Before I begin, I’d just like to tell you how full of shit I am.
This is a movie review, after all, and a movie review is nothing but a collection of opinions from some random asshole who rarely offers up any original creations of his own for others to judge. We’re a sad people, movie reviewers. Much like the creatures of the 1984 film C.H.U.D., we dwell in sewers and live off the flesh of those unfortunate enough to cross our paths.
Don’t listen to me.
Refrain from automatically trusting anything I have to say about 3 From Hell, or any other movie, for that matter.
You have a mind of your own, and I hope you put it to good use by viewing movies before applauding or condemning them.
Now that I’ve shared my oh-so-progressive stance on movie reviews…
I saw Rob Zombie's latest installment in the Firefly Family Saga, 3 From Hell, last night. I'm a huge Rob Zombie fan, through and through, and I'm telling you this because I don't want you to mistake me for an impartial critic. I went into this movie knowing I would like it, or at least that I would find a way to like it. To put it bluntly, the stars of 3 From Hell could've stood in front of a green screen and ad libbed the entire movie with no direction whatsoever, and I still would've been on my knees ready to fellate the hell out of this movie.
That’s not to say I don’t have some complaints. It’s been almost 15 years since The Devil’s Rejects, which apparently only translates to a couple years in the world Rob Zombie’s created. The timeline is confusing in the same way the timeline of Dark Phoenix was confusing. The actors have obviously aged, some more than others, but we’re still stuck in the same 1970’s aesthetic, even though The Devil’s Rejects took place in 1978. Here’s my pitch that’ll help you enjoy this movie despite this immediate flaw…
Forget all about The Devil’s Rejects.
Tall order, I know. Some things are too beautiful to forget. But if you treat this movie like a soft reboot, you’re much more likely to enjoy it. Lower your expectations. In fact, put aside all your expectations, because if you go into 3 From Hell hoping for some of that Devil’s Rejects lighting in a bottle, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
Now, here are a few things I really, really enjoyed about 3 From Hell. Maybe you’ll enjoy them, too.
For starters, Rob Zombie knows his audience, and he knows that 99.9% of the people who purposely seek out his movies are expecting something sleazy, violent, and absent of any sort of trigger warnings. I truly believe that the success of The Devil's Rejects, at least in terms of being applauded by many of the big names in the horror industry, was a happy accident in a lot of ways. Rob Zombie obviously didn't go through the entire filmmaking process asking himself, "How can I be taken super seriously as a filmmaker?" That's not to say he didn't carefully consider every artistic decision in the movie, but he did so on his own terms. Rob Zombie is nobody’s whore. Rob Zombie is a classy broad, and nobody does Rob Zombie like Rob Zombie does Rob Zombie. Rob Zombie doesn't give a fuck what you think about Rob Zombie’s fictional worlds. And no, Rob Zombie doesn't much care if you didn't like Rob Zombie’s Halloween, Halloween II, Lords of Salem, or 31. In fact, Rob Zombie is a little bit surprised you still bother to complain about how Rob Zombie’s films never quite live up to your petty little expectations....I mean, this is the same Rob Zombie who wrote the song “Teenage Nosferatu Pussy.” Does it really seem like he gives up even an inch of artistic ground to critics and their masturbatory hate reviews?
(Just one more, for good measure: Rob Zombie!)
3 From Hell is no different. No, sir; this movie's about as sleazy as sleazy gets, and it's completely self-aware of how it's going to be perceived by audiences who were hoping for something a little classier or "deserving." In one scene, Otis remarks of Baby, "You don't know her like I know her, man. No....she's really changed." Perhaps I'm giving Rob Zombie too much credit, but I took this scene as a giant "FUCK YOU" to critics who are sitting in the theater scribbling their diatribes against how he’s either "forgotten his roots" or "lost touch with his own characters."
Or maybe it wasn't.
Again, I’m just another movie reviewer who doesn’t take this shit very seriously, so what do I really know?
Another thing Rob Zombie got right was the callbacks to his previous movies, which really help viewers pretend this is a semi-remake of The Devil’s Rejects. Funny thing, but I've noticed that nobody ever gives a damn when superhero movies make callbacks to previous installments in their multimillion-dollar franchises...but when a horror movie does it, people complain that it feels cheap, or that it relies too much on the fan base of the previous movies.
