Thursday, January 05, 2006

DVD: The Devil's Rejects

The Devil's Rejects

Rob Zombie's follow-up to House of 1,000 Corpses is an exhilarating post-modern showdown

This rock 'n roll horror pantomime is like a reunion party of clichés that congregate in the diegetic space of the film to celebrate and wallow in blood-splattered references to the wilder corners of pop culture. With no pretence to being 'art' like, say, Tarantino, it nonetheless operates within the same post-modern ethos of pure visual pleasure heavily steeped in Americana.

The brainchild of rock man Rob Zombie, The Devil's Rejects is stuff for adult that refuse to grow up. It seams together elements of 70s schlock horror and the ultra-violence of 80s video nasties, with brief noddings to Natural Born Killers and A Nightmare on Elm Street, and probably others that horror aficionados will be well equipped to spot. The editing makes reference to the construction of a guitar rock song, with some segments arranged like riffs. Pauses and freeze-frames are used as musical silences. And the characters in the film, although grown-ups, lark about like hormonally-charged pubescent teenagers trying to be really bad.

So what's the story? True to the tradition post-modern collage monster, it is a flimsy one and all the better for that - again, this is about pop culture and hypertextuality - and aesthetics is the narrative. We start in a ranch house, exactly as we imagine a Deep South, Mark Twain-esque house to be, except that it's decorated with a macabre collection of objects dangling from the beams of the porch - we even get a pig's head sitting on top of the gate arch. Inside, the Firefly family is sleeping while a procession of police cars sieges the house, led by Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe). Otis (Bill Moseley) and his sister Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie, a cross between a younger Farrah Fawcett and Sheryl Crow), the self-styled Devil's Rejects, manage to escape the barrage of bullets unharmed. They are joined by their errant father, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) and off they go on a killing spree until the film culminates in a showdown with Sheriff Wydell.

The Devil's Rejects is, in fact, a reunion of sorts, since the homicidal, sexually twisted Firefly family was first seen in Zombie's debut feature, House of 1,000 Corpses. Despite the gore, or perhaps because of it, it is a witty pleasure ride with a similar cathartic energy to the best devilish rock 'n roll. The timely Christmas release should work as the perfect antidote for the season's schmaltz. The DVD also includes a bonus disc with over two hours of making-of footage, deleted scenes and a bevy of short fun films.

PS: Attention cult pop aficionados: Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girl Mary Woronov has a bit part in the film.

The Devil's Rejects is out now.

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