Yes, this has been out on R1 DVD for months now, but it debuts on disc in my native UK on December 26th, and as we never really gave it the coverage it needed last time, here it is...
I missed The Devil's Rejects during its theatrical run. Not deliberately, it just wasn't top of my list and its time in the spotlight was too brief for me to track it down.
Not that I worried too much at the time - I enjoyed House of 1000 Corpses more than I thought I would, but my tolerance for self-consciously "extreme" horror is pretty thin. Especially when the extremity in question comes from a deliberate attempt to ape the horror of the 70s.
I guess I've been burned out by too many plotless, characterless exercises in plodding gore and adolescent attempts to shock. Movies that think just depicting contextless torture and rape somehow makes for some sort of transgressive or daring statement.
While I never really put Rob Zombie in that category, I was in no great rush to see his second take on grimy exploitation.
Which makes me a fool.
When I finally sat down to watch Devil's Rejects, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd dug the grotesque carnival tone of Corpses, but didn't really see the Firefly clan as characters I'd want to see franchised.
Perhaps because of this, it took me a while to find the groove of Rejects. The opening shoot-out was both an oddly bloodless and narratively strange way to reintroduce us to the Firefly's - especially as several new actors had taken over roles.
You then have to cope with the redefinition of Captain Spaulding from leering comic relief to malevolent protangonist, and the gruelling motel scene during which Banjo & Sullivan are tormented, tortured and murdered.
As with Corpses, it's impressively staged but the plot is slow to reveal itself, and my worry that the movie would be little more than a series of grim but pointless vignettes was in danger of coming true.
Thankfully, Zombie pulls his threads together with more grace and style than he did previously, and once Sheriff Wydell and the Firefly's are set on their collision course the movie starts to take on a shape beyond mere sordid spectacle.
I hestitate to read too much subtext into this film, but it's no coincidence that the era being recreated is one that brought us Vietnam, Watergate and much social uncertainity, and that this uncertainty manifested itself through relentlessly bleak movies like The Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
With ideological war, political skullduggery and general cultural apathy once again on the menu, there's something rather more pointed about a film in which the key plot point is a self-righteous lawman becoming the very thing he's hunting in a quest for bloody revenge.
What is most evident is that Zombie wants you to think about what you're seeing, and he wants you to think about your reactions to it. When Otis Firefly molests the woman in the motel, you're supposed to be repulsed and uncomfortable. Other movies would play the scene for grotty titillation, but Zombie lets it play out in a more ambiguous way. By presenting you with two forces to root for - the charismatic killers or the brutish cops - Zombie makes you feel queasy about both.
Despite it's numerous plus points, it's not a perfect movie by a long shot. The violence (more often implied than shown) becomes numbing after a while, and the way in which the family are saved from Wydell's clutches reeks of convenient contrivance. The attempts at humor sometimes fall awkwardly flat as well - but despite this, it did slither into my brain more than I expected. Unlike most movies this year, for weeks after my first encounter it kept resurfacing in my mind, daring me to revisit it. And I did. Several times, sometimes with Zombie's commentary, sometimes without.
I've come to realise that it's actually one of my favorite films of 2005, and it's steadily risen up my list ever since. In an era of forgettable entertainment, it's nice (well, not nice exactly...) to find a movie that doesn't just vanish into the gaping maw of your memory without leaving a taste.
Pick of the crop is the 30 Days In Hell documentary, which runs longer than the movie itself and - as the name suggests - offers a potted look at every single day of the shoot. It gives a great overview of how the film got made, what Zombie was trying to achieve and just how ingenious you need to be when making a movie like this for, essentially, peanuts. There are naturally moments you wish they'd expand on, and bits that fail to engage you, but it's a rivetting feature and fills out the package nicely. This leaves little room for the commentaries to offer much that is new, but between Zombie and the cas there's enough fresh takes on the material to make both worth a listen.
The deleted scenes vary from the deservedly snipped to the gruesomely fun, best of which is the excised fate of Dr Satan, a Corpses character deemed to wacky to be carried over into Rejects more realistic carnage. From his hospital bed, he rips the throat out of the delicious Rosario Dawson and the scene delivers on both sexy star quality and nasty gore. The filming of the scene, as captured in the documentary, is a lot of fun as well.
Things are rounded out with an oddball selection of music videos and the full versions of things like Captain Spaulding's TV ad and the TV chat show. There's also a tribute to Matthew McGrory, the actor who played Tiny Firefly who died shortly after filming. While sweet, it's nothing you'll watch time and again, but these are all cute extras that give the package a well-rounded feel.
"Willy Wonka": High | Medium | Low
"Chicken Fucker": High | Medium | Low
Dr Satan Attacks: High | Medium | Low
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