I try very hard not to write any negative reviews. As an author myself, I know how much time and effort gets poured into something creative. I know the heart and care and passion that comes in crafting something. I also know that I don’t always succeed and there’s almost always a way I could have done things better. So I try and find the positive in a work, even if I don’t much care for it. I think people may find this off-putting and may lead them to think that maybe I just like everything. Not true. I try to focus on the affirmative when it comes to art because I’d rather uplift than put down. Today, this will be a much harder case to make.
I have avoided watching 3 From Hell because of all the negative reviews I’ve read. Even the most positive spin hasn’t been very encouraging. I’m a pretty big fan of Rob Zombie in general; I love the White Zombie albums and think his first three solo works are just about equally as good. After that the releases get spotty for me, but that’s okay because I know his heart is in the right (horrific) place. As far as his movies go, the first two are pretty damned good, I think (House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects), but after that…I’m one of the Halloween remake haters, and I do mean hater, with Halloween II being marginally better than the first one. Lords of Salem had some really interesting ideas and a killer sense of style and visuals, but ultimately falls flat. 31 is just atrocious, and now we come to the sequel to Devil’s Rejects and I have to say, it’s a step up from 31, but it’s still an interminable piece of crap.
I’ve read all the troubles Zombie had trying to complete this film, with the sickness and eventual death of Sid Haig (RIP) and to having to rewrite the script almost last minute. And from that perspective, Zombie does manage to pull off a coherent story and film, but man oh man, is it a dog turd. Let’s break it down.
The story: not much here, to be honest. The gang breaks free from jail, kills some people, goes to Mexico, kills some luchador gangsters and walk off into the sunset. There is nothing compelling about this plot other th
an the beginning, where we see a cult of personality form around the Devil’s Rejects, an almost Manson/Family-like response by “fans” of the outlaws. How different would this movie have been if this angle had been explored more? I couldn’t tell you, because this aspect is treated as pepper on this tough, chewy steak, rather than as the tender meat it could have been. Nothing really happens in this movie, and it feels like the entire time we’re just spinning the wheels, waiting for the car to peel-out and tear down the road. Instead, we just sort of drift along, hearing cover version highlights of the greatest hits of the first two films echo around inside an empty vehicle. And it takes us nearly two hours to get there. Unacceptable. This is an Exploitation movie. Anything more than an hour and a half is too much. The previous two films can get by with it because at least something interesting is going on, but in this one, not so much.
The characters: they haven’t changed much and don’t change through the film. Otis is much more pensive and reflective, which is kind of interesting, but this goes nowhere. He’s simply soulless and, apparently, very tired of the same old shtick. Bill Moseley does look absolutely terrific, however, with that thick beard and flowing mane. As does Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) when she dons that Indian headdress and goes on the warpath. Baby, however, has only gotten crazier, and more shrill, and if you thought she was annoying in the first two movies, step back because she’s in overdrive in this one. I had no sympathy for her whatsoever and really just wanted her to die so she’d shut up. Also, how do you get such extensive tattoo work done in prison? Asking for a friend. Richard Brake plays their relative who helps bust Otis free and, eventually, Baby. He’s pretty good in the movie, although he’s given a lame nickname and not much to do. He’s the replacement for Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), who gets executed in prison, but not before we get a delicious monologue from the stalwart Captain of the clowns. There’s also the ludicrous character of the warden (Jeff Daniel Phillips) who looks like a hipster reject from an early 70’s TV cop show, only alive and breathing in the 1980’s, a clown played by Clint Howard (who is excellent and fun but ultimately, his scene means nothing other than “Hey, look, there’s Clint Howard!”), and a prison guard played by Dee Wallace (who is unrecognizable here and actually steals the movie with some impressive acting chops). Much like the plot, the characters travel far distances to really go nowhere.
The visuals: this is where Zombie unfailingly flies high, in every production. I might not care for the story he’s telling or the way he tells it, but by god it will be interesting to look at. Not so much here. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to feast your eyes on, with the opening, documentary style through to the arresting look of the battle with the Mexican gangsters at the end, but much of it falls sort of flat, feeling muted. Still, it’s enough to make this film watchable, if nothing more. The Soundtrack works just fine, as it does in most of his films. Sometimes the tracks he puts over the story can feel ostentatious (I’m looking at you, Halloween) but in this case, they fit pretty well, and that’s in keeping with the tradition of the first two movies in this trilogy.
Overall, this isn’t a very good movie. Yes, it tells a story, but it feels like retread of worn out ideas, things (devil) rejected from the first two films and shoehorned into this one. The plot meanders and takes far too long to get anywhere and when it finally arrives, it’s a rerun of all the good ideas we’ve already seen. It’s sort of like driving someplace fun, the trip taking forever to get there, and when you finally arrive, you find the place is closed. Yeah, this movie is kind of like the movie Vacation, only it’s not even close as entertaining.
This is for completists only, or fans of Rob Zombie. The casual horror fan has no real obligation to watch this. I don’t want to say it sullies the end of Devil’s Rejects, but it kind of does, robbing that film of its grainy, grimy power. Hopefully, Zombie has gotten the crud out of his system, and his next film will soar. Or maybe he’s only got two good films in him, which is better than most people have. Buyer beware.
One Bucket of Blood out of Four
Kelly is the author of dozens of stories and dozens of reviews, he likes to write, he likes to read, he likes going to the movies, and he loves to laugh. He hails from the wilds of Kentucky and if you'd like to see more of his work, check out his website: www.kellymhudson.com