Rob Zombie Week: Andy Burns on ‘The Devil’s Rejects’

Let me tell you about the first time I watched Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects.

It was 10 years ago. I had just gotten back from Fan Expo Canada, our version of San Diego Comic-Con. I had a bought a three-pack DVD set of House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects, and 30 Days In Hell, a four-hour documentary about the making of the later film. I’d seen House before, but I had skipped over its sequel. I’m not sure why, exactly. It’s possible it didn’t get a wide release in Canada, but if my memory serves me well, I think I was genuinely turned off by the talk about the film, the violence it was supposed to glorify. However, here I was in 2009, owning the film, so damn it, I was going to watch it.

Keep in mind, I knew virtually nothing going in, other than that it was a sequel. That’s it. Which was exactly the way to experience The Devil’s Rejects, because watching it absolutely blew my mind.

The story, which found Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), Otis Driftwood (Bill Moseley) and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) on the run seven months following the events of House of 1000 Corpses. Along the way, they serve up their decidedly twisted version of murder and mayhem. Meanwhile, Sheriff John Wydell (the brother of fallen lieutenant George Wydell) is determined to capture and torture the Firefly family for revenge.

On the off chance you haven’t seen The Devil’s Rejects, I really don’t want to give you any more than the above synopsis. Because when you go in blind, you’re guaranteed to have a visceral reaction to Zombie’s film like I did.

You can feel the grime peeling off the screen in The Devil’s Rejects. The handheld cameras only make it that much more palpable. This is a dirty film. It gets under your skin and your fingernails. If you try to dig that dirt out, it just gets deeper. The characters are vile. Intoxicatingly so. Their actions, the way they move, the way they kill. Especially Otis. You hate him. How can you not? He is the devil incarnate. But Bill Moseley infuses him with such personality that you can’t help watching.

There are at least two scenes in The Devil’s Rejects that are quintessential Rob Zombie. The first takes place in a motel room and is one of the most oppressive film experiences I’ve ever had. The only comparison I can make is how I felt the first time watching the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which was an uncomfortable ordeal for me. This is a compliment to both films, keep in mind. Any film that can make you feel that trapped in your own seat and skin bears commendation.

The second scene, the one I’ll share with you below, is the final moments of The Devil’s Rejects, with its brilliant use of a classic rock staple that’s majesty, I’d argue, had been taken for granted for years (oh, and the soundtrack for the entire film is killer). Here, it serves as a strangely fitting send-off to three of cinema’s most revolting characters.

Or does it?

I will always remember watching The Devil’s Rejects for the first time. I’ve only watched it one time since, and the experience wasn’t the same. For the uninformed or uninitiated reading here, don’t look for any further information. No synopsis or clips. Go in like I did.

And let the grime cover you whole.

Don’t miss Rob Zombie’s new film, 3 From Hell, screening exclusively in theatres for three nights only, September 16th, 17th and 18th through Fathom Events. Get the details here

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