I was in hell once... did you know that they are always out of corn dogs in the cafeteria? Always!
We Meet Again, Mr. Zombie!
In terms of Rob Zombie as a filmmaker, I have massive respect for the guy and his artistic direction of old school gritty grindhouse style horror. From the ambitions that he puts into his productions to the cinematic exploitation inspirations, Zombie clearly has a love for his craft and it definitely shows. Unfortunately, I wish I actually enjoyed more of his filmography than I currently do. Not to say that dislike all of his movies, but I’d be lying if I claim to perceive the majority of his redneck love letters as anywhere near perfection. With the exception of his 2005 hit, The Devil’s Rejects, I’ve honestly had some major issues with all of his films; mainly within the writing department at that.
Rob Zombie’s directorial debut, House of 1000 Corpses, was a pretty lackluster exploitation flick with some decent ideas and promise of talent, but mostly pretty awful to sit through. Then on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we have his sophomore picture of The Devil’s Rejects being one of the greatest horror films to come out in the last thirty years or more. Not joking. Then Zombie’s 2007 remake of Halloween, along with it’s 2009 direct sequel, I will give much due credit that they are certainly ambitious in terms of storytelling and a cool 1970s stylish direction. Ambition sadly is not all that is required to make a solid flick and his signature style of writing dialog is a pretty obnoxious blackeye on both of those installments. The Lords of Salem was a gorgeous picture, but a total train wreck for its narrative. 31 was technically Rob Zombie’s “Halloween 3”, too bad it wasn’t remotely as good as Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III; although it did have its moments with massive potential through the character of Doom-Head played by Richard Brake, it was otherwise an utter disappointment.
Despite there being some fairly obvious talent shining through in Rob Zombie’s work, in my opinion, he has only accomplished greatness once through the title of The Devil’s Rejects; which is a genuine horror masterpiece under his belt. Which, in turn, has made me somewhat desperate to see another “good” movie released by Rob Zombie since I was always able to sense that greatness underneath what was otherwise horrendous scripts of his. Making me extremely hopeful that his newest sequel to The Devil’s Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses, 3 From Hell, was going to finally be another gem to add to his somewhat divisive filmography. Did we officially get another great film from this Rockstar turned film auteur? Or was this another heartbreaking miss?
It’s been 10 long years since the “Devil’s Rejects” were apprehended and imprisoned after the events of their last murderous outing. Now Otis (Bill Moseley) and his sister Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) must join up with their brother Winslow (Richard Brake) in order to break free from the shackles and make their way to Mexico in hopes of a fresh start.
Thank F*cking God
Look, I’m just going to be totally honest and let loose here. I’ve waited nearly fifteen God damn years for Rob Zombie to make another great movie. Time and time again my hopes were high and my dreams were crushed every chance given to this dude. It wasn’t a joke earlier when I say I have complete respect for the dude as a filmmaker, I truly do; I love that no matter the quality of the film, at the very least I can no doubt state that his films are 100% written and made entirely under Rob Zombie’s vision. Holy sh*t though, his visions can really make it difficult to keep rooting for and defending his work.
Setting aside The Devil’s Rejects; I hated House of 1000 Corpses, I am not the biggest fan of his Halloween movies, I laughed at Lords of Salem, and I was relatively miserable viewing 31. There is no exaggerating when I say that I needed 3 From Hell to be good. Not only is The Devil’s Rejects his best film, it’s his one and only masterpiece that ends on such a perfect note that to add this latest continuation was concerning. They’re playing with fire when they want to add onto an ending that was concluded with no leeway of a sequel. Somehow, I don’t know how, but somehow Zombie pulled this off and he did a damn fine job at it. 3 From Hell is hands down his best movie since 2005. No competition. Thank you, Rob Zombie, you magnificent bastard! You broke your multi-year streak of letdowns by probably making a deal with the Devil himself… which is cool.
Continuing the Story of the Dead
For anyone who has not yet seen The Devil’s Rejects, I will be spoiling the ending of that film in order to explain my thoughts on 3 From Hell. You have been warned. You’ve had almost fifteen years to see that movie, this is on you.
The Devil’s Rejects ended with the three psychopathic leads being gunned down and dying right before the credits roll. Shot to the point of absolute no return for any living being. Like RoboCop amounts of being shot to death. Oh yeah, they be dead! For anyone wondering how they managed to survive such a mortally ceasing act, 3 From Hell more or less retcons their deaths by saying they survived through basically a total miracle. Admittedly, a lazy tactic, but if someone going into this film has the universal goal of hoping to enjoy themselves then they simply have to go along with the flimsy excuse. Truthfully, I didn’t mind that so much and was able to accept the fact that the “Devil’s Rejects” continued their lives in order to bring us this pretty wild story.
Never Knew Where the Journey was Heading
From the very second the opening title opened, I was instantly along for the ride and always unsure of exactly which direction the film was taking me. Going from one suspenseful sequence after another with the only elements to reel us into the madness is the darkly twisted family dynamic of the titular three from hell. Much like its predecessor, the film challenges the viewer to strangely empathize with this crazed homicidal family while never shying away from the fact that these are cold blooded murderers that don’t deserve a shred of sympathy. Creating a narrative where we constantly fear for the lives of these murderers, as well as the lives of some unfortunate souls that merely come across their path.
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These Three From Hell
What mainly holds this film together is the sleezy charisma that radiates from our three anti-heroes; played by Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, and Richard Brake. Anyone familiar with the previous two films will likely question as to why I am not including Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding. Unfortunately due to him being up in years during the time of principal photography, a project that demands quite a lot from an actor such as this is simply out of the question. We all would have loved to have seen more of his iconic character of Captain Spaulding, but it would not have been reasonable to put him through production hell that something like this requires. Although he does make a cameo appearance and will be one of Sid Haig’s final film roles as he passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 80. Haig was a true treasure that I enjoyed seeing in countless roles, he will be severely missed. Rest in peace.
