Controversial for its gratuitous use of sadistic violence and gore, The Devil’s Rejects is ultimately unredeemable for its wrongheaded attempt at glamorizing a band of cocky and detestable serial killers. Writer/director Rob Zombie’s vaguely kindred sequel to his slapdash 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.
Zombie opens the movie with a 1970s television credit sequence homage mocking the same style David Gordon Green used in his Terrence Malick-inspired 2004 drama Undertow. As Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe) 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 Wydell, who wants desperately to avenge the torture and 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, wearing a mask made from a human face, by a motel chambermaid. The shocking sudden scene that follows delivers one of the most grisly and unnecessarily disgusting visuals in cinema.
It seems that Zombie is so bored with “heroes” that he, like the neoconservative movement in America, is content to stretch the examples set at Abu Ghraib Prison 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, eviscerating and killing people.
If there’s one consistent thematic lesson to be culled from The Devil’s Rejects it’s that we should embrace abhorrent and 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. MTW