Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “The Devil’s Rejects.”
The Movie: “The Devil’s Rejects”
Starring: Sid Haig, Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley
Director: Rob Zombie
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) The murderous, backwoods Firefly family take to the road to escape a vengeful police force which is not afraid of being as ruthless as their target.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 54 percent
Froemming: I’m not done with clowns.
For today’s choice for Halloween Month, I went with the only movie that Rob Zombie made that I actually like. It is a sequel to one of the lousiest movies I ever saw in a theater (“House of 1,000 Corpses”) and spawned a sequel this year with another lousy movie theater experience for me (“3 From Hell”). That’s right, I picked “The Devil’s Rejects,” a movie that combines the outlaw sentiment of Bonnie and Clyde with the sociopathic madness of the Manson Family.
It also totally ignores what I really despised of the film that came before it: The stupid sudden science fiction nonsense that was the embarassing Dr. Satan.
I knew picking this that Brown was not going to like it, but whatever, it gave me an excuse to revisit this schlocky tribute to 1970s exploitation films that also made me aware that some people are out there (REDACTED) chickens.
Brown, as I quote Tex Watson at some poor son-of-a-bitch, why don’t you give us your first thoughts?
Brown: So going into this, I was going back to how much one of my high-school friends HATES Rob Zombie movies.
I had never seen the first of these movies, “House of 1,000 Corpses,” but my brother had the DVD and gave it to me. When my friend Josh came over, having seen the movie, his visceral reaction was “(REDACTED) ROB ZOMBIE.” Like, he was personally attacked by this DVD and this filmmaker.
So… my expectations were not particularly high. I figured it would be an uncomfortable callback to ‘70s exploitation movies and it definitely lived up to that expectation.
It was… an interesting experience. We’ll get into it. But for now, I’m gonna go to the gas station. Want me to get you some of that beef jerky, Froemming? Or will you be busy flirting with the wanted serial killer?
Froemming: I am in the mood for some tuti (REDACTED) fruti, Brown.
OK, so the movie kicks off with Tiny (who is a giant 7 foot man) dragging the corpse of some poor woman through the woods as suddenly a crap-ton of cop cars come speeding by. Yup, the home that once house about 1,000 corpses has finally been figured out by the law, which I mean, look at these people, they were not hiding this much at all.
What follows is a brief stand-off between the Firefly family (Otis, Baby, their mother and a brother so forgettable they kill him off right away). This movie shows just how screwed up these people are when we first see Otis, in bed with a dead woman. So yeah, Zombie went there with this.
As the firefight ensues, Otis and Baby make their escape to the tune of “Midnight Rider” by the Allman Brothers, and say what you will about how stupid his movies are, Zombie has a knack for utilizing music in his movies.
Brown: I wrote in my notes that this movie is schlocky ‘70s exploitation with just enough of a budget to get licensed music.
Before the shootout at the Firefly house, I did appreciate that every cop in this Texas town looks like extras from the Beastie Boys’ video for “Sabotage.”
So I have several issues with this shootout. First, the random brother (Rufus? I honestly thought it was Tiny) has full body armor on and is the one who dies. The family members that live just have protection for their heads. … Isn’t that the opposite of how this works?
Froemming: I think Rob Zombie thinks tin is bullet proof. Because those look like masks made out of a weak metal. Also, no amount of cheap metal is stopping shotgun blasts.
Brown: Then there’s tear gas and the Fireflys keep shooting. Eventually, they sneak down to the basement to an escape hatch that leads to a sewer.
Hey, dummies, why didn’t you do that to begin with?! You could have saved Rufus’ useless life and not had Mama get arrested. It’s not like you burned down the house to destroy the evidence or anything.
Dumbassery aside, I really liked the “Midnight Rider” credit sequence. It’s up there with “Zombieland” for my favorite opening credit sequence.
Froemming: “Dawn of the Dead” uses Johnny Cash’s “When the Man Comes Around” really well too for the opening credits. Same with “Watchmen” using Bob Dylan’s song against him.
My hatred of Bob Dylan aside, the Fireflys are on the loose, which is problematic. Even more problematic was apparently TV news stations in the 1970s allowed frustrated cops to swear on TV and showed the remains of dead people, which would be a shocking way for a family to find out their missing loved one was found chopped up in a refrigerator.
Maybe that is just a Texas thing? I dunno, my media ethics class in college (along with media law) would have not condoned this.
Among the tons of evidence is a photo of a local celebrity clown, Captain Spaulding, engaging in this sick, twisted crap. Maybe this was Arthur Fleck’s real dad.
Brown: It would make sense. Both clowns have a fondness of porno/murder notebooks. Though I don’t know if Arthur Fleck was into Groucho Marx.
