Want to face yourself? Stay away from 'Rejects'
Strings of cuss words do not a statement make.
By ROGER MOORE
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
"The Devil's Rejects" is a look-in-the-mirror moment for a movie fan.
You pay your money, skulk into the theater, and just before the show starts, duck out to face yourself in the bathroom.
Consider, for a moment, the life you've led that has brought you here. You've bought a ticket and are apparently enthusiastic about sitting through an orgy of sadism, fetishism, necrophilia and gore. Where did you go wrong? Where did your momma go wrong?
"Rejects" isn't clever. It isn't scary. But it could be a real giggle for folks who enjoy a good torture, rape, mutilation or stabbing.
Set on the buckle of the Bad Teeth Belt (Texas), "Rejects" is the further adventures of a family of mass murderers the less discriminating among us met in "House of 1000 Corpses."
It's a miracle that third-tier rocker turned filmmaker Rob Zombie (real name Robert Cummings) ever got to make it. His 2003 "1000 Corpses," which uses the same characters and set-up, was dumped by its studio (Universal) because they didn't want to deal with a feared NC-17 rating. It cost $7 million and earned a whopping $13 million or so at the box office -- nobody's guarantee that a sequel was in demand, or even advisable, even for Lions Gate, which released it.
Miracle two is that "Rejects" didn't win that dreaded rating itself. Apparently, the board isn't that put off by the film's revolting pairing of sex with grisly, unprovoked serial killing, drug use and hair-curling profanity. Talk about people who need to take a good hard look in the mirror.
Zombie seems to have delusions of making a statement about fundamentalism, hypocrisy and crimes against nature. He's not quite up to it. His dialogue writing is mostly limited to stringing together colorful runs of cuss words.
Zombie pays tribute to his favorite exploitation films of the '70s and his favorite classic rock of the era in this movie. Rejects follows efforts by the law to slaughter the slaughterers, the family that uses Marx brothers' characters as fake names (Captain Spalding, Rufus T. Firefly, etc.) as they ambush, torture, kill and skin their victims.
Sid Haig, a survivor of the Pam Grier blaxploitation films of the '70s, is the sadistic clown who leads the tribe. Zombie's stripper wife Sheri Moon Zombie is the murderous tramp Baby Firefly. Bill Moseley is the grimly heartless brother Otis.
"I am the Devil and I am here to do the Devil's work."
The underrated William Forsythe is the rural sheriff vowing Biblical vengeance.
"Lord, I am your arm of justice. Let my blows be true."
Assorted '70s bit players, from Deborah Van Valkenburg of "The Warriors" to poor Priscilla Barnes of "Three's Company," are debased and humiliated and gruesomely dispatched as victims along the way. Nobody comes off very well in Zombie's carnival of carnage.
It's not that he's an incompetent filmmaker or an artless hack. He knows what to do with the camera, and he has a gift for making the viewer avert his or her eyes. He makes a devilishly funny joke about movie critics.
It gets ugly
But he bathes in the dismayingly ugly sex, the hints of bestiality, the brutality and heartlessness of it all. It's a kick. It's played for laughs.
So hear this futile plea: Look in the mirror, Zombie. Show some class. Making people sick is no way to make a name for yourself. Even a fake name.