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The Devil's Rejects

The Devil's Rejects
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Rob Zombie is a horror fan's horror fan -- for anyone who has ever owned a White Zombie album or listened to any of Zombie's solo efforts, that much is obvious. Not only are Zombie's lyrics rife with the kind of blood-soaked mayhem and obscure genre references that could easily satisfy the dark dreams of even the most steely eared gorehound, but the entire image that he has crafted on-stage is that of a demonic, growling, white-trash metalhead bent on world domination. Unfortunately for Zombie's maiden voyage behind the camera, all the horror street cred in the world couldn't save House of 1000 Corpses from buckling under its own lofty ambition. For those willing to give Zombie a second chance, though, the good news is that the musician-turned-filmmaker has come a long way since those bloody days back at the Firefly house, making The Devil's Rejects one of the most fearless and effective wide-release flicks to come down the pike in quite some time. From the opening credits sequence on, it's obvious that Zombie is trying for something different here -- and his aim this time around is dead on. With his sophomore effort, Zombie has gained the confidence to let his story and characters speak for themselves rather than attempting to overcompensate with MTV theatrics, and his relative restraint pays off because the sheer unremorseful evil of the titular trio is more than enough to keep viewers on edge. There is still a strong sense of style here, and by employing a grainy, washed-out visual palate that recalls such classics as Wes Craven's seminal Last House on the Left, Zombie places viewers in a sort of timeless landscape that sets his gruesome epic apart from the pack. Also key to the film's success is Zombie's stunning use of Southern rock, with the director's remarkable command of sound and imagery ensuring that fans of such classic tunes as "Midnight Rider" and "Free Bird" will never be able to hear those songs again without them being accompanied by visions of bloody chaos and mayhem. At the black heart of The Devil's Rejects, though, it's the performances that truly drive the film to transcend its comparatively anemic contemporaries, and it's here where Zombie shows that he can actually elicit effective and coherent performances from his actors. Appearing as a kind of alternate-universe Charles Manson who has somehow eluded incarceration, Bill Moseley is chilling as the most psychotic of the group, who, in one especially harrowing moment, goads one of his victims to beg for mercy and summon lightning from their God to strike him down. Returning to his role as evil clown Captain Spaulding and thankfully getting much more screen time here than in House of 1000 Corpses, longtime genre specialist Sid Haig provides the kind of creepy comic relief that will have most viewers giggling with nervous laughter. While supporting player Sheri Moon Zombie is serviceable in the role of femme fatale Baby, she simply doesn't have the chops to stand out alongside genre stalwarts Moseley and Haig; and scenery-chewing William Forsythe is horrific fun to watch as a vengeful lawman whose relentless sadism may well outshine that of the murderous trio when all is said and done. As for supporting players, Zombie has packed The Devil's Rejects so full of familiar faces that genre junkies will have a blast picking out recognizable actors, with The Hills Have Eyes' Michael Berryman and Dawn of the Dead's Ken Foree making especially welcome appearances. Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide