Monday, February 20, 2006

Script Vs Film: The Devil's Rejects

Writer/director Rob Zombie pulls no punches. With a pseudonym like that, you wouldn't expect him to. If you've seen House of 1,000 Corpses, his directorial debut from 2003, you'll know what I'm talking about. He’s making the kind of films today that some of the controversial and banned horrors of the 70s/80s would like to be. For the critics, his particular brand of violent horror is all too easy to dismiss but Mr Zombie knows what he likes and knows how to get it on-screen.

The Devil’s Rejects was a sequel of sorts to House of 1,000 Corpses and while a bit too hairy and uncomfortable for the teen horror crowd, it was an unashamed gore thriller that satisfied Zombie’s cult audience and did respectable business at the American box office. The violent content of the story is uncomfortable and extreme but reading the script last year, I was surprised and impressed at the solid level of craft that Mr Zombie applied to his screenplay…(beware of nasty spoilers ahead)

“It’s always interesting with films of this type because the sequel can often outdo the original because of the hype and cult following that can generate from word of mouth and gore tactics. The House of 1,000 Corpses may not go down as a classic but it did respectable business and there’s always an audience out there for this type of slasher flick.

With that in mind, there could be something in this sequel as the story picks up where the last one left off and continues with its twisted violence and humour. The script is fairly decently written and it follows a neat structure with some effective characterisation and basic storytelling techniques. The content may not be exactly discerning or laudable but it sure has a sense of what it is and what it wants to do.

It offers a bit of story with Sheriff Wydell out to revenge a bizarre family of psychotics (The Devil’s Rejects) for the murder of his brother, the good lawman George Wydell. This concept is offered up to drive the entire film so that the Rejects’ killing and mayhem can take centre stage. To be fair, it’s effectively done. There’s a simple set up which is followed by an equally simple structure of ‘find the killers before they kill again’.

This structure gives the script lots of room to take advantage of the Rejects’ twisted sense of violence, justice and humour. When the Rejects escape the cops in the opening sequence, the next sequence sees Otis and Baby taking an innocent music band hostage and torturing them just to kill time before Captain Spaulding shows up. Wydell is still on the hunt for them and he gets to have some fun with Mother Firefly while two vigilantes Rondo and Snapper track Otis and Baby down.

For the target audience, this is great stuff as it gives them what they want. Violence, crude humour and sickly scenes. The story involving Wydell and his revenge is built up for the first half of the flick but then basically discarded so that the violence and retribution can crank itself up a notch. It all turns a bit silly and superficial. It’s to be expected really but it’s difficult to see the film having true and lasting appeal at the cineplexes.

This is a DVD/video home run where the film’s notoriety and violent action will be its biggest draw. Despite the criticism that can easily be thrown at the film, there is some good writing on display. There’s a good twist towards the end when Wydell gets killed and an effective twist again when his deputy Dobson unexpectedly shows up to kill the baddies.

It would have been great if the writing had taken a bit more care with its characterisation and character development (honestly, there is some in evidence) but writer/director Rob Zombie knows what he wants to do so he doesn’t get too bogged down with the complex nature of the beasts. This is all about profanity, violence and sick individuals.

So sure, yeah, it’s got some mileage for marketability but it’s not going to endear itself with critics or a large audience. But that would be missing the point. This film is not for them. This is primarily for a male 16-24 audience that laps up computer games, violence and porn as everyday habits. It should make some money as a release but as stated before, it’s the DVD/video market where this is likely to make its return.”


James Moran said...

Didn't love the movie, especially the bizarre moment where we're supposed to feel bad for the evil, serial-killing psychopaths - but fair play to Rob for making such a gleefully violent, hardcore movie, in this era of PG teen horror. Now I'm off back to my computer games, violence, and porn (preferably all three at once).

Maura said...

I'm not a fan of Rob Zombie's films for the reason that James touched upon.

In House of 1,000 Corpses you do not feel any empathy towards the victims, and the psycho serial-killers who mutilate and kill people for fun are somehow meant to be cool. It didn't work for me at all. I haven't bothered with The Devil's Rejects as a result.

While I'm a fan of horror films, I much prefer the atomospheric slow burn, rather than the in-your-face slasher pic. However, the latter is much in favour at the moment.

Danny Stack said...

I agree. I like horror stories that feel real, but are both startling and moving too, like The Exorcist and Don't Look Now.

The Rejects script was interesting because there was a lot of good writing on display. A shame then that the gleeful slasher fest is what Mr Zombie is all about rather than having a touch more subtlety and sophistication.

Anonymous said...

I thought that The Devils Rejects was a awsome work of horror and excitement. House of 1000 corpses was real good but not as good as The Devils Rejects, but House of 1000 corpses definently made The Devils Rejects one of the best horror films ever. With director Rob Zombie, Bill Moseley, and rob's georgious wife Sheri Moon Zombie theres no better movie I would think would be half as good for years to come inless of coarse Rob makes another movie. The way Baby, otis and Cpt. Spalding died at the end was so amazing, going down with a fight, almost like Bonnie and Clyde you just had to be sad even after all the bad things they have done.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to put down pot on the list of things the intended audience does as hobbies.