Tag Archives: Rob Zombie

Midnight Screening: The Devil’s Rejects

Now I get to go off the deep-end! To some extent, if only some, reviewing Rob Zombie’s greatest film thus far, The Devil’s Rejects, is an excuse to discuss Rob Zombie’s work on the whole. Yes he’s schlocky and his films are often messy and chaotic and have no idea what the hell is going on, but boy if they don’t have the damnedest time of their lives doing it. For all his faults, Zombie knows what he wants and isn’t about to see that vision sullied by a production company. He’s impassioned, cock-sure, self-centered, angry, obsessive, and perverse – which happens to sound like a laundry list of features that have composed many (most) of the great directors of the past hundred years. And the most important bit, lest I forget: he absolutely loves movies, and he wants us to know it too.

It is within this frame-set that I approach The Devil’s Rejects, Zombie’s most fully realized, most gloriously depraved, most caustically subversive, most oddly, uneasily touching, and most visually witty pieces of filmmaking yet made, and it is wrapped up in some of the finest genre clothing I’ve seen in years, exuding a positively desperate love of cinema in every frame. It’s disgusting, undoubtedly, and it doesn’t want you to think otherwise. But disgusting does not a bad film make, especially when it’s about disgust in cinema and how we cartoon-coat violence when we want to make it seem respectable. For Zombie, much like a Tarantino gone off the deep end of his own anarchism, there is an awareness that films mostly end up entertaining with violence even when they pretend not to. Unlike Tarantino however, Zombie doesn’t so much want to make violence cool as explore the tension between violence being cool and violence being disgusting, for his films are disgusting and they don’t hide their disgust away with corporate sleekness, composed formalism, and clean filmmaking. Devil’s Rejects is sloppy, amorphous, and sickly looking, showcasing film grain and making no bones about how ugly it looks.
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Review: The Lords of Salem

Rob Zombie is not a particularly nuanced filmmaker, but then nuance isn’t everything. Sometimes, a parade of bravura, shoot-for-the-gutter images and sounds is all you need, and if nothing else, The Lords of Salem is a fairly stunning little devil of images and sounds lined up for us by the naughtiest ringmaster this side of Italian giallo. After all, and at the risk of sounding too classicist, early cinema was nothing more than a parade of images to amuse and titillate, to vex and induce wonderment, and to distill and massage emotion out of the purity of look and feel. Those were the wild years of cinema, a period of looking to the future. Of course, Rob Zombie, here and always, looks to the past. But in it he finds something no less woolly, no less feral, and no less sensitive to the primitive power of feverish film imagery at its most direct.

His own wife Sheri Moon Zombie and a fiendish little ditty about the town history of Salem Massachusetts in tow, Zombie sets out for this sort of direct line between his script and the images he wishes to induce and caress out of it. On paper, it’s a tentative mixture of ambiguous character and enigmatic, not-quite-psychological horror (it’s too willfully difficult and primordial, and probably too literal to earn the psychological horror bent everyone who likes the film wants to bestow upon it). Sheri Moon Zombie stars as a middle-aged single Salem shock-jock radio DJ who receives a mysterious musical curio early in the film, a peculiar LP equal parts of metallic rust and Gothic haunt that soon enough reveals itself to do much more than serenade the ears with raw nails and screws.

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