I absolutely hated, hated, hated, hated Rob Zombie's directorial debut film, "House of 1000 Corpses;" a messy, unwatchable movie that had a cool concept but was destroyed by paper-thin, unlikable characters and uneasy flashy cinematography that tried to mimic early old-school late '70s horror.
Still though, in my unsympathetic review I expressed interest in a sequel. Zombie had the right idea but no execution. I figured he would learn from his mistakes and polish his camera and try it again.
Lo and behold part II is upon us in the form of "The Devil's Rejects," the sequel which brings back the surviving characters from the original but (unfortunately) forgets about the original legend, Dr. Satan, whose still probably operating on hapless victims out in America's heartland below some cornfield.
It is the story of Dr. Satan I wanted to see explored but was able to sweep it under the rug in preparation for Zombie's attempt to action-ize the horror genre with ample amounts of guns and ammunition.
"Rejects" opens in 1978 with a police raid on a farmhouse that should have gone down many years prior as we learn an amazing 75 murders have taken place without a single hitch. No mention if the body count combines the murders from the first film when the farm was a hellish funhouse.
Sleeping soundly (as soundly as one could sleep with a nude corpse for a blanket) the Fireflys are awoken to police officers getting ready to break down the door. They arm themselves heavily and engage Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe) who is out to get revenge for the slaying of his cop brother back in the first film. With a sense of poetic pride he warns his fellow deputies to either be assertive or wind up "cold-slabbed, toe-tagged, and mailed to your mom in a plastic bag." With that kind of twisted dialogue "Rejects" is already leagues better than the first movie.
Mother Firefly (Leslie Easterbrook) is captured in the raid, allowing son Otis (Bill Moseley) and daughter Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) to escape and reunite with their father, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), and hopefully, the other brother, Tiny (Matthew McGrory), who was last seen in the opening credits dragging a dead naked woman through the dirt.
Spaulding is the film's comic relief, as he's first seen in bed with a rather portly woman before getting the news that his family is on the run and wife in police custody. He arranges to meet up with his family at a desolate motel where the majority of the film takes place and true horror begins.
The Fireflys meet a traveling band and hold them hostage in their room, forcing them into uncomfortable situations doing unspeakable acts to their own sick enjoyment. These are intense scenes and won't go over well with every mainstream moviegoer not prepared for this level of sadism in a movie that cleverly balances comedy and horror at the right levels. It's not as bloody as say this year's High Tension but looks more plausible.
"The Devil's Rejects" comes close to satisfaction but lets go at the climax - when we're supposed to get the payoff for enduring the Fireflys' unrelenting panache for torture and murder.
Alas, the end doesn't quite justify the means. What we get is a Wild West shootout to the blasting of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird," in what is the most inappropriate use of a great song in a movie it doesn't belong in.
Shot in slow-motion, the ending fails to allow audiences to see the Big Bang -which happens to the left of the screen and finishes after going black. Maybe Zombie wanted to purposely rob us of the satisfaction, having shown us so much gratuitous material in the middle of the film, but at least there's some when "House of 1000 Corpses" was completely devoid of anything good.