GRIMM & Chill: The Devil’s Rejects

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  • Title: The Devil’s Rejects
  • Director: Rob Zombie
  • Cast: Sid Haig, Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, William Forsythe
  • Genre: horror
  • Publication date: July 22nd, 2005
  • Runtime: 107 min
  • Production company: Lions Gate Films

The story takes place in May of 1978, a few months after the events of House of 1000 Corpses. No time is wasted reintroducing the characters, as a large posse of state troopers, led by Texas Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe), attack the Firefly family at their household. Only Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis Driftwood (Bill Moseley) and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) manage to escape. All the other members of the Firefly family are either killed or captured. The three fugitives, nicknamed ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ by the media, spend the rest of the movie on the road, going from place to place, trying to keep out of Wydell’s clutches. This ruthless sheriff believes he’s on a mission from God to send the Devil’s Rejects back to hell where they belong, and he isn’t afraid to break the law himself in order to achieve this goal.

After the successful release of House of 1000 Corpses, writer/director Rob Zombie started working on a sequel. For his second feature film however, Zombie didn’t want to simply repeat himself. He wasn’t interested in making something like House of 1000 Corpses: part II. Instead he opted to take some of those previously introduced characters and put them in a different setting. House of 1000 Corpses was more akin to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977), whereas The Devil’s Rejects takes inspiration from road movies like Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Badlands (1973). Movies that feature outlaws and anti-heroic protagonists who leave a trail of death and destruction behind as they try to outrun the law.

This shift in genre is not only visible in the structure of the story, but also in the movie’s visual style. There are for example significantly more scenes taking place during the day, showcasing grander landscapes. There’s also a stylistic shift regarding the soundtrack. This time there are no songs from Rob Zombie himself. Instead we get an atmospheric score by Tyler Bates, interspersed with southern rock tracks. My favorite one being Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s Free Bird, perfectly placed during the movie’s climactic scene.

The Devil’s Rejects is a significant improvement over its predecessor in pretty much every aspect. The storytelling, the dialogue, the cinematography, … All of it showcases a storyteller who is much more in control of his craft. This doesn’t mean that the movie is beyond reproach though. There is for example an overabundance of slow-motion during action sequences, some scenes tend to linger on for too long and a few acting performances are a bit ridiculous and cheesy.

The returning cast members, however, are all on top of their game. Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie and the late Sid Haig all deliver committed performances. They manage to make their characters charismatic and almost likeable, despite committing atrocious acts of cruelty. Newcomer William Forsythe is also a welcome addition. He fits right in as the ruthless Sheriff Wydell. Be on the lookout as well for some supporting roles by iconic (horror) actors such as Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead, 1978), Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, 1977) and Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn, 1996).

While my review for House of 1000 Corpses wasn’t particularly favorable, I’m glad to say that The Devil’s Rejects has aged much better over the past 15 years. The genre-shift from a gory exploitation horror film to a violent blend of action, horror, western and road movie works surprisingly well. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s definitely a superior movie and, compared to the rest of his filmography, this is probably Rob Zombie‘s directorial magnum opus.

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