For as frequent as the overt fanservice was, it never lacked entertainment value. The jokes landed every time, at least in the auditorium I watched the movie in. Most of the audience was wearing Rob Zombie t-shirts or dressed up as Captain Spaulding, so if you want the opinions of true fans, there you go. Critics will pan the movie to death for the fanservice alone, so if that's something you don't care for in horror movies, you probably won't dig this movie much.
Finally, I especially liked the black comedy nature of 3 From Hell. In a way, it's the best way Rob Zombie could've progressed with the story (provided you ignore my advice and view it as a sequel). The first movie, House of 1000 Corpses, was a hallucinatory acid trip with cartoonish and over-the-top characters and lots of "bad guy dialogue." It wasn't meant to be taken very seriously; as a wise friend of mine (who still owes me $20 for a ride to Detroit in 2015) once said, "Horror movies are at their best when they don't take themselves too seriously." In the case of House of 1000 Corpses, it worked well. The second movie, The Devil's Rejects, retconned a few things from the first movie, including the supernatural elements and some of Otis's characterization, in order to create a more believable story that started off with a black and white picture of 'Good Guys vs. Bad Guys,' but then succeeded in making audiences really feel for the psychopathic villains, despite all their deeds. This worked, and nobody complained that it wasn't very much like its predecessor.
For 3 From Hell, Rob Zombie pokes a bit of fun at audiences for falling in love with the despicable villains he's created. Most of the first half hour of the movie involves protestors talking about how much they love "The Three" and declaring their status as symbols against the status quo or just plain proclaiming their love (i.e., boners) for Baby and Otis. Baby in particular lets fame go to her head; several times throughout the movie she exclaims, "I'm the star!" or tells everyone who hates her that she's aware how they masturbate to thoughts of her, because she's a sex symbol in the same way real-life serial killers become sex symbols for antisocial high school kids with Guns & Ammo subscriptions. In a way, it feels like Rob Zombie is saying, "I showed you the most despicable bastards I could come up with, and you all called me a genius for making them redeemable...so maybe you’re a little fucked up."
Maybe I'm the minority in this situation, or maybe I'm just plain wrong (hey, I fucking could be), but I really did like the endless amount of jokes in this movie. It was less of a horror movie and more of a horror-comedy, if we're being honest. And you know what? I fucking loved it.
One of my favorite jokes involved a decision to relocate to Mexico.
Otis says, "We can't go to Mexico, we don't speak Mexican!"
Baby replies, very seriously, "Little kids speak Mexican! How hard can it be?"
I know, right? Har-har-har! Maybe the joke won't quite land with you, but the Levis Commons Auditorium 12 I saw the movie in was absolutely cracking the hell up...so those of you who say things like "All the jokes in the movie failed!" can shut the hell up. Humor is subjective, you see?
My only real complaint about the movie involves a spoiler you've likely already guessed: Captain Spaulding is barely in the movie. I've read some articles about the reasoning behind this, and apparently there were health issues involved which prevented Sid Haig from dedicating enough screen time to do his character proper justice.
But, as Spaulding himself tells us, "There is no justice in this world."
Richard Brake does a pretty good job of filling those mighty Haig-sized clown shoes, though. I think even the harshest critic would agree that Brake was the most menacing part of Rob Zombie’s previous film, 31, and audiences were a little pissy that we wasn’t in more of the movie. Well, here you go: happy birthday, here’s a big box of Richard Brake’s creepy genius for you!
For a last-minute replacement, Richard Brake really did his due diligence in creating a character which fits into the story and has believable chemistry with Otis and Baby. Richard Brake isn’t a consolation prize; Richard Brake is the shiny and expensive gift hidden under your pillow by Mom after all your other presents were tragically thrown at the wall by your abusive stepfather when you told him “I’m lactose intolerant” and he shouted for you to eat your cake and ice cream anyway.
I don't know what else I can tell you about the movie without treading into spoiler territory. My final comment is this:
Watch the goddamn movie before deciding how to feel about it.
So many of you read fan sites like this, or opinions on social media from people you might not have spoken to in years, and then you go see the movie with these opinions preset in your mind.
Be your own person.
Go see the movie. If you hate it, that's fine. If you love it, that's even better. But don't let assholes like me or anyone else decide for you how much you love or hate Rob Zombie's latest splatterpiece.
My verdict: 7/10 Fireflies
I'm really hoping Rob Zombie refrains from making a fourth movie, however. Three is enough; this is the logical stopping point, and there's nowhere else to go from here.
***Portions of this review previously appeared on www.AshCrowlin.com. This review has been re-posted with the author’s permission***