Giving the 'Devil' Its Due

The family that slays together: Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) and Otis (Bill Moseley) in
The family that slays together: Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) and Otis (Bill Moseley) in "The Devil's Rejects." (By Gene Page)

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By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 22, 2005

MEET THE Firefly family, a southern fried version of Charles Manson's murderous clan that kills people with giddy abandon as its members trade endless, graphic obscenities. In "The Devil's Rejects," Rob Zombie's follow-up to the gruesome "House of 1,000 Corpses," these gleeful psychotics find themselves on the run.

It seems Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe) is all bent out of shape because his brother was one of the Fireflys' 1,000-plus victims. So he has set up camp outside their farmhouse with a small force of Texas Rangers, ordering the family to surrender. Well, you can imagine what the Fireflys have to say about that.

One bloody shootout and conflagration later, Mother Firefly (Leslie Easterbrook) is caught and arrested, and Otis Firefly (Bill Moseley) and his sister Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) are burning rubber and hitting the old blacktop. Busting into a motel room, they torment and massacre a few more innocents while they wait for their father, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), to join them. All in a day's work, ya know? Captain Spaulding, incidentally, is made up like a clown from hell. And he never met a passerby he didn't like to terrify and slaughter.

Finally all together, the Fireflys take refuge in a dilapidated amusement park run by Captain Spaulding's half-brother, Charlie Altamont (Ken Foree). But the demented sheriff is always moments away. Things ain't gonna end up good, that's for sure. But you know the cackling, nihilistic Fireflys are going to enjoy every minute.

Abandon hope, all who enter this movie thinking it's supposed to mean anything or redeem itself. But that's the point of "Rejects," which is a sentimental (if that's the right word) return to the cold-slab murderousness of such flicks as "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and the anything-goes mayhem of midnight movies in general. For the right audience, this movie is the butt-kicking, dirt-talking, blood-spurting equivalent of beautiful music.

Speaking of which, the soundtrack is a stomping kick of its own, with songs from Joe Walsh, the Allman Brothers and other hard-drivers. One climactic scene uses Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" to invoke the collective spirit of Sam Peckinpah, Butch & Sundance and Thelma & Louise, for a death-or-glory shoot-'em-up with the cops. Love him or hate him, you have to hand it to writer-director Zombie, who's a midnight movie unto himself with his dreadlocks, his fascination for Manson and the Marx brothers, and his former life as lead singer for the metal band White Zombie. He never wavers from his purist task of shocking (or thrilling) viewers down to their hard-core boots.

THE DEVIL'S REJECTS (R, 101 minutes) -- Contains gruesome violence, pervasive obscenity, drug use and nudity. Area theaters.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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