The Devil’s Rejects
Like a trash-kitsch pop culture Rousseau, New England-born/Manhattan-bred ghoul-metalist-turned-auteur Rob Zombie lusts for the naturally gritty wild and finds it in a Gothic South of sexed-up mommas and inbred psychotic good ol’ boys. That such fauna exist only in grindhouse triple bills didn’t stop Zombie’s 2003 House of 1,000 Corpses from being an oddly charming set of his other favorite things—1950s stripper loops, the Manson family, scary clowns, and other ephemera likely to pop up in a Suicide Girl’s profile. But Zombie’s new movie, The Devil’s Rejects, unwisely pretends to seriousness his screenwriting can’t sustain.
Clown-faced Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), giggly killer nympho Baby (Sheri Moon), and redneck psycho Otis (Bill Moseley) are back and meaner than ever, but this time as antiheroes on a movie-long lam from the dunderheaded law. The cussin’ and carryin’-on is as scatological and gruesome as ever, but with none of House’s fanboy playfulness. And when the sole “good guy” is a cop (William Forsythe) who guts an old woman and goes as psychotic as the lunatic trio, Devil’s leaves you seriously short-shifted in the human-interest department.
Actually, Devil’s is less a horror flick than a sadistic throwback to ’70s redneck freak-outs à la Return to Macon County with nods to that era’s revisionist westerns. And based on the Devil’s endless cameos, Zombie has never met a -sploitation he didn’t love. Along with Dawn of the Dead’s Ken Foree as, of course, a pimp, there are cameos by such B-to-Z regulars as Death Race 2000’s Mary Woronov, The Hills Have Eyes’ Michael Berryman, and the made-for-TV Helter Skelter’s Steve Railsback.
Zombie has grown terrifically as a filmmaker: A Peckinpah-esque precision shoot-out and weirdly effecting Bonnie and Clyde-esque death scene accompanied, sans irony, by all of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” both impress. But critically missing is a more realistic element, such as the classism that brought much needed context and motivation for Otis, Spaulding, and Baby in House. And while Zombie’s argument appears to be that most contemporary American movies bear as much relation to reality as Velveeta does to food, shooting in 16mm and populating his movie with uniformly nasty bijou archetypes only substitutes one variety of simulation for another, leaving you feeling mildly buzzed but hollow.