‘3 From Hell’ concludes Rob Zombie’s trilogy of films featuring the manson-esk ‘Firefly’ family.
Following directly on from the stunning finale in the ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ it appears that, against all odds (not to mention bullets), the rejects were indeed just that – spat back out from hell if the film’s faux 70s media playback is to be believe. The film engages straight away with the film utilising radio, TV and newspaper articles to show how the survival of the ‘Devil’s Rejects’ managed to turn them into celebrity anti-heros – with their obsessed fans buying into their misanthropic attitude and uniting underneath the ‘free the three’ banner.
Basically, the whole Charles Manson phenomenon in Zombie’s fictional universe.
After the film’s grandeur beginning (which is really well put together I might add), the plot steadies its hand and returns to familiar territory. There is a breakout as Otis is freed by another of his dysfunctional family, and ultimately, after a bit more faff, ‘Baby’ joins the reunion to. Unfortunately, not all of them make it through; poor Captain Spaulding (arguably the most charismatic character of the group) gets his comeuppance at the hands of the criminal justice system.
The group then, out of prison but with little objective, continue their reign of carnage – this time south of the boarder.
I will admit, I’ve probably hastened the timeline in my synopsis, as there is a good deal of time ‘Baby’ remains in prison, but the inevitable is coming, no matter how laborious it feels before it finally happens.
I will start my review by getting the elephant in the room out the way first; the run time vs. content (or more specifically the lack of). The pace throughout the films bloated 2 hour run time has more stops and starts than my morning commute.
I felt ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ was Zombie’s career best. That was pretty long, but it was well structured, and whilst the narrative was hardly full of twists and turns, the film threw pretty much every scenario feasible within the films run time, and it was a blast watching the eclectic group of nutters handle the challenges in their own maniacal way. ‘3 From Hell’ is basically a rehash of that film, with a few bits of the first movie ‘House of 1000 Corpses’ thrown in for good measure. Admittedly, this film is better than the first movie which, lets face it, was basically ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ if the Sawyers lived in a carnival funhouse, but still, ‘3 from hell’ struggles to formulate an identity that would justify bringing the group back from the grave some 14 years after I thought the franchise had been laid to rest.
That said, the MTV backed shootouts, banter and hard-hitting violence are still a pleasure to watch.
Going back to the 14-year gap, in-fact, the whole plot seemed to struggle to rationalise that. Ironically, there is a point in the film where the characters ponder the very question “what’s the point of being out of prison if they aren’t going to do anything” (or words to that effect) – the response “lets fucking, fuck shit up”
And that they do – but is it enough to justify a full two-hour feature?
Naturally Zombie’s pornographic use of violence is prevalent throughout and there are some awesome scenes. I don’t personally feel his style is that unique – it’s got Tarantino/Rodriguez vibes all over its stylised violence and cutesy banter – but you can’t deny the commitment to him wanting to be the hippest, cult director going. There are some really good shootouts, compromising situations, and when the film lands a couple of consecutive scenes which gel together with purpose its hard not to enjoy the carnage unveiling.
That said the film does struggle making its mind up with the portrayal of its antagonists – in this film you can’t really route for them in the way you perhaps could in the other movies (I mean if you could at all); they are just flat out murderous.
A lot of attention is put on Baby’s character, but even that, despite 100% commitment from Sheri Moon Zombie, just comes across as simply trying too hard to convince you she’s crazy, rather than using clever writing and scenario for some actual characterisation to take place. Ultimately in some respects the purposeless existence of the group in this movie in some ways undermines their authenticity in the previous ones, kind-of like when characters from group sit-coms get their own spin-off series that just overextends a concept to the point where you realise it perhaps didn’t need a spin off…
Overall, I’m well aware that my review is a bit love/hate, but honestly that’s my feelings about this film in general. On the one hand, the ‘Firefly’ family were a cool group of cats, but here they are just over played – all style with no substance. At 90 minutes it would have been a nostalgic banger, but at two hours it felt too familiar to the other films to maintain interest, and that’s where the cracks in the films production began to show. That said, it is super-stylised, and equally violent – which is kinda what you want. If you are already a big fan of what Zombie brings to the genre then you will enjoy ‘3 From Hell’, but it isn’t going to bring any new fans on board I don’t suspect.
That said, perhaps if you watched all the movies as a box set binge you might get a more positive experience than I did?