Froemming: Cut to Spaulding having both the best and worst dream/nightmare of his day. Or, after he wakes up in a panic after his wet dream turns into a homicide, he says the experience was 50/50.
God I love Sid Haig in this. Among all the actors hamming it up, he is the only one who does it well.
Brown: I agree. In a movie chock full of unlikable characters, Sid Haig at least has a charisma that makes him a little charming. You know, once you get past the terrifying makeup and urgent need of dental care. I’ll admit to not being the best with dental care but at least I don’t have a perpetual case of Oreo mouth.
Captain Spaulding gets the call from Baby and Otis that the house has been raided and they’re on the run. Knowing the cops are probably on their way, Spaulding tells the kids to meet him at the Kahiki Palms hotel. So, someone’s vacation is about to get ruined.
I didn’t think to this extent, though.
Froemming: Well, he finds out something is afoot when his vertigo inducing commercial is interrupted with the breaking news of the incident at the Firefly compound.
So yeah, people’s vacation is going to be ruined, and not in a Clark Griswold way, but more in a Ted Bundy way.
And we meet these hapless future victims as they chit chat about Priscilla Barnes’s character having her breasts fly out while riding a mechanical bull.
Two JOE-DOWN call backs here:
- We saw Ms. Barnes this year in “Mallrats” when she gave the topless palm reading to TS and Brodie.
- Where they at Gilley’s before John Travolta fell in love with that very same bull?
Brown: Well, this movie does have characters that are somehow less likable than those in “Urban Cowboy.” And the Firefly family is how I imagined Bud and Sissy with a murderous streak.
Now, I don’t know if it’s out of boredom or just to quell some insatiable blood lust, but Otis and Baby decide to (REDACTED) up this band’s lives.
Let’s see. They hold the band hostage. They drag one of the women out of the shower completely naked. After he returns with snacks, they execute Brian Posehn (who says “Help, Roy” in maybe the worst line read in JOE-DOWN history).
Perhaps… no, absolutely, the worst thing here is Otis making Roy’s wife strip down to her underwear and rape her with a gun.
This is the second time out of a half dozen I wrote “Yep, this is an uncomfortable movie.”
Froemming: It is the one moment in this film I am truly troubled by. I get Otis is a monster, but (REDACTED) I hate that moment so much. If memory serves, Bill Mosley who played Otis nearly quit because of that scene.
Otis needs his guns he buried out in the middle of nowhere (this is Texas, 90 percent of that state is the middle of nowhere) so he takes Roy and Adam Banjo, a character name so lazy but so apt, to go get them. Leaving Baby with the two traumatized women.
Brown: Also being Texas, I imagine 90 percent of the residents have a stash of weapons buried somewhere like Ron Swanson hiding gold bars.
Froemming: Meanwhile, Spaulding makes a call to his brother Charlie Altamont letting him know he and his kids are coming there to hide out. Charlie owns the dirtiest little whorehouse in Texas where one of his staff is the guy from “The Hills Have Eyes” and one of his hookers has him worried about “Star Wars” themes creating horny robots roaming his establishment.
Charlie has enough problems as is.
Brown: Another person having problems is Mama Firefly, who is getting interrogated by the cops and assaulted by Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe).
And here’s the crux of my problem with “The Devil’s Rejects”: As (REDACTED) up as it is to see a woman getting slapped around and threatened by a cop, she did help in a kill count nearing triple digits so you feel nothing for no one here. Later, Sheriff Wydell stabs Mama Firefly and kills her and I feel nothing.
I know that’s the point with a movie that wants you to feel unwell about the world. This kind of movie just wasn’t for me.
Though I will say that Tim Curry would be proud of how hammy Leslie Easterbrook is as Mama Firefly.
Froemming: Well, I feel for Danny Trejo and Diamond Dallas Page in this movie, but that is later.
Otis has these two poor sons-of-bitches out finding his guns, and he makes no bones about it: He is killing them once those guns are dug up. Look, Otis, I get you’re not only a sociopath, but also Chop-Top from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2,” but pretending to let them go after is what we call an incentive for them to do all that digging. You lost that, and no wonder Adam rebels with that giant stick he beats you with.
But, alas, Otis is more used to this “being trapped with a serial killer” scenario than poor Roy or Adam, and he gets the upper hand. Before he beats Roy to death, Otis quotes what Tex Watson said to Sharon Tate: “I’m the Devil, and I’m here to do the Devil’s work.”
He then cuts off Adam’s (REDACTED) face and wears it over his own. It’s pretty disgusting.
Brown: Oh, not as bad as what comes later.
The two women left with Baby meet their own grizzly demise. Adam’s wife, Wendy (who was the one dragged out of the shower earlier) gets to go to the bathroom after Baby makes Wendy hit her mother-in-law in the face, full force. Naturally, Wendy tries to escape and Baby gets slowed down when the mom grabs a gun. But, no, gun isn’t loaded and mom meets her end via knife to the chest.
