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It’s a fairly well known fact that Rob Zombie is a horror movie fanatic. From references in his music to his much lauded feature film debut, The House of 1000 Corpses, Zombie has the knowledge, love, and respect of his peers that came before him. However, those three ingredients aren’t always enough to mix out a successful film. My anticipation for his first film was high and I have to admit, that upon my initial screening of the movie, something felt wrong. I had heard from various sources that this movie hearkened back to the 70s era of horror films: gritty, dirty, offensive, and downright mean.  I felt none of that after the film and unfortunately there were too many negatives that I focused on rather than the few positives I saw. Sloppy editing, weak writing, and lack of real scares left me wanting my money back. When I heard that he was revisiting the characters of the original in a sequel I had no real interest in it until I saw the teaser trailer and it looked like Zombie had trimmed all the fat from his previous film and served up a real stunner of a movie. That movie was The Devil’s Rejects.

Devil's Rejects, The
This is the movie that I wanted to see. This was a movie that made me fear a director and what kind of ride he would take me on. This was the movie that House of a 1000 Corpses should have been. While the first film riffed off such movies as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Bloodsucking Freaks, this film felt more like Last House on the Left mixed with a road movie. In a nutshell, Zombie has crafted a truly horrifying picture that is devoid of ‘cheap’ scares and makes you truly afraid of the most horrifying monster of all: man.  

The plot itself is simple: a sheriff (William Forsythe) conducts a raid at the Firefly household and the resulting fallout of what happens when three of them (Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, and Sherri Moon Zombie) go on the run from the law. As can be assumed, much mayhem ensues and Zombie takes the viewer into a world devoid of black and white and immerses them into a world of grey.

The cast is excellent and Sid Haig and Bill Moseley give chilling performances that had to be difficult to portray. Sid Haig just owns the role of the homicidal clown Captain Spaulding and his voice and mannerisms do bring a depth to the character that I found lacking in the first film. Bill Moseley’s Otis is as scary talking as he is when he is actually killing. In fact, some of his diatribes in the film carry so much weight and are so intense that I found myself mesmerized with everything he said. Not so much what he spoke but how he spoke. I would listen to that man read a book on tape any day. Sherri Moon Zombie doesn’t fair as well as the rest of her ‘family’. Much like the first film I found her Baby grating and annoying and not able to carry her scenes like Moseley or Haig could. William Forsythe made an impression on me as well and chewed through his lines as well as the scenery. His Sheriff Wydell is intense and driven and one of the most engaging characters in the movie.
   
Devil's Rejects, The
The Devils’ Rejects is as much an exercise in nihilism as it is an exercise in perversity. The film lacks any central morality and I am surprised it didn’t create a wave of controversy surrounding its release. However, there is a central theme of what it is to be a family and what one will do for that family, the two principle ideas being whether one would die or whether one would kill for their kin. There are transitions throughout the film where character’s loyalties to family are tested and attempts made at defining what is right and what is wrong. As I stated before, the black and white elements eventually bleed together and the result is an interesting character film, most notably William Forsythe’s Sheriff Wydell. His motivation to stopping the family is simple, to avenge the death of his brother (Tom Towles) who died in the first film at the hands of the Firefly family. The ghost of his brother haunts him and eventually drives him into crossing a line. Avenging his death soon evolves into something more sinister as Wydell himself becomes just as horrific and evil as the Firefly family. His actions soon mirror the atrocities of the Firefly family and the audience has to decide who to root for or even worse: decide if his actions have merit? Would we also cross that line to avenge a death of a loved one?

The film takes an interesting turn as the family that used fear as a weapon now find themselves on the other end of the barrel. Wydell’s torture and abuse of the family eventually leads to his end so does his fate become a cautionary tale of what happens when you cross the line and become evil itself? The film ends on a sombre note as Zombie attempts to produce some sympathy for the Firefly family by splicing home movies of the family in better times along with their Bonnie and Clyde fate. This attempt at humanizing the family, along with the torture they go through, creates an interesting dilemma for the viewer: do you dare and feel bad for them or should we be rooting for their demise?  

