The horrors of the working week are over, time for a terrifying start to the weekend with Friday Night Frights. Tonight, Rob Zombie’s exploitation gore fest, The Devil’s Rejects.
Words: Brody Rossiter
BLOOD BROTHERS & SISTERS
The directorial work of Rob Zombie should either be loved or hated. His entries into the canon of contemporary indie horror should strike a heavy discordant chord that ripples with distortion and pulverises the delicate psyches of audiences. Regrettably, there’s all too often a decidedly average hue radiating from Zombie’s work. His accomplished visual flair and savvy marketing have repeatedly masked a series of underwhelming cuts, which despite clearly possessing a lot of rated R heart and respectful homages, just aren’t particularly engaging.
Zombie has frequently attempted to humble his characters, electing to depict murderous hicks and accursed rock chicks (examples of both are played by his actual wife, Sheri Moon Zombie). Yet his reluctance to fully commit to the ugly visage he has stitched together is perhaps his greatest misgiving. Beyond the admittedly grandiose spectacles of viscera soaked road-trips and flaming barnyards, Zombie seems to flounder in emotional shallows, relying on his admittedly highly attractive sense of style to convey messages that his characters’ mouths can’t converse.
In spite of these pitfalls, his films are most definitely worth experiencing. His unique guise of 21st century exploitation introduces itself with the morbid grin of Eli Roth’s exploitative “torture porn”, and offers the cold, clammy hand of a classic slasher flick. Zombie’s work reveals itself as a series of amped up odes to cult horror drenched in Americana; the menacing and deranged tone of Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre perhaps being the most obvious inflection to flow through Zombie’s backwaters and jugs of moonshine – a little face skinning goes a surprisingly long way in the shock department.
In the bloodshot eyes of many, The Devil’s Rejects is the popular musician-turned-director’s most accomplished and satisfying excursion off the beaten track and into murderous madness. A sequel to the ominously titled, House of Thousand Corpses, the picture picks up where the devilish Firefly family left off, carving a violent path through the Texas heartland. However, Sheriff John Quincy has an axe to grind, and is hell-bent on capturing the depraved ensemble dead or alive. So begins a disturbing game of cat and mouse that lingers in perversity and delights in the corrosion of character. Innocent people experience very bad things, and respectable men commit once unthinkable acts.
Zombie’s fluent visuals are once again present. His oversaturated 1970’s aesthetic is both gothic and vibrant. The casting couldn’t have been better. Recognisable, larger-than-life horror genre personalities are seated beside accomplished actors, William Forsyth’s turn as the conflicted sheriff being the most fleshed-out of the bunch. The sense of terror lies in the implication of what will happen next… allowing the viewer to essentially scare themselves into a frenzy as they look toward the darkest corners of their own psyche in preparation for the inevitable wickedness and bloodshed.
The inadequacies lie in the fact that his road-trip has little sense of direction beyond that of murder and revenge, but realistically, when have acts of brutality committed by high-profile killers ever really shown a true purpose beyond that of pure self-gratification and nihilism? Zombie may well have no direction home, but he never intended on coming back from the dark side of a blood-red moon.