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July 19, 2005

The Devil's Rejects

Extreme Prejudice
Rob Zombie Takes Horror Exploitation To Its
Neoconservative Extreme
By Cole Smithey

Devil's Rejects Controversial for its gratuitous use of exploitative violence and gore "The Devil's Rejects" is unredeemable for its wrongheaded attempt at glamorizing a band of detestable serial killers. Writer/director Rob Zombie's vaguely kindred sequel to his slapdash horror movie "House of 1000 Corpses," finds the satanic Firefly family of quasi cannibals forced on the lam after a bloody showdown with cops attempting to bust up their serial-killing enterprise. William Forsythe takes on thankless acting duties as the film's temporary protagonist, Sheriff Wydell before a third act bait-and-switch substitutes the serial killers as the would-be likable characters the audience is expected to empathize with. "The Devil's Rejects" is a fascist piece of neoconservative filmmaking that should be ignored with a vengeance.

Rob Zombie opens the movie with a '70s era television credit sequence homage that mocks the same style David Gordon Green used in his Terrence Malick-inspired drama "Undertow" (2004). As Sheriff Wydell leads a team of speeding patrol cars to the Firefly's remote Alabama farmhouse, where all kinds of torture and carnage has taken place, the camera regularly freezes to apprehend the vulgar characters whose violent actions we will contemplate for the duration of the film. The compositions are lovingly composed to emphasize the presence of Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) as an out-of-place normal looking girl who fills the sort of validating purpose for the offensive killers as Pat Priest served as Marilyn on the "Munsters " television show.

For all of the firepower at their disposal, the cops are nonetheless beaten at their own game so that Zombie's revolting renegades can hit the open road and call in the help of their greasy serial killer clown accomplice Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig). The group's bloodthirsty mother (Leslie Easterbrook) is captured and taken into custody by Sheriff Wydell, who wants desperately to avenge the murder of his brother by the Firefly gang. 

The centerpiece of the movie is a desensitizing torture, humiliation, and murder sequence that alone should have mandated an NC-17 rating for the movie. The Firefly gore-hounds kidnap a close-knit traveling country music band at a motel and set about sexually humiliating the bandleader's wife and friend in an episode of torture that is utterly reprehensible. The sequence is made all the more abject when the sole surviving victim is discovered by a motel chambermaid, wearing a mask made from a human face. The shocking scene that follows delivers one of the most grisly and unnecessarily disgusting visuals in cinema history.   

It seems that Rob Zombie is so bored with "heroes" that he, like the neoconservative movement in America, is content to stretch the examples set at Abu Ghraib out to their logical limit. He tries to posit insanely cruel and heartless killers as gentle people who enjoy the simple things in life, like partying together and taking comfortable walks in the sun when they aren't busy raping and eviscerating other people.

If there's one consistent thematic lesson to be culled from "The Devil's Rejects" it's that we should embrace ruthless murderers as outlaw saints. It doesn't matter how many innocent people are tortured in "The Devil's Rejects" because they all end up dying in a horrible blood-splaying ecstasy that the audience is expected to soak up like rubberneckers at a noxious car wreck as if to say, "Was it good for you too?"

Zombie puts his big-statement tagline on the movie with a "Thelma And Louise"-inspired ending that has the serial killers driving in a big convertible American car as Lynard Skynyrd's "Freebird" plays. As the car speeds toward a roadblock of rifle firing cops, a series of flashbacks shows the gang enjoying each other's company on sunny days like a well-adjusted family. The "barf-me-out" episode is clearly meant to be ironic just as George Bush's permanent smirk prevents him from ever being sincere or serious. The implications are deadly.


Rated R. 101 mins. (F) (Zero Stars)

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