Starring: Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe, Ken Foree. Rated R.
Rob Zombie’s 2003
splatterfest House of 1000 Corpses
was a sprawling mess, a vision of the macabre too scattered to leave a lasting
impression. In his latest, The Devil’s Rejects, he crams that same violent vision into a more
coherent tale, and the result is a powerful and disturbing fantasy that will
stay with viewers long after the closing credits.
Fans of 1000 Corpses will instantly recognize all
the returning players:
Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), Otis (Bill Moseley) and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie)
return as members of a sadistic clan labeled -- what else? -- the Devil’s
Rejects when police discover over 70 mutilated corpses in their torture chamber
of a basement. When the trio manages to elude capture, Sheriff Wydell (William
Forsythe), a self-proclaimed demon slayer, makes it his mission to hunt them
down and slaughter them. Before this inevitable showdown, the Rejects jack up
the body count, methodically slicing and dicing a group of country musicians in
a roadside motel.
Sound grisly? Tasteless?
Unpleasant? The Devil’s Rejects is
all of these things, but it is also a riveting revenge fantasy that infuses its
brutal vision of hell-on-earth with dark humor and quick-witted dialogue. If 1000
Corpses was an aggressively campy
but woefully misguided homage to ’70s horror classics like Texas
Massacre and Last House on the
Left, Zombie’s latest rises to their
level. With its grainy footage, stylish cinematography and gleefully subversive
attention to gore, it looks like a blood-encrusted relic unearthed from a
30-year-old time capsule, but the story is fresh, shocking and wholly absorbing.
The acting’s not too shabby,
either. Haig and Moseley bring wild-eyed, manic energy to their roles without
going too far over the top, but the real revelation here is Forsythe, whose
seething intensity is almost palpable. Early on, he is a sheriff merely doing
his job; When his job becomes a personal quest for revenge, he begins to fancy
himself the right hand of the Lord, unwittingly transforming into that which he
despises most. After all, Wydell’s desire to torture and kill his victims is
every bit as sadistic as their desire to do the same, only he fancies himself a
righteous avenger. The Rejects are no less sinister, just a bit more
Forsythe dives into his role
with the passion of a crazed zealot, and his performance is the driving force
behind an epic, cathartic climax in which the wrath of God and the minions of
the devil seemingly collide. If viewers aren’t entirely sure whom to root for,
they can be forgiven. The forces of good are no less morally bankrupt than the
forces of evil in The Devil’s Rejects, an irony that Zombie surely relishes as much as we do the pleasure of
watching them tear each other to shreds.