Of all the many movies that Rob Zombie has brought to the screen, his 2003 film House of 1000 Corpses and its 2005 sequel The Devil’s Rejects probably have done the best with both audiences and critics. They’re wildly disparate movies — the original goes from realism to a phantasmagorical journey below the titular house into the world fo Dr. Satan. And the sequel really works well — it’s a grimy, gritty journey through the world of its serial killing protagonists.
Since then, Zombie has made two divisive Halloween reimaginings, The Lords of Salem (a Ken Russell-influenced movie that completely misunderstood black metal on a level that you’d think a non-musician made it) and 31. He almost made two other films — Tyrannosaurus Rex and a remake of The Blob — while continuing his music career.
Which brings us to 3 From Hell, a movie that I quite frankly had no interest in after the abysmal drivel that 31 assaulted my eyes with. I get it — I’ve seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Eaten Alive and Warlock Moon. I just haven’t made it my life’s mission to continually remake these films to progressively less returns.
So, umm…let’s start the movie.
Since we last saw the Firefly family, they miraculously survived at least twenty bullet wounds each to make it to trial, where they were sentenced to life in prison, with their patriarch, Captain Spaulding (the late Sid Haig) paying the most penalty, as he’s executed via lethal injection. You can tell how rough Haig was at the end, but he still brings plenty of thunder to his role, despite his short time on screen.
Otis (Bill Moseley, who was Chop-Top in the aforementioned — and superior — Chainsaw 2) has escaped from jail thanks to his brother, Winslow Foxworth “Foxy” Coltrane (Richard Brake from Zombie’s 31 and the chemist from Mandy). They set up a plan to free their sister Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), who is locked in a war with prison guard Greta (Dee Wallace). They kidnap Warden Virgil Dallas Harper (Jeff Daniel Phillips, who was in Zombie’s Halloween and The Lords of Salem), his family and friends — including Austin Stoker — and hold them hostage so that she can finally escape. They all decide to go to Mexico.
Oh yeah, they also kill a clown, Mr. Baggy Britches, before that. He shows up for no reason whatsoever. I know that Clint Howard needs work, but he also deserves better.
While there, we’re reminded that Otis killed Rondo (Danny Trejo), one of the bounty hunters from the last film that was incarcerated along with him. Oh yeah — and Baby is growing crazier than she was before. Or more annoying. Seriously, it’s a fine line.
The three makes their way to a small town in Mexico in the midst of Day of the Dead celebrations — to which I audibly sighed and not in a good way — and stay in the town’s only hotel. In the midst of celebrating the holiday, Rondo’s son Aquarius (Emilio Rivera, Sons of Anarchy)and his Black Satans gang shows up for revenge. The three are tipped off by a little person named Sebastian (Pancho Moler, who played the Nazi killer Sick Head in 31) and end up wiping out the gang. setting Aquarius on fire and getting back on the road.
There are also some random killings I forgot to mention, but by and large, the film feels very unfocused, unplanned and yes, that word again, random. There’s no sense of urgency until the final ten minutes, which place the three into a situation they may not survive. It was the only time this movie seemed to have any promise, outside of rehashing what seemed fresh nearly two decades ago, like Slim Whitman’s “It’s a Sin To Lie” replacing “I Remember You” from House of 1000 Corpses, seeming like faint nostalgia at best and trite at worst.
Let me sum it up with music. Having “In-A-Gada-Da-Vida” play during the closing battle is about as cookie cutter music cue as there can be. You can pretty much say the same thing about this movie, which carbon copies Zombie’s influences ad nauseam to no good end. Then again, maybe that’s just a reference to Chop-Top, because he wanted that song played by KOKLA radio back in Texas.
To wit: Rob Zombie seems like a good dude. He obviously adores his wife. He’s an ethical vegetarian. His music was the entrance music for every independent pro wrestler ever at one point. He has good taste in bad movies. I think he’d be a fun person to discuss pop culture and film with. But man, then we’d get to the question, “So have you seen any of my movies?” and I abhor lying. I’d probably end up feeling bad, but not as horrible as I did suffering through this, literally a movie for an audience who must live inside the stockrooms of a Hot Topic and only come out for 80’s nights and Slipknot tours, high on 4 Look and demanding they make Scream 5. In short, pretty much every single thing I have been created to destroy.
I don’t know if 2019 can get a worse movie. Good news, Travolta. The Fanatic isn’t the worst movie now. Neither is Serenity. You can sleep safe, McConaughey. Here’s hoping neither of you choose to work with Mr. and Mrs. Cummings’ baby boy any time soon, though.