The film boasts an impressive list of co-stars, most notably from other heralded 70s films. Most of the names you probably wouldn’t recognize but once you see the faces it hits you. Michael Berryman, Ken Foree, Danny Trejo, Priscilla Barnes, Geoffrey Lewis, and P.J. Soles are just a few of the actors Zombie was able to cast and utilize. I applaud him for casting such underappreciated actors and can’t wait to see who he digs out for future projects.

Devil's Rejects, The

Video


Lion’s Gate has presented The Devil’s Rejects in anamorphic video transfer of the film’s theatrical ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer is crisp and the colours are as vibrant as they can be considering the grittiness that Zombie was shooting for. Considering the feel of the film I was expecting lower quality film but was surprised to see the sharpness of the colours. There were bits of black that seemed to bleed a bit but nothing too substantial to warrant sufficient warning of the disc.    

Audio


Lion’s Gate offers two choices of audio as you have the 6.1 DTS ES Digital as well as the standard 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. The Dolby Digital is solid as always however there are several times where the soundtrack to the film is competing with the dialogue and becomes a tad bit annoying. Finding a balance should be expected with this disc if you want to get your money’s worth.  

Features


Lion’s Gate needs to be commended as The Devil’s Rejects DVD is loaded to the point of being obnoxious. This two-disc set boasts two feature length commentaries, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, make-up tests, five featurettes from the film, and a still gallery as well as the trailers and television spots.

The first commentary is from Rob Zombie himself and he comes off very humble and self-deprecating at times, which made the commentary enjoyable to listen to. Nothing bothers me more than directors that take themselves too seriously. There is a lot of information that he covers as he points out all sorts of continuity differences between his two films and explains his attempts at trying to humanize his characters. All in all an enjoyable listen. The other commentary track features Sherri Moon Zombie, Sid Haig, and Bill Moseley. The rapport these three have is instantly recognizable and their passion and overall enthusiasm for the project is infectious. They constantly rib one another and their anecdotes from the set are great. Turns out Moon Zombie nearly lost her hearing in one of the shootout scenes. They don’t go into as much detail as Zombie but a fun commentary nonetheless.  

The deleted scenes generally are extended scenes from the film and one of the more notorious scenes depicts just what happened to a certain Dr. from the first film. Most of the other scenes were cut for pacing and really didn’t add much to the layers of the characters.

Devil's Rejects, The
The blooper reel is exactly how it sounds and I had to admit seeing Moseley resort to cursing after flubbing his lines which consisted mostly of curses was very amusing. There are several extended pieces from bits that you see in the movie. There are two commercials for Captain Spaulding’s place of business, the entire Morris Green talk show, the Buck Owen’s video, and a fairly disturbing home video of Otis and one of his victims. There is a small but nice tribute piece to Matthew McGrory who played Tiny in both films. He passed away shortly after the film was released.

The real meat and potatoes of the special features comes on the second disc of the set. Clocking in at over two hours is a making of documentary that showcases the pre-production as well as the twenty nine days that it took to shoot the movie. This is as in-depth as it comes as fans of the movie, as well as those looking for a little know-how on filmmaking will enjoy. From the costumes, to the location scouting, to getting the right amount of blood right, nothing is overlooked in this making of and I particularly found the juxtaposition of seeing how a film was shot and the final product that ended up on the screen. Definitely not your standard EPK fluff piece.

Overall


More or less I am always left with an uneasy feeling after watching this movie.  Not having a central character to root for, not having a happy ending, all these things I love.  This is not your standard Hollywood fare and I applaud Zombie for that.  The uneasy feeling comes from knowing there are psychos like the Firefly family out there in the real world.  This is a film that doesn’t mock reality and makes you afraid. Kudos to Rob Zombie for making me afraid again.


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