Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Devil's Rejects

2005, US, Directed by Rob Zombie
Colour, Running Time: 106 minutes
Review Source: DVD, R2, Momentum; Video: Anamorphic 1.78:1, Audio: DTS

The second feature length outing for the multi-talented metal-star-cum-movie-director follows House of 1000 Corpses almost as a sequel: it doesn’t specifically take up the same story but rather focuses on some of the principal antagonists, nasty murderous backwoods dwellers that creator Rob has clearly taken a liking to. Revealing the date to be around the end of the seventies (two years after House…) a group of cops lay siege to a house where a small posse of killers dubbed after the film’s title are hiding. A mass shootout ensues resulting in the loss of several lives, but the surviving Rejects, Baby Firefly and Otis, escape and hijack some old woman’s car to head out on their own strange little road trip. Warning their father (?) Captain Spaulding (the clown from House…) by telephone that the police may be heading his way he dumps his beached-whale missus and dilapidated home to meet them at a mutually convenient motel. When Spaulding arrives he finds they’ve wasted almost no time in capturing a couple of unnecessary hostages to torment, the sort of treatment he’s only too willing to participate in. The sheriff meanwhile has his own personal reasons for tracking down and destroying the Rejects - they were responsible for his brother’s death in the previous instalment. Soon his obsessive desire for vengeance brings him to a full-blooded showdown with the group as they’re hiding out with a friend who’s forced to betray their security.
For those who were interested in such things around the time, House of 1000 Corpses had extreme difficulty finding a distributor due to its proclivity for excess violence. I believe it was Lions Gate Films who eventually gathered together enough bottle to put it on public display (though shorn prior to that of some of its more visceral moments, footage that may now be lost forever), before others followed in picking it up for a more global distribution. Ironic then that after the film makes a few million dollars the sequel should have no trouble at all being produced, despite some of the most extreme violence and torment seen this side of the Video Recordings Act. The opening shot makes it clear to the audience that they’re not in for an easy journey - Tiny (played by supremely tall Matthew McGrory, who unfortunately died just days after the UK opening of …Devil’s) is seen dragging the naked corpse of a girl through the woods by her hair. The shootout after this fails to elicit any sympathy from the audience due to us not particularly caring about any of the characters at that point (in fact, by the film’s end you may even despise them), however, as the story progresses and we’re dragged along the same expedition as the titular characters it’s possible to find ourselves strangely fixated with their horrific antics. You may wince as a head is beaten, innocent victims are psychologically tortured, a girl is splattered across the highway, but you may also find yourself strangely compelled to continue viewing (unless you’re really squeamish of course). Of the number of directors in recent years who’ve laid claim at attempting to recreate the seventies gritty horror atmosphere of flicks like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hills Have Eyes, Death Trap, et al., Rob Z is the one who really seems to understand the era. Whether it’s art of any value or not is really down to viewer opinion but he seems to unpretentiously pay homage to a period of film-making clearly admired by him, and he successfully recreates his own scenarios almost as if they could chronologically slot nicely between the aforementioned semi-classics, despite the frequent injection of a more modern approach to editing and style. His astute choice of music reflects his talents for writing it (though I’m not the greatest fan of his music, he’s often displayed flair and creativity with White Zombie and his solo output), from Midnight Rider (Allman Bros.) to Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd, in the latter’s epic case a significant portion is implemented too believe it or not. I was surprised to find the soundtrack containing none of his own tracks (unlike the preceding movie) - perhaps he wanted to keep the story’s mood firmly rooted in its reflected era. The film reaches a logical conclusion that almost makes you’ve feel like you’ve satisfyingly accompanied a team of anti-heroes on their final road trip rather than tagged along to involuntarily witness the brutal exploits of despicable serial murderers - Rob Z effectively turns our disgust right on its head with his potent, skilfully constructed, and oddly likeable concoction of seventies grindhouse cinema, spaghetti westerns, and contemporary technique. I should point out also that it’s a movie that works better second time around so repeat viewings are recommended.

Despite having a lower budget than House… the movie looks and feels bigger than its predecessor thanks to smart decision-making and necessarily creative thinking, something that’s reflected by this stupendous transfer - colourful, bold, heavily detailed and with a rocking DTS track to boot. You wouldn’t have been short-changed by picking up the two discer either, with a monolithic 2 hour 20 minute documentary overseeing every practical aspect of pre-production onwards (Rob Z looks intense without his sunglasses but comes across as articulate and very logical in his approach to movie making). The shooting and ultimate omission of a Doctor Satan sequence (one of the characters from the first film) is also discussed, and the fact that it was left out seems like a wise choice despite the deformed man-thing being a fan favourite. For those prepared to be mentally smitten The Devil’s Rejects should offer a hypnotic ride through Hell. That’s a good thing by the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Bring forth your thoughts...