Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Devil's Rejects

So I’m always on the lookout for some good old-fashioned Horror flicks. A few months back I re-watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the Tobe Hopper version, not the crap that just came out) and upon growing older and a little smarter about film I realized that it is a really well made flick. It’s beautifully shot and expertly edited. For a film most people think of as one of the bloodiest movies ever it’s actually edited in a way that shows very little of the gore. It’s the unknown and unseen off-camera that is truly disturbing about Tobe Hooper’s masterpiece. You’re more scared of what can happen than you are of what has happened. (Even though what has happened is scary as hell.) It enters into the psychological aspect of fear while simultaneously showing a chainsaw wielding, skin suit-wearing maniac on screen. That’s a pretty neat trick to pull-off as a filmmaker.

This kind of horror film is rarely made today. I think it’s a mixture of a few things that has led to the rather sad state of the present day horror movie genre. Studios are almost exclusively releasing focus group tested movies. Sure there are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part a big studio isn’t going to consider a low-budget horror flick when the can release Saw 4 with a built-in audience. Why make a Devil’s Rejects when you can do Saw 4 and/or make a Chainsaw remake with CGI and the latest WB actress that happens to be on the cover of Maxim? These kinds of movies have that “built-in audience” that grabs The Suits attention more than sitting through an unknown pitch. This stuff goes right on down to comics these days. Why are they pummeling fans with “Event Comics”? Because they sell and they know people will buy them no matter what.

All right, on to the real matter at hand. My reaction to the closest thing to a 1970’s low-budget horror flick: Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects.

I really dug about 2/3rds of this movie. It had a little Chainsaw, a little Last House on the Left and even a little Bonnie and Clyde. Zombie did some really nice things with the camera and some really nice use of Needle Drops along the way. They got a little repetitive and at times I wondered if they only used the Needle Drop because they paid for the rights to the song, but nevertheless I was impressed by the look of the film. While there were a lot of old horror homage scenes (Like Chainsaw and Last House) there was that twist to them that made them not come off as a total rip-off. The only thing that really bothered me was the last half hour. The pre-established characterization went out the window when it served the plot as well as the use of a rather convenient and confusing plot devise. (The deformed mongoloid that saved the day and then walked into a burning house as if the reason for doing so obvious to the viewer.) The car scene at the end just seemed weird to me, almost like it was an afterthought, but hey, who am I to complain? There weren’t any CGI monsters and bad acting like you see in flicks like Saw or The Hills Have Eyes. Which, I should confess I haven’t been able to sit through because I suddenly become a luddite when it comes to making horror movies. They should put a cap on Horror movie budgets and completely ban the use of CGI in every one. Prove me wrong, but I haven’t seen it work yet.

Anyway, if you’re a horror movie fan, check out Devil’s Rejects. It was a pretty solid flick…. Especially if you’re a fan of 70’s horror movies.

Thanks for reading,


Jared said...

I tried watching "The Devil's Rejects" but turned it off half way through. I can't even remember why except it's just not up my alley. "Saw" was terrible though.

DGM said...

The first saw was actually quite good. It wasn't gore and CGI, like it seems the later ones are. Don't discount the first one. It's more psychological than in your face.

BTW, 300 was awesome, though it had it's pitfalls, including the factual inaccuracies of Miller's comic and the remixed subplot from Gladiator. Randy, check out my long, but hopefully interesting post on the movie at American Artistic Handcrafts Inc.

Jared said...

Oh I'm going to discount the first "Saw". Horror and torture are two diffent things. Plus I just found it way too elaborately goofy. But you're right about the sequels being much worse. At least I'll entertain the idea that the first one was good.

RandyG said...

I actually can't tell the difference between the Saw movies I've tried to sit through. I know I didn't bother with either until I realized there were sequels and they were getting decent buzz. I might have to go back and check out the first one, then. I'm so put-ff by CGI in horror that it makes me feel like a curmedgeon... but meanwhile, I'm all for digital cameras and CGI in other genres. I guess it's all in the execution, but horror is so subtle when done well, I'm not sure CGI can be subtle yet. Shoot, I'm so starved for good horror movies I'll try anything.

I'll certainly check out 300... the comic is so beautifully done and naturally anything done by Miller is a favorite of mine. I'll check it out, Drew.

Speaking of good horror movies... I'm so pumped for Grindhouse that I can't belive it... 2 of my all-time fave directors doing back-to-back horror flicks for the price of one ticket. I'm all over it.


DGM said...

I refuse to see anything Tarantino anymore--at least not while he's doing these push the limit of violence, while ignoring plot, flicks.

True, Saw is not a horror film as much as it is a suspense, psychological mystery with a violent but not gorie (sp?)overtone. I thought it was well done, with a solid, though admittedly cliche theme of not wasting your life.

As for Tarantino, Kill Bill, Hostel, this new one, are all on my shit list. Ooh, you pushed the limits of what images people will sit through. I don't consider shock to be art, because any moron can shock someone. If I walk outside nude, is it art because of how people react? No, It's just stupid. It might be funny, but it's not art.

Whoop de do Quentin, you used to include plot (Four Rooms, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs), but now you gross people out. It's like the Goth kid who puts the stupid "Fuck You" Marilyn Manson shirt on and thinks he's making a statement because people get disgusted. No statement, just stupidity.

Think for yourself and make a statement that means something.

RandyG said...

Oh, man... you're killin' me, Drew. Kill Bill is just a flat-out revenge flick/martial arts movie. Nothing more or less. It didn't pretend to be anything more than that. You can't get any more simple than a revenge movie. It's set-up (why the protagonist wants revenge), the road to revenge and getting revenge. He mixed "I spit on your grave" with Hong Kong martial arts movies. You see that level of blood in a ton of those old movies. He even dropped the "Shaw Brothers" logo at the start just to say he's making his version of a Shaw Bros flick. The title of the movie is giving you all the info you need to watch the thing. It's simple because it's just a simple plot.

He's way too good of a filmmaker to give up on, Drew... especially with the level of crap Hollywood throws at us today.

DGM said...

I can't take him seriously anymore, but there have been several movies to come out recently, that are far more deserving of my money.

#1) Last King of Scotland
#2) Children of Men
#3) 300
#4) Scanner Darkly
#5) Letters to Iwo Jima
#6) Little Miss Sunshine
#7) The Departed (which I have not yet seen, but am very eager to based on your recommendations)
#8) The Pursuit of Happyness
#9) Borat (comedy needs to be mixed in)
#10) Aqua Teen (should be hilarious)

I've got only so much time to devote to movies and Tarantino's sophomoric concept of film is low on my list.

RandyG said...

How was Scanner Darkly? I'm not going to see it until I read the book... when that'll be, I dunno.

Jared said...

I could barely stay awake during "Scanner Darkly". I saw it at home and stopped paying attention to it as I just did other things while it was on in the background. It didn't help that I hate that film to animation software they use. Machines make bad animation decisions and it drives me to distraction.

RandyG said...

Yeah, I'm not a huge fan of that animation technique, either... plus they use it on those Charles Shwab commercials, which irritate the hell out of me... "Whaa, my broker charges me." Ugh.

DGM said...

Scanner Darkly is like Gattaca. If you sit down with the intent to use your brain, you'll enjoy it. If you sit down expecting action, you'll be disappointed. Don't pop it in if you're just looking to kill some time before you hit the sack.

It follows the book very closely and it does a good job of illustrating, pun intended, the twisting that can occur with drug use. It was PKD's "anti-drug" book, in that it emphasized the negative effects, wrapped into one with Substance D. It also closes with the same last page as the book, listing PKDs friends whose lives were negatively affected by the drugs they took.