Directed by Rob Zombie [Other horror films: House of 1000 Corpses (2003), Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009), The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009), The Lords of Salem (2012), 31 (2016), 3 from Hell (2019)]
Like many of the films I’ve seen recently, The Devil’s Rejects is one that I’ve not seen in years. There was a time in the past where I rated this quite highly, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. While I still derive quite a bit of enjoyment out of it, I don’t think it’s the masterpiece I once thought it was. Easily, though, this would be in Rob Zombie’s top movies, without question.
Also important to mention is something most people already know, being that this is a complete tonal shift away from the psychedelic House of 1000 Corpses. It’s a shift that I think makes sense, and more so, was probably necessary. In fact, the shift is so huge that this barely resembles a horror film, and, much like The Silence of the Lambs (which is arguably more horror than this), it’s on the fence of the genre. Personally, I’ve always seen enough here to count it, but I also dislike The Shining and Drag Me to Hell, so as always, take my opinions with a grain of salt.
I think what really pulls this movie together into the solid film it is are the fantastic central performances, especially from Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, and Sid Haig. We don’t get a lot of Haig in the previous film, but here, he’s decently fleshed out, and his scenes with Zombie and Moseley are golden given their deep history and fun interactions, and that ending is an emotional gut-punch on par with Titanic’s finale (and I’m only half joking).
Haig’s fun throughout, and the same can be said for Moseley, who really gives up some quality quotes (“I am the devil, and I am here to do the devil’s work”) throughout. Sheri Moon Zombie used to annoy me here, and to an extent, she still does, but I do find aspects of her character quite amusing (such as her blowing at a victim’s hair just to get a rise out of them) and her relationship with Otis and Spaulding is well-shown here.
Replacing Karen Black as Mother Firefly was Leslie Easterbrook (Police Academy), and while she may lack some of the charisma as Black, I think she does a great job showing the character’s more unstable side despite not having much screen-time. And speaking of unstable, William Forsythe (who strikes me as a big name, but I’ve not seen outside of Halloween and The Rig) does great as a deranged police officer. Lastly, Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead, From Beyond, and Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) was great, though his character was a bit hard to like at times. Still, him and his carnal relations with chickens made for a quality subplot.
I’m not really as interested in Forsythe’s investigations throughout the film, be it his argument about Elvis and Groucho Marx or his dealings with the two bounty hunters (Danny Trejo and Dallas Page), partially because I get tired of seeing Trejo’s face, and partially because it took time away from what I found the far-more engaging relationship between the remaining Firefly family, but I get the interest too in seeing more of Forsythe’s character devolving.
Otherwise, I find the story pretty engrossing throughout, and the finale at the Firefly house, what with Forsythe’s character torturing the three of them, was both fantastic and oddly emotional, though it can’t compete with the true emotion we get at the ending, and “Free Bird” playing the movie out. Just an overall fantastic conclusion.
I don’t like this movie quite as much as I used to, or maybe it’s more fair to say that I don’t quite place this on as high a pedestal as I did in the past. No doubt The Devil’s Rejects is still a good movie, but as my appreciation for House of 1000 Corpses has grown over the last couple of viewings, I can’t even truthfully admit that I like this much more.
This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss The Devil’s Rejects.