Online – Fangoria – HorrorHound – GoreZone
As somebody who used to frequent horror conventions, one of my favorite little constants was whenever Bill Moseley and Sid Haig were together – which was at many, many shows – and, usually during a Q+A panel, somebody would always ask about a sequel to The Devil’s Rejects, and they would always say, in unison, “No, because we are fucking dead!” I always took that as gospel truth – straight from the two guys that would know the fate of their characters.
Enter 3 From Hell…
Rob Zombie randomly announced, on the first day of shooting – take notes, Kevin-announce-every-project-before-it-gets-momentum-Smith – that he was making the impossible sequel to fan-favorite, The Devil’s Rejects, and, by proxy, House of 1,000 Corpses. No real story details were announced, except that main characters Otis Driftwood, Baby Firefly, and Captain Spaulding will be returning. The internet went insane with theories – how were they back? – They were massacred in the perfect ending of Rejects. Did Captain Spaulding, Baby, and Otis die and go to Hell, only to be kicked out for being TOO evil – TRUE Devil’s rejects?! Was Dr. Satan somehow responsible for the unexplained resurgence of our beloved characters?! Did they merely just survive each being shot “over 20 times” with absolutely no consequences what-so-fucking-ever?!
Sadly, it’s the last one. They not only brush off EACH being shot over 20 times, they NEVER mention it again, nor do they have ANY scars or debilitating health issues, short of Spaulding being in a coma for like 2 seconds. For somebody who rather thrives in the realistic worlds he’s created, Zombie doesn’t seem to be playing by the rules here, I have a theory, but I will save it till the end of this… So, Rob Zombie practically ret-cons one of the best endings to a horror movie, ever, and makes getting shot a minor inconvenience. Imagine if Denzel’s character from Training Day or the guy from RoboCop who got straight-up annihilated by the ED-209 just got up and went to work the next day, and never mentioned what happened to them the day prior.
…and how cool would it have been for them to die, and actually go to Hell, only to get kicked out – has that EVER been done before?! That would be amazing. Sure, Reject’s was based (mostly) in reality, but 1,000 Corpses had supernatural shit all up in the third act. There’s clearly no rules – be it this way, or what really happens, so just enjoy the ride, I guess.
The movie starts with that, now classic, footage of the convertible driving along with Spaulding, Baby, and Otis just moments before they are gunned down while Freebird plays like an anthem. It immediately triggers a wave of nostalgia and spikes the adrenaline, you want to reach into the film and tell them what’s about to happen or try to save them, like when you watch Grizzly Man or The Bridge. If only they knew. We are then blasted with a Grindhouse-esque title card and thrust into the present. We are caught up to speed via news-style exposition, leading up to a Natural Born Killers moment or two – If I were a serial killer, I’d be Mickey and Mallory.
It is in the first ten minutes or so that we are shown a much different Sid Haig/Captain Spaulding. You can tell something is off, and you can hear in his voice that Sid is not the same. He gives an AMAZING monologue – a true-to-Spaulding monologue and we get a freeze-frame of the insanity that still lies in him, if only just one more time.
The story is that Rob had written 3FH with Sid/Spaulding front and center as the third character, as he was in Rejects. However, upon seeing his health deteriorating, as well as constant studio pressure, he had no choice but to re-write the film, several times, to adjust for an entirely different third character, a distant relative to the Firefly family, Winslow Foxworth Coltrane, played by the certifiably insane Richard Brake. Zombie apparently made lemonade with those lemons, however, one wonders how the original screenplay read…
The first act is…interesting. We see what life in prison is like for Baby, when she isn’t walking in 30+ second slow-motion shots, and we see Otis’ rather ridiculous escape – why would such a high-profile criminal be on public service duty? Surely they didn’t have Charles Manson picking up cans on the side of the road while he was at Corcoran. Bill Moseley slides right back into Otis, you’d swear he never left. He steals every shot he is in, while Sherri Moon has taken Baby into a rather cringey direction, an “I’m crazy, Tee Hee!” direction – doing random voices, telling non-sequitur stories, being ‘lol so random’, and even seeing a cat-person dancing in the air ducts. MAYBE this was a result of being shot 20 times? No? OK.
The second act is where it kind of drags a little. Otis and Winslow hatch a plan to break Baby out, an insane plan that would never work, but whatever. We are treated to the usual sadism that these movies are profoundly good at showcasing. Rob Zombie’s ultimate strength, in ALL of his movies, is his eye for sadism and creating characters you love to hate for it. Yea, these are our protagonists, but they are horrible people, who take joy in doing horrible things – Otis’ on-screen body count in 3FH is higher than both earlier movies combined, and he fucking LOVES it. You root for him throughout the movie, no matter how deep he goes into sadism. You bought this ticket, you damn sure better take the ride.
The third act is where this movie really shines. Without spoiling too much, we end up in a Mexican town, and all hell breaks loose. The entire act feels like how I wanted the rest of it to feel. I was holding my breath and flinching at the sudden outbursts of incredibly realistic violence – it felt like a true horror/action movie. The one thing I realized while watching was that up until recently, these characters were dead in my mind. Does that make it more or less unpredictable when they are in dangerous situations? What emotions am I allowed to feel? Is this even real?
I mentioned Zombie’s strengths, and I must mention his weakness. His absolute kryptonite is dialogue. While some of his lines, in any of his movies, hit it out of the park, I swear Every. Single. One. of his movies devolves into two characters bickering and literally saying “Fuck you!” “Fuck you!” back and forth. It’s so tiring. We get it Rob, you love your trashy characters, but just adding a ‘fuck’ in every line isn’t really escaping the platitudes you keep sinking into. Your other job is writing lyrics, dig deep man, you are so obviously capable of it.
So, my theory for this movie is that it is a fever dream – it’s not real. Which would explain why after a collective 60 shots, there are no consequences or scars, and EVEN AFTER a main character is shot, IN THE CHEST, they just walk it off like it is nothing. This is a dream, an Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge moment right before death at the end of Devil’s Rejects. A ‘What if…’ A glimmer of hope. One last adventure. When I see the movie from this perspective, I can appreciate it. When I see it is an actual sequel to one of my favorite horror movies, I have to try to defend it until I’m exhausted.
I wanted to love this movie, and I did love the last third, but ultimately, as much as I love these characters. I cannot condone it. I will stick to my theory and pretend it never happened, except in the last few seconds of the minds of the maniacs they star.