Directed By: Rob Zombie
Starring: Sid Haig, Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley
Tag line: "Death walks behind. Hell waits ahead"
Trivia: Around one hundred digital effects shots appear in the film, mostly to create gore
While I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for Rob Zombie’s 2003 debut feature The House of 1000 Corpses, there’s no denying that its sequel, 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects, is the superior film.
A blood-soaked tale of murder and revenge, The Devil’s Rejects re-introduces us to the Firefly family, namely Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Mama (Leslie Easterbrook), Rufus (Tyler Mane), and Tiny (Matthew McGrory, in his final screen appearance), who, according to reports, are responsible for as many as 75 homicides. As the movie opens, Sheriff John Quincey Wydell (William Forsythe) and a number of Texas state troopers are descending on the Firefly house, intent on taking the entire family into custody. A shootout ensues, during which Rufus is killed and Mama Firefly is arrested. Taking advantage of the confusion, Otis and Baby manage to slip away. After arranging a rendezvous with the crazed clown Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), who also happens to be Baby’s father, the two fugitives drive to an out-of-the-way motel, where, to pass the time, they terrorize a traveling Country / Western band (the frontman is played by Geoffrey Lewis). Once Captain Spaulding arrives, the three head to a whorehouse owned by Spaulding’s brother, Charlie Altamont (Ken Foree), where they intend to lay low. All the while, Sheriff Wydell, whose brother was murdered in cold blood by the family, continues his search for Otis and Baby, going so far as to hire a couple bounty hunters (Danny Trejo and Diamond Dallas Page) to track them down.
One of the issues I had with The House of 1000 Corpses was that Sid Haig’s sadistic clown, Captain Spaulding, wasn’t in it nearly enough (the few scenes he did appear in were pure gold). Well, The Devil’s Rejects corrects this mistake, giving the character a memorable intro (a dream sequence in which he’s having sex with adult star Ginger Lynn), then allowing him to tag along with Otis and Baby as they try to outrun the law. What’s more, the movie is, in spite of the horrific violence on display, quite funny, with the three leads generating a number of laughs throughout (while driving away from the motel where they just killed several people, Baby asks Otis to stop for ice cream, leading to an obscenities-laced argument between the two). The film’s cast, a veritable who’s who of indie horror, is beyond impressive. Along with Haig (Spider Baby) and Moseley (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), The Devil’s Rejects co-stars such prominent actors as Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead), Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes), Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn), and P.J. Soles (Halloween, Carrie), appearing briefly as a mother whose young son is traumatized by a run-in with Captain Spaulding. Also excellent is William Forsythe (Once Upon a Time in America) as the lawman determined to bring the family to justice (we understand his desire for revenge, even if his methods are somewhat questionable). On top of all this, The Devil’s Rejects has an ending that’s positively iconic (you’ll never hear Lynyrd Skynyrd’s "Free Bird" again without thinking of this movie).
A word of warning: the violence in The Devil’s Rejects is often sudden and brutal, and there are scenes that will put even the staunchest gore hounds to the test (one in particular, where we see the aftermath of an accident involving a woman and a speeding semi, is spectacularly gruesome). That said, I’m a big fan of The Devil’s Rejects (it’s the movie I watch every year on Halloween night), and rank it right alongside Ju-On, Let the Right One In, The Descent, and, yes, The House of 1000 Corpses as one of the best horror films of the new millennium.