Pop Culture Gadabout
Monday, May 12, 2008
      ( 5/12/2008 06:06:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"AND THIS BIRD YOU CANNOT TAME." Ages after I caught the first film House of 1,000 Corpses, I picked up a copy of its sequel, The Devil's Rejects, from the $7.50 DVD shelves at Wal-Mart. I'd been told by more than one modern horror buff that the movie was a quantum improvement over the first film, and I wanted to see what a "good" Rob Zombie horror flick was like.

Perhaps it was the circs in which I wound up watching the thing (two-thirds in, the DVD seized up, and I couldn't get to the movie's big showdown with vengeful Texas sheriff William Forsythe until after I went out and bought some DVD repair goop), but I never got caught up in the writer/director's horror vision. Rejects, which basically focuses on the first flick's family of demented serial killers as they run from the law, is a more solid movie-as-movie - the distracting visual trickery is kept to a minimum - but I may have actually preferred House for its throw-everything-into-the-visual-stew approach.

It's also possible that I've become jaded in ways that keep me from appreciating the movie's horrific impact. Though the DVD box promises "one of the most depraved and terrifying showdowns in cinematic history," I found myself going eh! during the flick's protracted torture climax. I appreciated the way that Zombie momentarily messed with our sympathies during the sequence where Sheri Moon Zombie's Baby gets chased through the woods by an axe-wielding Sheriff Wydell - goes to show that as long as you show a pretty gal in serious peril, it doesn't even matter if she's a murderous psycho bitch: we're conditioned to root for her. But Rejects' big Bonnie & Clyde/Butch & Sundance finish left me cold - and not just because I'm bored with Skynyrd's "Free Bird."

There are some decent moments in the flick: both unsettling (the centerpiece hostage sequence wherein our movie's psychotic trio terrorize a country-and-western band) and comic (a sequence with a self-satisfied movie expert who points out that all pseudonyms used by the movie's killers are from Marx Brothers movies, a blithely foul-mouthed scene at a chicken ranch). But in the end, the movie proved a little too straightforward for me. I missed the "what the hell" moments of the original (the Dr. Satan subplot, for instance) and I didn't get near enough of Sid Haig's demented clown shtick to suit me. I know I'm in the minority on this 'un, but it still felt like Zombie the director held himself back just a trace too much on this 'un.

I know, I know: never satisfied . . .
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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