Monday 21 October 2019

3 From Hell (USA 2019: Dir Rob Zombie)

At the end of Rob Zombie's 2005 movie The Devil's Rejects, the second to feature the trio of bad ass mofos who encapsulated the swagger and moral vacancy of the Manson 'family' with the wit and wisdom of wise cracking Tarantino henchmen, the 'Rejects' were gunned down in a hail of bullets to the tune of Lynrd Skynrd's 'Freebird.' Whether to pay his rent, bills from previous movies, or just because he can, Zombie has decided to resurrect the trio for one more movie.

And the word 'resurrected' is accurate here because, in the grand tradition of cliffhanger serials from the 1940s, Zombie has altered history so that the 'Rejects' are miraculously revived from their fatal bullet strewn wipeout, in a faux TV news reporting sequence which is a clever bit of sleight of hand but explains nothing about how they collectively dodged the bullet - pun very much intended. 

The back from the deadness of the trio, as most genre fans will now know, was somewhat thwarted by the ill health of one third of the 'Rejects': Sid Haig, who played the killer clown/gas station manager Captain Spaulding in the first two movies, had not disclosed to Zombie the extent of his medical problems before shooting commenced, necessitating his absence from most of the the film except for a couple of short sequences near the beginning. As the other 'Rejects' Otis (Bill Moseley) and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) languish in prison, Zombie writes out Haig with the news that Spaulding has been executed: sadly ironic as Haig died a few weeks ago. His loss from the movie makes it a rather different beast than the previous 'Rejects' movies, compounded by Haig's replacement - albeit in a different role - by Otis's brother Winslow Coltrane (Richard Brake).

Otis springs his escape while working on a chain gang, in the process offing fellow inmate Rondo (a cameo role for Danny Trejo), an act that will have repercussions later in the movie. Otis and Winslow then free Baby and the trio are back on the road, eventually ending up in Mexico, where in amongst the whoring, drinking and occasional killing, they discover that Rondo's friends and relatives have tracked them down.

3 From Hell is indebted to sweaty Italian westerns far more than the horror genre, and for this reason many fans have disliked its rather langorous approach, when compared with earlier Zombie fare. And it's true that at two hours the movie does kind of overstay its welcome, but Zombie's three amoral, ruthless but still funny characters sustain interest. It's Baby who gets most screen time here, Otis remarking that her spell in prison has changed her, made her slightly more crazy. Sheri Moon Zombie's toss of a coin transition from whimsical cutie to psychopath on occasion treads a thin line between credibility and ham, but her scenes with fellow scream queen Dee Wallace as sadistic prison warden Greta are a hoot. An ok film then, not great but not the travesty some have made it out to be.

3 From Hell is available on digital download, Blu-Ray and DVD from 14 October. 

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