Screenplay by Rob Zombie
Draft: May 4, 2004
Special Note: I try to refrain from any major spoilers such as who dies, who lives, and all that other nonsense. But still, I have to give you a spoiler warning anyway (just to cover my ass).
“Shit, I don’t go to no movies. The popcorn makes me nervous.” – Otis B. Driftwood
A member of the Firefly clan sits in an interrogation room face to face with Sheriff Wydell. This deranged member of the law is pleased but not entirely satisfied that he has at least one Firefly in custody, one responsible for the death of his brother. But Wydell’s also in shock because he’s being shown photos of his brother’s body being mutilated, the final picture in the set revealing the severed head of his kin being held wickedly before the anonymous photographer’s lens.
I read a scene like the one mentioned above from Rob Zombie’s script for The Devil’s Rejects and it’s hard not to think of the media’s current sensational fascination with an American’s beheading. Rejects, the sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, as of this writing is not due in theaters until late 2004 (perhaps early ’05), by then the buzz surrounding the overseas tragedy that befell one of our “good guys” will most likely simmer down, but I can’t help but think of the shit storm Zombie’s latest would’ve faced had it been released today. Who knows? He may encounter trouble down the road regardless because Rejects is certainly no pussycat of a script.
Lines were drawn in the sand when House of 1000 Corpses, after an arduous uphill slaughter to find distribution, reached theaters in the spring of 2003. There was no middle ground. No foggy “no man’s land” where horror fans wandered indecisively. It was black or white: You either embraced Rob Zombie’s debut…or you fuckin’ loathed it, freely pissing all over those who stood on “the other side.” And I’m talking about the separation of horror genre lovers here, folks. Not the cud-chewin’ multiplex movie zombies or “holier than thou” film nerds, but the bonafide, pure blood horror fanatics. It threw me for a loop, it did. So you can imagine how tickled I was to find a script, lyin’ on my coffin lid, to Zombie’s follow-up – of which I promptly devoured.
Having bled the Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe, that undeniably fueled Corpses, out of his system, Zombie had no choice but to make Rejects a slightly more sophisticated beast, in the narrative sense. Add to that task he had the inevitable sequel stigmas to overcome, too. Strikingly, he achieves both. New shades of his iconic family cult are revealed; a handful of fresh misfits are introduced; and the locales are as colorful and seedy as the people who inhabit them (think Pussy Liquor). It’s a sequel, upon first glance, which stinks of a largely budgeted picture with Hollywood influence, then you inspect the cracks and peel back the bark only to find that the drive-in (or “grindhouse,” whatever term you prefer) mentality Zombie resurrected with a modern look in Corpses is still lurking. The Chainsaw influence has left the building, making room for a Last House on the Left thrill kill attitude that’s determined to not only send the squeamish out of the theater, but also happily open the exit door for them.
Rejects, as previously mentioned all over the ‘net, fades in on the Firefly clan and their bloody escape from a police raid led by the aforementioned Sheriff Wydell, a bible thumper who, like Robert Duvall’s Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, doesn’t mind listening to a little music – in this case a piece from Faust, act two – while getting his job done. Casualties on both sides are taken, one Firefly member is captured, and the living victims of the “House of 1000 Corpses” are set free, yet their state of mind is questionable. Homeless, the remaining Firefly members hit the road, destination: Big River Round-Up Ranch, a failed business venture, run by Captain Spaulding’s (black) brother Charlie Altamont, that was once a “western town” tourist attraction and is now a haven for hookers. There the gang hopes to lay low but they don’t arrive without taking a few hostages and spilling a shitload of blood on their journey. It just wouldn’t be fun any other way. Meanwhile, Wydell seeks to close in on them resorting to any means necessary.
Zombie’s sequel feels like a culmination of everything that has ever influenced him. Westerns. Old television classics. Lee Marvin. There’s even a hint of Frankenstein in a moment with Tiny.
References rise to Tarantino-esque levels in some often intentionally hilarious sections of dialogue, most of them usually involving Spaulding, Charlie and his two goons, Clevon and Bubba. Is it good that Zombie’s found a way to work in some more laughs? At this stage in the game, sure. Those delivering most of the verbal gags come from established voices – characters we’re familiar with and know. The humor fits comfortably like a snug skin suit, besides, the laughs are long forgotten when the nastiness kicks in, and boy does it ever.
Rejects embraces a mean streak not witnessed in Corpses; it hones in on the mental torture, the suffering a victim can endure before he or she is just ready to die. A young woman is forced to hit her pal harder and harder in the face before their captor allows them to use the bathroom. Just for speaking out when he wasn’t supposed to a man’s friend is instantly killed without a chance to plead for his life. Again, Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left is perhaps the most ideal example to use to describe the tone, pepper in a dash of Natural Born Killers for good measure and just imagine Otis or Baby or even Captain Spaulding behind the wheel on this ride through hell. But it’s not as unpredictable as you might think. Zombie slips into a few narrative snares that could be spotted pages before they happen despite the wet camouflage of flying brain matter and viscera.
It’s gonna be another wild ride for both audiences and their stomachs. Fans will be pleased to see their favorite Firefly freaks back in action with more room to breathe and cut loose. And hopefully those who thrust a more unfavorable opinion upon Corpses for its veil-thin plotting will appreciate the meatier story Zombie has culled from that warped brain of his.
Discuss in our forums!