I’ve been a fan of Rob Zombie since a remix of one of his songs appeared in The Matrix (and the awesome soundtrack for the film) and when it was announced he was going to write and direct his own film, needless to say I was intrigued. Of course I’m a giant wuss and when it comes to watching horror films I’m the first to leave the room. I skipped House of 1000 Corpses when it arrived and while my curiosity was piqued by what I’d seen of The Devil’s Rejects, I never made an attempt to check it out.
Of course that changed when this Rob Zombie 3-Disc Collector’s Set was announced. In one set I’d be able to watch Zombie’s two films and finally find out if I’d enjoy his films as much as I enjoyed his music. After watching House of 1000 Corpses, it became evident that I wasn’t going to share the same love of movies as Mr. Zombie, but even after being disappointed by Corpses, I was still interested in watching The Devil’s Rejects. No sooner did I pop out the Corpses disc did Rejects go in and I immediately noticed something: his budget must have gotten bigger. Not only was the film shot differently, it felt entirely different. While Corpses felt like a cheesy horror movie from the 70s (convenient, as it takes place in the 70s), and was probably meant to feel as such, Rejects had a different feeling to it altogether.
My main issue with Corpses wasn’t the scare factor—I think watching the animated Spawn series when I was younger took away some of the shock value that gore fests such as this one should have had, but it’s not altogether easy to watch. The murderous family is certainly a sight to behold and even seeing Rainn Wilson in a role that doesn’t put him behind an office desk was fun to see, but overall Corpses just felt like it was missing something. Once we got to the actual house with the 1000 corpses, it was cool to watch but by that point I was so dissatisfied with the rest of the film that I didn’t care. The ending with the woman getting away was slightly surprising, but after she was picked up by Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) it’s obvious where things were going. Of course the film ended right after Otis (Bill Moseley) popped up in the back seat of Spaulding’s car, but Corpses just felt like it could have been so much more. I’m not a fan of this genre, per say, but it was still lacking something and I’m not sure what it was.
Whatever Corpses lacked, The Devil’s Rejects had in spades. I really enjoyed The Devil’s Rejects a lot more than Corpses and the role reversal might have something to do with it. The film put the murderers from the first film in a new setting when the cops came to arrest them for the murder of the Sherriff from Corpses. It’s odd to start rooting for the Rejects to get away from the cops after seeing what they’d done in the Corpses, but the characters were so much more compelling in this film than the last. Maybe it was because we had history with them, but they all just seemed to be a lot more fleshed out, each one of their personalities clearer.
Rejects was also directed noticeably different. A lot less over saturation or exposure tricks were used with the scenes in this film than Corpses and Rejects just looks better overall. There’s not as much gore (not to say there isn’t gore, because there’s certainly a heavy amount still) and the film feels noticeably different from the last one. It also becomes apparent towards the end of the movie that while we had initially half-sympathized with the Rejects for whatever reason, you began hating them by the end of the film again and Sheriff John Quincy Wydell, who was seeking revenge on them for killing his brother, quickly deteriorates into one of them. It’s hard to tell if he tortures and inflicts pain on them merely to show them the pain they had caused to the over thousand people they killed or if he truly enjoys it, but by the end of the film it’s obvious his character changed from law-abiding to all-out rebel.
The films ending, with Lynard Skynard’s “Free Bird” blaring over the scenes as we see our Rejects, although wounded, driving through the desert is almost comical. The film ends in a brilliant bit of editing work with the music suddenly stopping, screams heard and bullets suddenly unloading. It was certainly one of the more memorable movie endings I’d seen in a long while and Zombie pulled it off excellently.
There were things in Rejects that bothered me still and something keeps me from really recommending it. It’s great that Zombie’s able to make you root for the bad guy a bit, but I think Rejects would have stood alone much better than having House of 1000 Corpses precede it. The two movies are so drastically different, but knowing the weirdness of Corpses came before Rejects make it slightly harder to enjoy.
Overall the movies are extremely…well, weird. They’re an acquired taste and I’ve no doubt there are horror buffs that absolutely love them to death, but not being a fan of the genre may have hurt my enjoyment of the films. Still, I can’t help but enjoy The Devil’s Rejects on a certain level, if only from an artistic standpoint. There was a lot of cool directing angles and cuts that I’ve never seen utilized in films before and Zombie’s future as a director looks promising if he continues along the Rejects route. I’ve no doubt that being a fan of his music aided in my enjoyment of Rejects a bit more, but really—both movies are really demented, so don’t expect a standard horror film. There’s disturbing stuff to be seen in them. I think my brains just been warped enough that the really gory stuff doesn’t bother me anymore.
House of 1000 Corpses: Skip
The Devil’s Rejects: Recommended
So what’s special about this Rob Zombie: 3-Disc Collector’s Set? Simply put…nothing. The packaging is new but the DVDs are identical to the past releases. House of 1000 Corpses even sports plain white disc art, while The Devil’s Rejects has some disc art that reminds me of something from another region or homemade…really strange.
One qualm I have with the set straight from the get go is how it’s packaged. I don’t mind dual layer digi-pak trays or anything (spacing saving = good) but there’s no outer jacket for this DVD, so the front flap kind of just hangs open (it’s merely taped down under the shrinkwrap). Not a huge deal when it’s on the shelf, but the thing just hung up open the entire time while it was on my desk—oddly enough, I actually wish it had a cardboard slip cover, as much as I usually detest those things. Oh well.
As stated before, the DVDs are identical to the past releases. House of 1000 Corpses still contain the oddly animated menus with newly recorded footage with the characters from the film that tell you what to expect from the DVD and the two and a half hour “30 Days in Hell: The Making of The Devil’s Rejects” is included as well, which is just an exhaustive and highly entertaining documentary to watch.
Zombie’s commentaries on the films are great fun to listen to and the extras on both films are rather entertaining to watch. Corpses extras are a bit strange (big surprise, huh?) and the behind-the-scenes material is really just the cast and crew standing around on the set, but, just like the films, The Devil’s Rejects delivers the superior DVD extras experience. Bloopers, deleted scenes and full versions of the stuff that was shot to air on the televisions in the background of Rejects, the extras contain a lot of cool stuff, including a deleted scene with Rosario Dawson playing a nurse that gets killed by Dr. Satan (a very cool scene, but admittedly one that has no place in the film itself).
The audio and visual transfers of the films are rather strong and for all of the screwy camera angles, colors and over-exposure that goes on in Corpses, the transfer is surprisingly solid. Rejects looks absolutely gorgeous though and when combined with the 6.1 DTS surround track, we get a really solid ambience throughout the room. Corpses own 5.1 track is immersive as well and the 2.0 standalone music-only track is curious, considering the film really didn’t have that much music in it, which is odd because I remember listening to the soundtrack for the film and Zombie created a lot of original songs for the film.
Overall while Corpses has good extras, Rejects knocks it out of the park. As if the commentary and all the other extras on the first disc weren’t enough, Rejects second disc with the near three hour documentary is just an exhaustive extra that is great to watch. If you don’t own the single disc releases already, then this set comes Recommended, but only if you have an idea of what you’re getting into. Blind-buying this release is not recommended, as you’ll likely not get what you expect.
Rob Zombie 3-Disc Collector’s Edition is now available on DVD.