Updated: Nov 15, 2019
Rob Zombie created a modern, horror, masterpiece when he made The Devils Rejects, way back in 2005. Regardless of how people feel, in general, about his other work, it’s hard to find a horror fan that doesn’t love that movie.
I’m a fan of Zombie’s films. I even like what he did with Halloween (2007) and that’s a big deal considering John Carpenter's 1978 original is one of my favourite movies.
Rejects fans never expected to get a follow up, as Zombie had seemingly killed off his protagonists/antagonists, or whichever way you want to look at it. The last scene in Rejects saw Otis, Baby and Captain Spaulding go out in a blaze of bullets and glory, while Skynyrd's, Freebird blasted over the soundtrack. It was a fitting end and I imagine, just how the Firefly’s would have wanted to go.
So why did Zombie decide that a third act was necessary? Maybe he had an itch he just needed to scratch. Maybe he regretted his decision to kill off his single greatest creations. Who knows. I, for one, am glad he did.
3 From Hell picks up exactly where Rejects leaves off. A series of news stories inform us that the Firefly clan has somehow survived their standoff with the Ruggsville PD and has been shipped off to the hospital. A further series of news reports aid us in skipping through time as we learn of the Rejects incarceration, which brings us up to speed some 10 years later. This is the jumping-off point for the rest of the story.
Our anti-heroes are all locked up. Otis is busy doing hard time, Baby, in what has to be Sheri Moon Zombie’s best performance to date, has gone completely round the bend, and The Captain is facing the death penalty. In scenes, reminiscent of Natural Born Killers (1994) The Firefly's find themselves publicly worshipped as celebrities. It beats having to go on Love Island I guess.
It’s a sad thing that we get such little time with Spaulding. Zombie had intended for Sid Haig to be a more prominent figure, throughout the film but Sid’s declining health had become an issue. The small, screen time we do get with the Captain though is a brilliantly scripted and acted scene involving an interview, with Haig, giving his, sadly last, great performance. Captain Spaulding’s story is tied up with a newscaster announcing that he has been executed via lethal injection. It’s a brutally quick payoff and all the more heartbreaking, given Sid Haig’s passing in real life. He was a true, cinematic Icon and will be missed.
So where do we get the three in 3 from Hell, I hear you ask? Enter Richard Brake (31, Game of Thrones) as Foxy, Otis’s half brother, who rocks up to aid Otis in his escape. There is a huge space to be filled in the absence of Captain Spaulding but Brake gives it his all and Foxy is a nice addition to the cast. They set about planning to break Baby out before fleeing to Mexico.
Baby, however, is busy having her own adventure. As I mentioned earlier, her time behind bars has rendered her completely insane. She also has a lustful prison guard on her case, (Dee Wallace, in what has to be, the least Dee Wallace like performance of her career. She isn’t even playing anyone’s Mum). Sheri Moon steals the film. Her portrayal of, bat shit crazy is a joy to behold. Eventually, Otis and Foxy come to the rescue and the trio flee to Mexico, leaving a bloody pile of human carnage behind them.
It’s the last act where things become a little too familiar. As with Rejects, The Firefly’s find themselves betrayed and hunted down by the vengeful family of one of their victims. I guess it makes sense as the Firefly clan have killed so many people that there must be a huge list of disgruntled family members who want their heads. I just found it to be a little too similar to Rejects third act.
That being said, once they break free and start offing their attackers, it’s gloriously entertaining. Baby goes all Rambo, taking to disposing of her oppressors with a Bow and Arrow. It's gleefully, violent fun. The Cartel obviously didn't know who they be fuckin with. Needless to say they don't last long, before being wasted.
So did The Devils Rejects need a follow-up? At first, I thought no, but having seen 3 From Hell, I’m happy to say I was wrong. My main concern was that having invested in the ending of Rejects, having said goodbye to these characters in such a gung-ho, balls to the wall fashion, that this movie might cheapen that ending. To some extent it does. Thankfully, 3 From Hell is such a good time, movie that I stopped caring and let myself enjoy the mayhem that unfolded. Sheri Moon Zombie stole the show and I never think Bill Moseley gets enough credit for his performance as Otis. Otis is a truly scary guy. I have met plenty of people who you wouldn’t want to fuck with and Moseley’s portrayal of Otis makes the menace of the character both credible and believable. Sid Haig’s absence from the majority of the film hangs over everything like a dark cloud. It’s hard to shake off the hope that the Clown is going to just pop up somewhere. Captain Spaulding cut such an indelible figure over this franchise. Richard Brake gives good Firefly, however, and if they make more of these films, it would be nice to see his character, further developed.
I have a huge soft spot for House of 1000 Corpses, and The Devils Rejects will, in all likelihood, remain Zombie’s magnum opus, but 3 From Hell is a mighty fine addition and happily, doesn’t tarnish what came before. I look forward to seeing what Zombie offers up next, whether it be something new and original or another outing for The Firefly’s.
R.I.P. Sid Haig 1939 - 2019.