Hey look it’s THE DEVIL’S REJECTS the lone ROB ZOMBIE movie you’re allowed to like without fear of being ostracized or spat upon! Naturally it’s my least favorite of his output on account of I’m trying to be difficult. I think I’d agree that REJECTS is ZOMBIE’s most technically efficient film but I’ve got personal reasons to find it a slightly arduous viewing experience.
First of all, I originally saw it with a friend of mine who is now dead and secondly I really have a hard time watching PRISCILLA BARNES being psychologically tortured. No, I didn’t like it when Jack and Larry humiliated poor Terry in the THREE’S COMPANY season six episode “Jack Bares All.” And I don’t like it any better here. Don’t you realize that I love PRISCILLA BARNES and want no harm to come to her? Anybody but P.B.! I wouldn’t mind if it was JOYCE DeWITT who was humiliated. Hell, the Firefly family could use her as a combination footstool-human ashtray for all I’d care. As far as I’m concerned that little rat showed her true colors in the classic THREE’S COMPANY season six episode “Janet wigs out”!
Now I said THE DEVIL’S REJECTS was not my favorite ROB ZOMBIE movie but did you know that because I LOVE all of his movies that it is still super excellent in my book? “Urban Plowboy” may not be my favorite season six episode of THREE’S COMPANY but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. I just have kind of a hard time relaxing and enjoying myself while I watch THE DEVIL’S REJECTS. I feel like some scary drunk person is putting his arm across my shoulder and laughing all up in my face and I can’t tell if it’s a genuine laugh or the crazy laugh of someone who is about to punch me in my scooter pie hole. The other night while watching T.D.R., I noticed that my arms were tightly crossed in front of my chest for half of the movie. I don’t trust these guys but they fascinate me. I’d like to invite them in but I’m afraid they’ll smash my Hummel collection.
One thing that I like about ZOMBIE’s movies is the fact that he likes to screw around with the idea of “good guys” and “bad guys” and that there’s no morality net. One can accuse him of stripping away the magical supernatural element from HALLOWEEN but I think what stings more is that the notion of order in the universe is kicked to the curb too. Suddenly things are not going to go a character’s way just because they play nice and that’s a hard pill for viewers to swallow. It pretty much goes against everything we are raised to believe. In fact, civilized society kind of relies on people buying into the idea that if they behave they will be rewarded with safety. What ZOMBIE usually ends up with is an arena uncomfortably like the reality we’re unwilling to face: random, justice free and dog eat dog, everything I go to the movies to escape. It’s not pleasant but I find it strangely exhilarating all the same, like a citywide anarchy baiting blackout.
BOB-ZOB’s gotta lotta nerve if he wants me to hook my cart to the insane, murderous, despicable Firefly family and yet I find that, against my better judgment, I do. How is that possible? It should take more then a few minutes worth of too cute dialogue about tutti-fruity ice cream to get me to snuggle up to these sicko characters. Yet there I go strapping on my tin man outfit to stroll down the blood stained yellow brick road with cackling, Dorothy-witch Baby, scary blasphemous scarecrow Otis and rolly-polly repugnant lion, Captain Spalding. What’s my dealio? Even the unsinkable E.G. DAILY gets shot in the forehead after hanging out with these ruffians, why am I here?
Here’s the thing, as an adult I understand that what I’m watching is fiction, that the atrocities and the murders shown are not real. What does read as “real” to me are the feelings expressed throughout the rest of the film, the longing for freedom and the commitment to life outside of the tunnel vision of our culture. That’s what I find seductive and that’s what I take a way. Watching BONNIE AND CLIDE as a kid, BADLANDS as a teen, THELMA AND LOUISE as a young adult and NATURAL BORN KILLERS as a less than young adult, I felt the same pull. I’m not justifying the actions of any of the wanted individuals in the movies mentioned but I can’t help smelling the fact that they all wear the same cologne, “eau de fuck you!” I love that scent!
By rights I should be siding with Sheriff Wydell (WILLIAM FORSYTHE) who is on a mission to avenge his brother’s death at the hands of the trifling trio. If anyone besides ZOMBIE was orchestrating this show, I’m sure that would be the case but…no. I can’t help noticing that Wydell is just as vicious but half as fun. He’s a monster too but he finds no joy in being a monster, He’s a monster who thinks he’s better than monsters, by God, I think he’s a tool! That may be more of an emotional assessment than a rational one but that’s why I’m here. Am I crazy to want to feel things when I watch a movie, to be pushed out of my comfort zone a bit, to want to experience things without harm that I would not like to experience in life? I take this trip with these psychos because a part of me luxuriates in how much they don’t give a shit what you think. Personally, I probably worry too much about stepping on toes so a couple hundred f-bombs tend to let the sun shine in like bullet holes in metal siding.
I try to understand why the end of THE DEVIL’S REJECTS is so moving to me but the reasons I suppose, are infinity pronged. It’s sad really, our little monster toys have gone as far as they’ve been wound to. We are shown snapshots of the psychos in happier times and it’s almost insulting all things considered but it falls into the borderline embarrassing sentimentality puddle that R.Z. likes to splash in so I’m sold.
As screwed up as these people are they have forged their own family. They choose to die guns blazing rather than give in to the established order. There is acceptance among the unacceptable and good for them. There are some bonds made in life that will never be understood or accepted by others and it’s important to know that they can’t be destroyed by others either. Maybe I’ll never be able to fully understand my sympathy for these devils but I feel it just the same. Remember, polite society frowned upon Jack, Janet and Terry’s lifestyle choice too ya know!
(If you think about it, so much of the horror genre’s power hinges on the viewers ability to accept and identify with antiheroes and outcasts. You’re only watching half of FRANKENSTEIN if you view the creature as simply a beast and you’re missing out on a lot of DRACULA if you are not taken in by the Count’s charm.)
I’m sure there are some folks who can hear LYNYRD SKYNYRD’s “Freebird” and remain unmoved. Such people should be avoided like the oil spills they are. For me that song will now forever be permanently linked in my head with my poor dead friend just like THE REJECTS always will be. I wonder if my late pal (who bore an uncanny resemblance to RICHARD KLINE) would have lasted longer in this world if rather than trying to force his square peg into a round hole, he had allowed a little violence and vitriol into his heart; (“Take a step that is new…”), I guess I’ll never know.
I do know that with THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, ZOMBIE set aflame any and all previous ideas about what a sequel could be and where it could go and that alone recommends it. (It’s not everyday you see a neon splatterfest transformed into a dusty road movie after all and ultimately T.D.R. does stand alone.) I guess I come and dance on Baby, Otis and Spaulding’s floor because as reprehensible as they may be, I still secretly hope that they’ll live and any movie that can leave me feeling the exact opposite of the way I’d expect to can come and knock on my door anytime it wants to.
NOTE: One of the all time best endings to a movie EVER can be found HERE