Rob Zombie’s sequel to House Of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects is a very different kind of horror film and shows the lessons that he’d learned in between.
While 1000 Corpses was a stylistic smorgasboard of death and depravity, all garish neon and music video editing techniques, The Devil’s Rejects takes the Firefly family and chucks them into a 70s road movie. Full of death and depravity of course…
There’s barely more of a plot than last time, with the cop brother of the cop who got killed by Mama Firefly out to bring them down, partly in the name of justice, mostly in the name of revenge.
After a shoot-out at their house of horrors, Otis, Baby and Captain Spaulding go on the run, while Mama (played by a different actress) gets taken into custody. Needless to say, the murderous trio don’t take long to fall upon some innocent people and start doing horrible things to them.
Zombie may have toned down some of the effects he used in his debut film, he can’t help but still use too many, too often here, particularly the freeze frame thing that is in play for most of the first 10-15 minutes (or at least it feels like it), and there’s even more comparisons to make with Natural Born Killers.
What’s missing in The Devil’s Rejects is the slightly camp and trashy sense of (dark) fun that the very garish House Of 1000 Corpses had. Everything’s dirtier and grittier here, with visual inventiveness generally replaced by lots of desert sand.
There’s also no sign of Dr Satan or his zombies, because Zombie (ahem) felt that would be out of place, which is fair enough. Maybe they just stayed hidden underground. Or Dr Satan wanted the kind of money Karen Black (the first Mama) was after. Whatever.
Having gone for a different feel, Zombie certainly pulls it off with his choice of music, which is all Southern rock ‘n’ roll road music, bookended really well (if predictably) by the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The shift in plot also works well towards the end, when the roles are reversed and suddenly it’s the serial killers who are being terrorised by the ‘off the deep end’ sheriff, particularly when it comes to releasing Baby so he can chase her and kill her, casting Sheri Moon Zombie as the damsel in distress all of a sudden.
But none of this is to suggest that there’s a whole lot going on beneath the surface. Zombie pulls off some clever tricks here and there and it’s all entertaining (and occasionally horrifyingly vicious), but it’s all style and very little substance.
But when the style works, it makes for a film that is still a cut above most modern day equivalents in this most half-hearted of genres. A flawed labour of love is always preferable to a cynical cash-in.