When Wendy does get away, she’s greeted by a headbutt from Captain Spaulding. Seriously, can’t one good thing happen to anyone in this movie?
Nope. Because now the Fireflys are reunited and they head to Charlie’s brothel. But not after putting Adam’s literal face mask on Wendy and keeping her tied up in the hotel with all the dead bodies.
When the maid finds the mess, Wendy is let free but thanks to a semi, the Fireflys will remain at large.
Froemming: With more dead bodies to their name, Wydell is now desperate. He had asked for help from a local film critic because all these names associated with the Firefly family have connections to The Marx Brothers’ movies. And, I imagine, Brown and I would probably be treated the same if we were ever asked to do such a thing. Knowing me, I would get yelled at for crapping on Dylan like this guy got yelled at for crapping on Elvis.
Brown: What was the point of this scene?
OK, I get why it exists: to offer a bit of comedy in what has been a grizzly movie. But then this turns violent as well with Wydell losing it over a crack at Elvis, so that levity isn’t around long enough to for it work, at least in my opinion.
At this point, I think it existed only to show more bizarre facial hair.
Froemming: This scene and the scene where Wydell talks to the ghost of his brother are two pointless scenes with bizarre facial hair. The former offers nothing because we already have the Marx Brothers connection. The latter because we already know Wydell is off the rails with regard to the Firefly family. Both should have been cut out of this movie. Though I did like it when the one cop asked if they should bring in Groucho for questioning.
So Wydell, at the scene of the latest crime, just ups and hires two bounty hunters in broad daylight with other cops around. AT A CRIME SCENE! I am beginning to suspect he is not very good at his job.
Brown: Wydell’s dynamic is just weird in this flick. He’s the hardass cop who treats his job as divine will instead of, you know, a job. Imagine John Travolta in “Face/Off” but without a charismatic villain to chase. Like, Travolta isn’t likable in that flick but there’s a sense of justice there after the death of his son at the hands of Nic Cage.
Wydell, however, is full vigilante with murder on his mind. He is pretty much becoming a Firefly without the body count. Again, I get that’s the point and again, this is further proof this isn’t a movie made for my tastes.
Froemming: Well, the Fireflys make it to Charlie’s, with a pitstop for some tuti (REDACTED) fruity ice cream.
Brown: See, this scene was kind of fun for me. My head canon is that Baby and Spaulding are antagonistic about getting Tuti Frutti because they know grumpy ol’ Otis is lactose intolerant and, well, they’re assholes. So, like me at Thanksgiving as a teen when my brother was cutting weight for wrestling, they’re rubbing it in Otis’ face.
Froemming: I also like the scene because it also shows that Otis is afraid of one person, and that is Spaulding. We got that earlier in the hotel, but we also get it here. Also, Haig hamming it up about ice cream was great. Unfortunately, because Sheri Moon Zombie is a horrible actress who has to be in all her husband’s movies, she annoys me as much as Haig makes me giggle.
Brown: Honestly, I didn’t mind Sheri Moon Zombie as Baby. She’s not very good as an actress but this movie calls for annoying, not Shakespearian acting. And well, she’s good at annoying. Also, she’s good at showing her ass, which this movie does a lot, like, to an irritating degree.
Froemming: She is pretty restrained in this. I nearly walked out of “3 From Hell” because of how awful she was in that. She amps it up to 11 in that, and honestly, it was terrible.
Brown: I get that. I nearly wanted to quit on her after she was doing her slanty-eyes jingle in the hotel.
Froemming: Imagine, that, but for two hours. That was “3 From Hell.”
Brown: … … I’m good.
Froemming: So, Charlie greets the gang with a shotgun and seems all pissed off they are there. But it is a gag, they are welcomed here, because Charlie’s bordello is like Olive Garden, when you are there, you are family. So they whoop it up for a night of drinkin’, druggin’ and dancin’ because they are in a safe space. What a bunch of #snowflakes.
Now, are the Firefly’s restrained because Charlie is Spaulding’s brother? Because this is the only place they are not killing people left and right.
Brown: I think they’re restrained by being around something that is so unrestrained like a brothel. Not seeing “House of 1,000 Corpses” and not knowing the backstory of the Firefly family, I imagine a Manson family with a punk aesthetic for all things authority.
Froemming: They have no back story that I recall. All I really remember from that dog (REDACTED) of a movie was Dwight Schrute gets killed in it.
Anyhoo, Wydell gets a call from Danny Trejo, which would be awesome in any situation, saying he has a lead on where to find these people. So, Wydell is preparing for war while these sociopaths are partying to the musical stylings of Joel Walsh of the James Gang and, you know…
So, the next day, as Charlie and his buddy are accused of having relations with chickens…
Wydell stops them make sure his demented family stay at his place, so he and his hired goons can get them.
