This is a disgustingly brutal and rather amazing film that never backs down or pulls any punches, going to some truly extreme places on a narrative and thematic level, resulting in an overall stunning piece of aesthetically ruthless exploitation cinema. I can still remember the first time I saw The Devil’s Rejects, and how utterly gob-smacked I was by the level of carnage, intensity, and general horror that greets nearly every scene and character in this disturbed actioner from cult-favorite filmmaker Rob Zombie. The performances are high-pitched, in your face, wildly cruel, and designed to repel; there’s not one “good person” to root for in this dangerous little flick, only evil and super-evil. When William Forsythe’s unhinged and deranged cop is your protagonist, well, you sort of know what you’re dealing with. And the fact that Zombie makes you spend so much time with the hideous Firefly family, allowing you to get to know them as individuals, regardless of his fucked up they are, it speaks to his intention of throwing the audience into a cesspool of mental and physical filth without ever offering any sense of relief.
Zombie knows what he’s doing as a director, at least in this film (I’ve not seen any of his other movies), and includes some smart homages to a few classic pictures (the Bonnie and Clyde-esque finale is riveting, and I’ll never think of the song Free Bird the same way again) while defiantly playing by his own, fully stacked and ultra-bloody deck of cards. The Devil’s Rejects almost dares you to look away or turn it off in a few spots; there’s a level of sadness to most of the on-screen behavior that keeps the necessary sting intact. Phil Parmet’s grungy cinematography projects clear-eyed menace in every moment, while the entire film will likely make you want to take a shower after you’re finished viewing. And yet, I think it’s absolutely incredible, wholly succeeding on nearly every level in which it aspires to, and is a work that feels so resolutely excited about the amoral hell-hole that it’s showcasing. This is a “strong-stomach” movie if there ever was one, and I think that was Zombie’s directorial motive all throughout conceiving, filming, and finishing this sick-puppy of a flick.