Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Devil's Rejects

The Devil's Rejects, a loose and infinitely better continuation than 2003's what the fuck was that identity-confused House of 1000 Corpses, reveals a much wiser, tighter and more psychologically punishing story than the previous entry. Rob Zombie writes and directs again, reuniting us with the Firefly Family as local police, , lead by William Forsythe as Sheriff Widell, surround their quaint cottage and proceed to engage them in a macabre dance of death with assault rifles in place of tiaras. Two members of the family escape and meet up with their father, Captain Spaulding (Sig Haig) to continue their path of careless murder through the Texas landscape. After vanquishing a harmless batch of pop-country performers, they head towards Spaulding's brother Charlie's (Dawn of the Dead's Ken Foree - listen for some familiar sound effects) prostitution shack and have a final duel with the sheriff, who has become just as unstable as the very people he is chasing.
When watching this film, you will undoubtedly be aware of the material that it draws from. Zombie speaks a language very familiar to fans of horror cinema, especially gore films of the 70s. Its' nice to finally see a legitimate R-rated horror film again, void of Wes Craven's sitcom characters with tamed down scares and pumped full of blood, explicit language, irrelevant nudity and characters that don't take shit from anyone. The movie moves fast too, taking breaks only to let the plot develop and the dust settle after scenes of torture. With all his influences, Zombie is also aware of his place in Modern Cinema. The Devil's Rejects is at times a tribute to his influences and at times a progressive individual vision in a time of big budget studio films.
The story of the Firefly Family's killing spree is truly painful to watch at times, as on-screen victims are tortured, raped and humiliated at the hands of a seriously deranged group of Texans. There are no compromises made on the audience's behalf, as any sympathy you might feel towards the victims is quickly extinguished by Zombie's relentless punishments at the hands of the leading characters. This brings up the unique perspective given to the film, with the serial killers being the eyes of the film and the sheriff being the pursuing hand-of-god. This lack of consideration towards the conventional format of horror films can be strange to take in at first, but as the film progresses and the audience's sympathies are toyed with it becomes evident how successfully this was pulled off. It's hard to describe the feeling of sharing sympathy for a group of people that just removed the face of an innocent man and forcibly made the wife wear it as a mask, but as your allegiance shifts, you may find yourself appreciating Rob Zombie for forcing you into this unfamiliar moral territory.
While I applaud the movie for taking strides forward for Hollywood Horror, it is definitely not without faults. The Firefly Family, while by no means wholesome, never convince me that they are the same family who, at the opening of the film, rape corpses and keep human remains in their refrigerator. There was not enough on-screen development of their deranged psycosis and total indifference to mankind for them to have been as horrible as their previous crimes would has us believe. I found myself wanting even more insanity and more snaps of violent judgment at the hands of the family to make the characters more consistently evil.
This film is a nasty, heartless piece of horror cinema. The biggest hurdle it overcomes is in turning the alienation created between the audience and the film into an emotional experience. By creating a world in which everyone is inhuman, watching the film is along the lines of watching wild animals kill one another. There are no morals in the animal kingdom, and Zombie shows us that ours may be more maniputable than we had believed.