreciating all of life's wonderful mysteries. Does that sound like the bastards we just spent the last seventy minutes with? THE DEVIL'S REJECTS has the audacity to invoke sympathy for killers. That is a hard thing to do and requires a well told story that is able to show both the good and the bad of a character through the course of the story.
Take for example THE WILD BUNCH. Peckinpah's story of aging outlaws sticking together during the end of their era never apologizes for their violent behavior. Yet at the end when they have all been gunned down by the Mexican army there is a sense of loss. We miss them even though they are bad men. The movie presents us with well rounded characters that have a wide range behaviors. They can stick together out of loyalty being honorable men yet able to gun down an unarmed civilian for getting in the way. It takes skill to tell a story where the outlaws are the protagonists. THE DEVIL'S REJECTS simply starts out like torture porn but then changes mood entirely remembering all too late that we the audience have to feel something for these horrible horrible Earth monsters in order for the ending to have an emotional impact. If you can't get the audience to like them then just add a Lynard Skynard song to let them know that they should be feeling sad.
THE DEVIL'S REJECTS didn't leave the impact on me that HOUSE did. HOUSE was something I had never seen before. It's an intense and always interesting film. I wasn't sure where the film was taking me and I wasn't sure I wanted to know. DEVIL'S just made me feel "meh". It wasn't terrible but it wasn't great which is what you expect from the mind of a great man. The sequel is deserted and dry but that isn't a terrible thing. It works with the American Western theme for the film. But I didn't get as involved with this one. With the exception of the strong characters like WydellSpaulding and his brother Charlie most of this film was forgettable. Not much drew me into this film. Why? Maybe it's because a large portion of the movie takes place in a motel room. That's not very interesting to look at. On the DVD there is a four hour documentary of Zombie explaining how he wants to make everything as uninteresting as possible to avoid the big action Hollywood movie. The more actiony parts of the REJECTS like the raid on the farm and the end shoot out Lynard Skynard music video are all shot with as little visual stimuli as possible. The camera shakes and moves around too much almost like it films around the action. Its like he is trying to not be Michael Bay by filming like Michael Bay. Also I would like to point out that Zombie talks about wigs in old movies on the documentary and how if they didn't look real that this would take him out of the movie completely. He couldn't get over fake looking wigs. That's funny because there is a lot of CGI blood in DEVIL's which contrasts big time against the realistic look. People bleed cartoons big time in this one. Should that take me out of the film?
THE DEVIL'S REJECTS tries to be smart when it shouldn't. The idea is that Sheriff Wydell is just as evil as the Rejects because he plans on killing them outside the law. Wydell is suppose to be a villain. He seems to be enjoying the hunt. That's a cool idea. It takes a maniac to kill a maniac or whatever but there is a difference between he and they. WYDELL DOESN'T GO AROUND AND KILL INNOCENT PEOPLE! If they were going to use that angle then there should have been a part where Wydell actually killed someone innocent that got in his way. But they don't. Spaulding just says "He is like us" and that's it. I don't see how. He kills murderers to stop murderers. The Fireflys kill because they enjoy it. That's a difference, folks. I will say Forsythe is awesome in this movie. He carries this film as his character goes off the reservation. He never should have died. The film deflates a bit the second he is quickly killed. His death is weak sauce. There was no poetry to it. He gets his neck snapped and that is it. Kind of a blah death for the film's strongest character. A great villain deserves a great villain's death. Oh, yea I forgot. This film is suppose to make things uninteresting on purpose. Sigh.........
I know I just wrote a bunch of crap-ola crap-ola-ing all over this film but I do like it. DEVIL'S is a good film. The idea of taking these characters and putting them into a modern western is wonderful unique approach to a sequel. I happen to like westerns. They are my fave. The problem is that too many regard DEVIL'S as the better film of the two and I don't see why. I have a feeling that they (the nerd-Os) want to like Zombie's film work because his music is so awesome. HOUSE may have been too much for them with it's strange experimental flashy style. The movie throws a lot at the audience visually almost all at once but DEVIL'S does the opposite. It almost doesn't want to show anything at all. American audiences can relate more to that because they tend to want movies to be as realistic as possible. It's suppose to be a darker film yet the dialogue is funnier than the first film. That doesn't make sense. The Kentucky Fried dialogue is the only thing in excess from the original. Otherwise everything from the first movie is stripped away leaving us with a barren dry film that is too barren and too dry. Don't get me started on the HALLOWEEN movies.