Well, it’s that time of year again. Brooke reminded Annemarie of the once a year “spooky” edition accords. Annemarie resisted. We landed on a horror-adjacent picture that’s mostly a gore-fest from Rob Zombie. Annemarie wasn’t scared, but she also wasn’t pleased. AM, tell the people, if you will, what this movie is all about, why you hated it and why you think it landed on the long-short list of potential titles.
A: I mean, you suggested it. You also suggested true horror tales that all sounded awful, so yeah, I’m going to pick the “spooky” film over the truly scary one. Plus, you and Justin Husbandfriend gave this movie props because it was kind of nutty, but also “interesting.” I was sold, because you were right about Cabin in the Woods.
This is not Cabin in the Woods, and I argue that it’s not all that interesting, in addition to being less shocking than I thought it would be. I wasn’t expecting jump scares, but I thought that this serial killer family with no motivation to kill would be terrifying because you can’t predict them. Perhaps if the dialogue and acting had been better, I’d feel more terrified, but I wasn’t impressed, or scared.
I regress, this movie is about one thing: escaping a close-call shootout with the sheriff and the innocents killed along the way. One of the arguments for “interesting” was hinged on the fact that the movie starts at the ending, the final, to-the-death last stand. Except two escape, and we follow them until they have a second last stand. But by that time I was tired of watching them, so I welcomed their being shot. (Ew, who am I?)
Brooke, tell me the defense of this film, and what you think is “interesting” about it. Tell us, what else did you suggest that I rejected?
B: AM, you’re coming in really hot on this one. As the person who rejected Sinister, Don’t Breathe, The Conjuring and likely others that I’m forgetting just at the moment, I don’t think you can complain about Mr. Zombie’s twisted vision all that much. Namely, because we all know you chose it based on “it’s not scary, it’s just fucked up.” And so, you spooky skirter of real horror, we watched what passed for horror in the early aughts when torture porn was all the rage. What sets The Devil’s Rejects apart from the Hostels and the Saws of its day is narrative interest. Yes, narrative interest.
You see, my anti-horror friend, it is fascinating that we meet these characters, the Firefly Clan, after the credits would normally roll. Typically, we’d see their end when their home is raided and the cops make their move, but instead, we spend our time with them on the run and out of their element. Normally, the victims are pursued, now the killers are the ones fleeing. And that is objectively interesting. Further to that is the fact that this picture is deeply indebted to horror films of the ’70s, in particular, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a title I would never dream to suggest to you, because I know it wouldn’t go over. But for those of us who know our horror film history, it’s quite interesting to see how those familiar tropes are bent and twisted to this strange, strange road movie.
You’ll recall that Justin and I never said The Devil’s Rejects is well acted or well directed. It absolutely is not. Nor is it well written. But for its shortcomings, it’s compelling. Why do these monsters make a scene when they could flee without drawing such attention to themselves? What are the rules of their weird-ass murder cult?
I know that none of this is going to change your opinion, AM, but I am going to insist that you explore this thing with me anyway. So tell me, which Firefly do you hate the least?
A: AHHH I see. I thought I was comparing this film to MY level of good cinema, but if we’re comparing Devil’s Rejects to Hostel, then yes, this seems to be ever-so-slightly more interesting than just torturing people. Fair enough. My sarcasm aside, I do have one main quibble left: isn’t House of 1,000 Corpses where we meet the Firefly Clan, and see more of the traditional victim torture and kill? I am not requesting to see this film, but I know I missed some context by not seeing the OG film, just the sequel?
Seeing as how my choices are Captain Spaulding (the creepiest and unnecessarily makeup-ed clown I’ve ever seen), Baby (Rob’s wife then and now), and finally, Otis, the oldest brother figure, I have to say my favorite is Danny Trejo, who’s part of the vigilante group tracking the Firefly Clan. Oh, you want to make me pick a member of the clan I hate the least? Baby. It seems smart of her to utilize seduction techniques as a prelude to murder, so props to her for using what she’s got.
I am going to guess at some of the murder cult rules and why I think the Firefly Clan is literally unable to just go quietly into hiding:
- Murder who you can grab, when you can grab them, and feel free to fuck with them however you want beforehand.
What other rules do you think they’re following? Did I miss anything from the first film that would help inform their craziness? And what do we think of our oddball scripture-quoting sheriff?
B: This from the person who called The Gnome-Mobile good?! Now’s not the time to pull the cinematic snobbery card, my dear friend. I simply cannot allow it, especially when I am arguing for narrative interest, not quality. But, I digress, you’ve asked a lot of questions about House of 1,000 Corpses and I regret to inform you that I cannot answer a single one of them because I watched that dreadful picture exactly one time after seeing The Devil’s Rejects (and finding it interesting) and absorbed absolutely nothing. The first film, as we say, is DEAD TO ME. In my world, it doesn’t exist and we only know what this picture tells us because that’s all I know, can you dig it?
You didn’t ask about my least hated Firefly Clan-er, but I would side with you in favor of Baby, she’s the least physically powerful of the group, so she has to be the smartest. And I particularly enjoy how much time she dedicates to irritating Otis on their strange roadtrip. Say it with me. “Tutti. Fuckin. Frutti. Tutti fuckin’ frutti!!!”
As for the rules, I think there’s probably quite a lot in there about avoiding detection, since they seem to have long ago agreed upon the broad outlines of the escape we’re following. Otherwise, I think it’s kind of a safety in numbers, albeit a terrible together kind of game.
The scripture-quoting sheriff, for me, is Rob’s stab at a very Tarantino-esque villain, he’s bigger than life and driven by something, but it doesn’t quite square with normal folks. I don’t care for him any more than for Captain Spualding. He does, however, serve as the channel for many film history references, which further supports the Tarantino theory I’ve just floated, which in turn supports watching this picture critically and pulling it apart as a thought exercise to see what Rob was getting at.
Not that you’ve held back to this point, but AM, I want to give you a chance to air your grievances. If you had to pick what are the three things you hate most about this movie?
A: I would never hold back grievances. Thank you for giving me the floor, all the same.
- Violence. I don’t love it in any medium, can’t really watch it even though I do dearly love many shows and films that are hyper-violent. But when the only focus is on unrelenting violence without the character development I still insist is lacking severely, I’m totally out.
- Weak Violence. Stay with me here. This isn’t even Game of Thrones-level violence and sadism, and I have to admit that I was surprised that the stabby and shooty sequences weren’t more awful. I was imagining something much more creative, but again, I think my hopes were skewed by what Cabin the Woods did. I thought Rob Zombie would come up with something more innovative or more gratuitous, and that’s part of what I found boring.
- I Care About No One. You said it too: there’s not really a hero here, aside from Danny Trejo. The sheriff is bizarre and I’m honestly not sure his motives are on the up-and-up. Our serial killers just seem to annoy each other until they break out into violence, so there’s not even a twisted love (family or romantic) at play. I just don’t care if they die, simple as that.
- Honorable Mention for Tutti Fruitti. This was EPICALLY annoying.
Brooke, I’d say our quota for conversation has been met, unless you’d like to give your defense any final pushes? I’ll just hang out here with my gnomes.
B: Fine, fine, fine. I’ll release you from your yearly “horror-adjacent” quota. But know this, next year, I’m going to pick a good horror movie, without the negotiation. You’re clearly ready to graduate, my friend.