Brown: Why does the chicken scene exists? I figure between this and his Michael Myers origin in his remake of “Halloween” that Rob Zombie has a hate boner for rednecks.
Froemming: It is the one scene of levity in this not completely undone by the actions of others. Sure, Wydell shows up, but I will take a goofy scene like this to give me a moment away from the madness.
Brown: So yeah, Wydell’s hired goons are Johnny 23 and DDP, a man who now has a home exercise empire with DDPY (or DDP Yoga). Diamond Dallas Page was a childhood favorite in WCW so good on him for getting that Rob Zombie money. Even if they also gave him Oreo mouth.
So yeah, at midnight, Wydell and his goons are going to Charlie’s brothel to apprehend the Fireflys.
Wydell takes the family back to the Firefly house where he plans on torturing them.
This whole scene at the Firefly house, well, I’ll let Tuco from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” give my thoughts.
Froemming: I hope that doesn’t rust Tuco’s barrell.
I love the look of pure bliss on DDP’s face when he shoots the hooker and beats the snot out of Otis. Because while these hired goons may be bad guys, they are giving these sociopaths their comeuppance.
Brown: I like DDP’s elation more when he hits a Diamond Cutter.
Best move in pro wrestling. Come at me.
Froemming: The video games since 1999 have told me the Stone Cold Stunner is better. More damage than any other finisher. That’s just the facts, Brown.
Brown: That’s revisionist history! It’s not the real truth!
I’m becoming the InfoWars of pro wrestling movies.
Froemming: Diamond Cutters can’t melt Stone Cold Stunners!
So Wydell dumps a lot of pointless speeches on these three monsters, while using a staple gun to staple pictures of their victims into their chests. I mean, why not go with a nail gun? You don’t intend for them to live anyway, and that way the pictures would stick better.
Brown: I figure it’s because in Wydell’s God complex, he needed to save the nails for Otis when he gives the guy stigmatas as a sort of genocidal Jesus.
Again, Wydell, I refer you to Tuco.
But no. Blah, blah, blah, he became that which he’s hunting or some stupid (REDACTED).
Froemming: You could cut Wydell from this whole movie and the end result would not really change. Change the Gruesome Twosome of DDP and Trejo to bounty hunters who come across these people, they still make an escape or whatever. Wydell is what we call “not that important to the overall story.”
But because Wydell failed to learn from any James Bond villain, he lets Baby go so he can hunt her for sport? I dunno, I’d have burned them all to make sure everything is square. But Wydell is not a smart guy, and lets her run off and he sets fire to Otis and Spaulding.
Then he leaves them alone without making sure they are dead. Again, this is James Bond Villain Amature Hour here with Wydell.
So he chases Baby through the farm, where she finds Charlie is there to help her. He helps all right, much like Groundskeeper Willie helps in a Treehouse of Horror episode of “The Simpsons.”
Brown: Ha! I put in my notes that Charlie got “Shining”’d.
So Wydell is seconds away from choking out Baby like he’s Hans Landa killing Bridget van Hammersmark in “Inglourious Basterds.”
Then through the magic of convenience, Tiny shows up out of nowhere and kills Wydell. With Otis and Captain Spaulding still in the burning house, Tiny goes in and frees the rest of the Firefly family. Then Tiny just wanders back into the burning house like a pyro Bigfoot or something.
Like the Chewbacca Defense, none of this makes sense. Why have Tiny there at all? Why not have Charlie save Otis and Spaulding before fire and smoke asphyxiation SHOULD have ended their lives?
Froemming: Otis says they will come back for him, but I think he is as sincere about that as the Gang from “It’s Always Sunny” saying that to someone they lose on their way to a “Thunder Gun” movie.
Brown: It kind of reminded me of when John Lithgow tells Harry to go away.
Froemming: Or when Jack Donaghy says the same to Frank in “30 Rock.”
So, the crew, beaten and bloodied are on the highway, still on the run when the opening chords of “Free Bird” start playing…
*rubs temple* I really hate this (REDACTED) song.
Brown: Yeah, but “Free Bird” does fit the tone of this movie by basically using the KQRS playlist.
Froemming: This movie is way less obnoxious than Tom Barnard.
Brown: You’re not wrong.
So the Fireflys run into a road block/firing squad and the movie ends with them in a shootout with the cops.
… How do the cops not win this easily? They have long-range rifles. The Fireflys have a shotgun and handguns. The Fireflys are also clinging onto life.
I think I have a Tuti Frutti brain freeze. Let’s go to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Yes. I really enjoy this movie.
Brown: If you have my taste in movies, no. But I get where the appeal is with this movie.