The first fifteen minutes of The Devil’s Rejects is as strong as any I’ve seen in modern horror. It’s hard not to feel that anyone criticizing Rob Zombie for doing the same old shit is doing so out of habit in this film. As focused and singular as House Of 1000 Corpses is scattershot, The Devil’s Rejects also benefits from the sense that Rob Zombie thought this might be the last film he ever got a chance to make. However the results of this impulse are totally different. Instead of the trying to stuff everything he ever might want to see in a film, it feels like Zombie took a deep breath, focused up and legitimately tried to make the best film he was capable of.
But those first fifteen minutes, man. The assault on the house, the crude homemade armor that the Fireflies don for the counter attack. The race through their underground dungeon where a few lucky survivors are still imprisoned, finally breaking out onto the rode to ambush some poor waitress while The Allman brothers croon. Damn that’s good stuff.
The Devil’s Rejects unfolds like a prolonged disturbed nightmare. Those who accuse Zombie of merely supporting psychopaths are looking at the film the wrong way. It’s true that Zombie certainly has a grim fascination with monsters, but in the long nightmarish hotel scene he makes no bones about whose side he’s really on. That’s us right there, Banjo and Sullivan and their wives aren’t some dumb squares who get what’s coming to them. They’re what happens when anybody crosses the Firefly’s path. And while much has been made of Zombie’s portrayal of Sheriff Wydell, (William Forsythe giving the best performance ever given in a Rob Zombie film) and the supposed equivancy it draws between their actions, I wonder if people aren’t quite copping to the amount of satisfaction they may feel in the final reel. Personally speaking it felt awful good watching the Rejects get paid in full for two films worth of cruelty, I’m not proud of that but I’m not going to lie.
The film plays like a walking tour of hell. Zombie’s infamous Mileu has rarely been put to better use. Every environment in the Devil’s Rejects looks like its been caked by a life time of filth and degradation. Zombie is one of the few of the neo-grindhouse filmmakers to copy the films of the seventies in philosophy as well as aesthetics. So much of modern horror attempts to get down right chummy with the audience. The Devil’s Rejects puts them under assault.