Onto the leads of this third installment, they work wonderfully together. With their morbid sense of humor and exciting over-the-top performances, especially from Sheri Moon, they were filling me with enthusiasm practically the whole way through the runtime just to see what terrible acts they commit next. Sheri Moon gave a performance that I couldn’t get enough of as she’s clearly having the time of her life portraying the character of Baby again, however in a way that hasn’t quite been seen before, as solitary confinement has really done a number on the character’s psyche. Resulting in the pace feeling as though it picks right back up whenever she enters the show and is given room to shine.
Richard Brake & the Family
Richard Brake is one of the most underrated talents working today. Seriously, he is such a phenomenal actor that can create sheer terror out of a scene with simply the look in his eyes one second and then in the next make me laugh uncontrollably. There is not a frame of this movie where I didn’t buy his chemistry with Moseley and Sheri Moon, they felt like an authentic family that I couldn’t but be charmed by… in a disturbing fashion. My hopes are truly high that the three leads here work together again very soon in another sequel because I would totally be down to see that!
Everyone who has ever seen a Rob Zombie movie, any Rob Zombie movie, they can instantly tell exactly who wrote it. He has a signature style of vulgarity that will either make for some terrific fun or annoy the hell out of the audience. There’s really no in between on the matter. Thankfully, this is one of those times where the colorful dialog doesn’t feel intrusive or deteriorate the characters. The lines spoken are absurd and often hilarious, in a f*cked up kind of way usually. 3 From Hell, as well as The Devil’s Rejects, are prime examples of when Zombie’s dialog works with the tone and the characters rather than against them. Yes, there is very little in separating why the vulgar and depraved personalities works so beautifully in those two pictures yet absolutely obliterates a movie like 31. I wish I was able to explain exactly what the difference is and how it thrives better in one over the other. It’s a bit difficult for me to place my finger on. All I can say is that when the characters go on diatribes of nonsense in 3 From Hell, I’m laughing my ass off. When the Myers family from Zombie’s Halloween opened their mouths, I wanted to blow my brains out. That’s the key difference to me.
Could Use a Trim
As much as I thoroughly enjoyed my stay back in this southern nightmarish universe, there were definitely scenes that could have and probably should have been trimmed a little. Not a lot, but there were times where the characters are literally doing nothing, taking a piss and smoking weed for close to ten minutes of screen time. Or little moments that really had no reason of existing that could have easily been cut from the runtime as well. Again, there wasn’t an awful lot of that and I almost always was able to move on from it with minimal issues. Yet it did happen enough to where it was getting on my nerves ever so slightly and I was ready for it to continue onto the next scene a bit faster. It would be one thing if these extra scenes were building suspense or adding something funny/interesting to the character development, they didn’t though so it felt like a small waste of time before the next plot point. Not a major gripe, simply a tiny one.
Gnarly & Grimy
Visually speaking, much akin to the rest of Zombie’s filmography, this film is soaked deep into the grungy exploitation roots of the 1970s and it is quite gorgeous. The cinematography and lighting feels as though the film stock was smudged with filth, to me that actually added to the aesthetic in a most delightful way. I really dug the look of the movie, totally grotesque and bizarre. Including the majority of gore effects seen throughout, which were also disgustingly awesome. Even the editing was far more stylish in its messy manner and well executed better than Zombie’s last flick, 31. Not to mention the soundtrack was pretty solid and incorporated seamlessly into every scene, especially with its display for one of my favorite uses of the song “In a Gadda Da Vida” by Iron Butterfly that I’ve seen in a film since Michael Mann’s Manhunter. It was pretty frikkin’ sweet, not going to lie, I absolutely adored that downright cool as hell action sequence.
3 From Hell is a great sequel with plenty to enjoy for anyone who is a fan of Rob Zombie or The Devil’s Rejects. There’s colorfully absurd banter, lovably sadistic characters, extremely thrilling intensity, and a pretty kickin’ soundtrack. Personally, I loved this third installment of Rob Zombie’s horror trilogy. Not completely perfect by any means, it does suffer from minor pacing issues. However it tended to pick things back up relatively quickly, which was definitely appreciated. If anyone reading this enjoyed The Devil’s Rejects, then they should find themselves a worthy sequel and have a pretty entertaining experience here. If not then… maybe don’t bother? Although I’m not entirely sure as to why someone would be checking out this third flick in a series they apparently didn’t enjoy. To each their own, I suppose. For anyone else, have at her!
Which Zombie Picture is Best?
That’s All Folks!
3 From Hell… What did you think? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Glad that Rob Zombie finally came out with something decent for the first time in however many years? Am I just a hater of his filmography? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed this review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a hell of a day!
© 2019 John Plocar
John Plocar (author) from Weatherford on October 16, 2019:
Right on, man. Thank you for reading and I'm glad you liked my review! =D Zombie's Halloween 2 does have some unintentional laugh out loud moments with some of the ridiculous and pretentious as hell imagery lol so I can certainly relate to you there. 3 From Hell is definitely his best flick since Rejects. If you love Rejects then I think you should at least like 3 From Hell. Not perfect, but definitely worth a watch. In my opinion anyways.
Noel Penaflor from California on October 16, 2019:
Excellent review. I too loathe Salem and love Rejects, but I do think RZ's Halloween 2 is unintentionally funny. I've had chances to see 3 From Hell, but have just watched other things. I'll see this eventually...maybe. Thanks again.