Here’s our review of ‘3 From Hell’, the latest film from Rob Zombie that carries on the story started in ‘House of 1,000 Corpses’ and ‘The Devil’s Rejects’…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Opinions always vary on horror films, especially those considered to be iconic over the past 20 years or so.
Audiences, critics and even award shows fell in love with ‘Get Out’, Paranormal Activity’ carried on the legacy of the ‘found footage’ genre that started with ‘The Blair Witch Project’ and James Wan struck gold with ‘The Conjuring’ universe. Still for my money, the best horror film of the past two decades was Rob Zombie’s follow up to his directorial debut ‘House of 1,000 Corpses’ when he brought the same characters back from that movie and turned in a sequel titled ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ that became an instant classic.
A mix of terror, comedy and a tale of revenge, Zombie managed to take a sociopathic family of rapists and murderers and somehow turn them into sympathetic anti-heroes by the end of his movie after setting a dogged lawman on their trail, who was out for blood rather than an arrest.
‘The Devil’s Rejects’ still holds up to this day and it truly serves not only as Zombie’s best work to date but the film put forth a real character driven masterpiece rarely seen in the horror genre.
Fast forward 14 years and Zombie decided to go back to the well again by literally resurrecting those same characters and bringing them back for his latest sequel titled ‘3 From Hell’, which opens in theaters this week in a limited engagement. Zombie managed to orchestrate the perfect ending to ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ by allowing the family to survive the onslaught of a sheriff trying to kill them, only to get cut down in a hail of gunfire by the local authorities who finally caught up to them. That final scene of Otis (Bill Moseley) driving down an empty highway with his sister Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) and her father Cutter aka Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) all to the sounds of the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic ‘Free Bird’ was as poetic an ending as any movie in recent memory much less a horror film.
Rather than allowing that to be the end of these characters, Zombie decided to return to his most successful franchise for ‘3 From Hell’ but by the end of this two-hour bloodbath, the result is a less cohesive, not nearly as compelling grainy reprint of ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ that fails to live up to its predecessor much less serve as a fitting conclusion to this trilogy.
With that said, let’s get to our full review of ‘3 From Hell’…
Otis, Baby and Captain Spaulding miraculously survived the shootout with the cops at the end of ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ and after a year of comas and intensive care, the trio are finally put on trial and convicted for the house of horrors they inhabited in Ruggsville not to mention the trail of dead bodies they left behind following their initial escape from authorities.
Like so many serial killers in the United States, the Devil’s Rejects become something of a cult phenomenon with followers pledging blind allegiance to the murderous family responsible for at least 38 deaths.
While the loyal following from a legion of fans paints a potential plot twist, Zombie fails to really explore that angle any further and instead turns his attention to getting the Firefly family out of prison so they can begin wreaking havoc once again.
Sadly — and this is not a spoiler if you’ve seen the trailer — Sid Haig’s Captain Spaulding doesn’t get much screen time in this film. The reasons in the movie would give away part of the story but the real life situation was Haig dealing with health problems that kept him from getting too involved in filming. The problem is Haig’s character was such a huge part of the first two films in this series that he’s sorely missed in this sequel.
As for the other members of the family — Otis and Baby along with a new character named Foxy — eventually manage to break free from captivity and what follows is a predictable series of murders and executions that feel tired, especially compared to the two previous movies in this series.
Of course, the authorities are in hot pursuit of the 3 From Hell and if this is starting to sound familiar, then you’re beginning to understand the major issues happening in this film.
ACTING, DIRECTING AND SCRIPT
‘3 From Hell’ largely becomes a vehicle for Zombie to give his wife Sheri Moon Zombie a much bigger canvas to paint on than any of his previous films that featured her in a lead role. She played Michael Myers’ mother in the ‘Halloween’ reboot and did a solid job and her portrayal as seemingly innocent yet deadly Baby in ‘House of 1,000 Corpses’ and ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ let her really spread her wings to fly.
While she’s not bad in ‘3 From Hell’, it’s evident by the halfway mark of this movie that Baby Firefly is meant to be a supporting character rather than the lead.
Bill Moseley slips back into his role as Otis Driftwood without any problem and he remains the shining star out of this cast. As good as he can be, it felt like Zombie didn’t give him nearly as much material to chew on this time around and instead put his sole focus back on Baby.
As previously mentioned, Sid Haig doesn’t get to spend much time on screen in this movie but the few minutes you get with him is probably the best part of the film.
Richard Brake joins the cast as ‘Foxy’ and while he’s not a bad addition to the Firefly family, he pales in comparison to the twisted charisma that Haig exploited both with his clown makeup on or off. Brake isn’t bad but he doesn’t quite fit in with this trio.
As far as the directing goes, Zombie has his own style and it’s what you’d expect out of one of his film. He likes to give his movies a sort of grainy, dirty look like it’s something you’d find out of a 1970’s video bin — and ‘3 From Hell’ is no different.
Where Zombie fell short time and time again was with the script.
The dialogue is predictable and not nearly as punchy as the two previous movies in this series and there were some moments where you could tell Zombie was trying too hard to come up with a snappy line that would give his characters something memorable to say. Sadly he fell short in nearly every attempt.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE MOVIE?
A lot is the easy answer but giving too much detail would count as massive spoilers.
Let’s just say, Zombie isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel with ‘3 From Hell’ but there was the possibility of making this a good movie, he just failed to hit the mark. The lead characters fail to strike genuine fear in their victims and what results is just really poor torture porn.
The adversaries going up against the 3 from Hell are a far cry from the brilliant performance that William Forsythe gave as vengeful Sheriff John Quincy Wydell. That was always going to be tough to top but at the very least Zombie could have given his characters a worthy foe and he comes up well short of that attempt in this movie.
‘3 From Hell’ feels like a completely unnecessary bookend on a trilogy that should have died with ‘The Devil’s Rejects’. Zombie doesn’t do anything to add onto the legacy he built on that film and if anything this movie will just make you want to go back to watch ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ to see him at his very best.’
’3 From Hell’ gets 2 out of 5 on the Skolnick Scale