THE DEVIL'S REJECTS
The Cutting Room - Episode 10 - Intro/Review
By Joseph Christiana, 5/13/2012
Rob Zombie's sophomore effort, 2005's THE DEVIL'S REJECTS pretty much picks up where
his debut film HOUSE OF A THOUSAND CORPSES left off. Despite riding on the against-all-
odds success of his first film, Zombie was given less time and less money for his follow-up, but,
as he's acknowledged in interviews, he was armored this time around with the experience of
having a feature length film under his belt and got closer to his vision. The result is a better
produced film that's less campy than his first effort, a film that has more to do with BONNIE AND
CLYDE and Sergio Leone than with THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and the haunted
house ride at a traveling carnival.
Before the credits even roll, we find the sadistic Fire Fly family under siege by the local
authorities. The gunfight at their desiccated Texas ranch plays like an adrenaline cocktail and
the result has the patriarch dead, the saucy whore Mother Firefly arrested, and the Giant burn
victim, Tiny, disappeared while the other three family members-- The Filthy Clown, The firey
trollop, and the perverse serial killer are all on the lam.
Emerging from the subsequent "catch us all up" newsreel montage is Sheriff Wydell, played by
William Forsythe, leading the investigation to run down the fugitives as they tear their way
across the parched Texas landscape. See, it's personal to Wydell because his brother was
killed by the Firefly family in the first film.
While he attempts to slap answers out of the captured mother, her kin continue to reek havoc
even while in flight. They promptly kidnap and torture a traveling band of musicians at a
roadside motel before finding refuge with a jive ass pimp friend named Charlie.
By the time the confrontation between hunted and hunter rolls around, there's been enough
shooting and stabbing and general sadism to satiate the most masochistic of us and there are
even a few genuinely frighteningly moments before the whole she-bang winds its way to a
blaze of glory style ending that seems, oddly, to reference as much THELMA AND LOUISE as it
does YOUNG GUNS, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and any other number of
exploitation western shoot em up endings.
Now because of the endless stream of bloody horror flicks I've been ogling nonstop for this
podcast, it may just be that I'm numbing to the extremities of cinematic violence. Or it may be
the non-existent plot, lack of empathetic characters, or the implausibility of the fugitives
arbitrarily kidnapping and torturing four people for no apparent reason while on the run…
Whatever the reason, I felt a bit ambivalent about this picture… and this despite the fact that I
sensed something raw and genuine in it.
Now as most listeners here probably know, ambivalence is not my style. So I did some digging
around to unearth that thing that's raw and genuine and powerful that Zombie puts up on the
screen. I found it and it made me realize that it doesn't really matter one iota if I lack passion
for Rejects because what's most important about the picture is that the director has it. He has
passion in spades and it exudes through every frame and homage and clunky comic book line
and splitter splatter of blood. Though Rejects isn't as giddy as his first picture, all that sincere
love for the genre is present. The best part is that he's not ridiculing his sources of inspiration
(as we saw last week with HOBO), he's sincerely using his inspirations as references, as maps
to make his own movie, a good movie.
What's more, he has the iron fortitude to push through an unimaginative studio system a film
that he believes in despite the fact it doesn't swim in the mainstream and would surely scorned
by many. Yes, Zombie's passion is palpable and infectious and I was with him the whole way,
despite even my ambivalence.
So while his characterizations, dialog and scene construction are not quite at first class levels,
his visualization is quite beautiful and his sound design, hell, his sound design is something to
be reckoned with. In fact, his use of music and sound is Oscar worthy, no shit.
And as a producer of entertainment, well, Zombie has had his finger on the pulse of white
suburban teen angst for a long time running now. He maneuvers the pop landscape like a New
Jerseyian navigates the WillowBrook mall, and, in fact, he's able to fill that mall with a sort of
marketable subversion that's rebellious enough for your average pimple popper and just safe
enough to be carried by the major record labels and megaplexes.
And that, his intuitive understanding of the American Teen Zeitgeist, is going to translate, I
believe, in a long list of films to come from Zombie. I'm looking forward to them 'cause while my
rating of it will echo my stated ambivalence, I expect that we'll see great things from him yet.
And his Halloween pictures are steps in that progression.