Coming off of the insane visual experience that was HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES, Rob Zombie performs a complete reversal in style and tone with his companion piece, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS. Picking up shortly after the events of the previous film, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS finds the Firefly family on the run from the law, and leaving a trail of bodies in the wake of their escape.
Here, Zombie is able to take a group of truly despicable monsters and somehow bring out their humanity in a way that makes them accessible and likable despite their horrifying acts. Many critics have argued that Zombie has unfairly forced the audience to align themselves with the killers through his kind portrayals of the characters, but he would be unable to do so without getting beneath their trashy exteriors and drawing out their twisted sense of family and friendship. Likewise, Rob demonizes the character of Sheriff Wydell, and transforms him from the altruistic "Hand of God" into the same breed of ruthless killer which he despises. It is only natural that the audience grows to hate him in the process. While each of the performances are provocative in their own right, it is Bill Moseley's depiction of the foul-mouthed Otis that stands out above all others. He commands the screen with a terrifying display of power and unmatched evil. Only William Forsythe stands to top him as the bulldog Sheriff that decides to take the law into his own hands.
THE DEVIL'S REJECTS removes the safety of the extravagant coloring and comic book characters from HOUSE in place of a washed-out color palette and gritty realism that is reminiscent of the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. The film does maintain the humor from before, but it does so in a darker and more unsettling way. Otis, Baby, and Cutter make sharp but crude remarks that momentarily cut the tension during the disgusting torture scenes. They force guilty laughs out of audiences, who are then left feeling as sick and depraved as the villains as a result. Rob Zombie has not only dramatically improved his writing skills, but his directing and editing as well. The film's closing scene best epitomizes these changes, as the Reject's last standoff offers the same devastating impact as the climax of Ridley Scott's THELMA AND LOUISE. Yes, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS has just been compared to THELMA AND LOUISE.
THE DEVIL'S REJECTS is truly Exploitation at its very best. It is dirty, filthy smut, in all the right ways. No audience member can walk away unscathed from its horrifying depictions of blood and violence. Rob Zombie has created one of the defining films of the 2000's, and one that he may never be able to top.
If you liked THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, check out:
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, WOLF CREEK, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE.