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Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Devil's Rejects

About this Film
Spiritual Connections

Click to enlargeIn 2003 I gave one of the most controversial reviews I have ever given when I reviewed Rob Zombie’s new release titled, House of 1,000 Corpses. Forget about the fact that I didn’t especially like the movie, although I did think there was some thought provoking components of it, the fact that I would even view the movie by many was something I did that was worthy of confrontation and email that caused many to prejudge me. Well get ready for this; while I didn’t especially like House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects is possibly the best movie I have seen all summer.

I have always, and still do appreciate Rob Zombie as an artistic genius, I expected that when going to see The Devil’s Rejects, and I was not let down. What Rob Zombie has done is give us one of the best portrayals of evil ever presented on screen. I am reminded of an interview I did with author Ted Dekker regarding the painting of evil, and the need to paint evil with as dark a brush as possible. Zombie paints it with as much darkness as is humanly possible. What we have as a result is a splattering of blood and evil along the way that is so dark that I personally found myself having difficulty watching what was portrayed before my very eyes.

If portraying evil for the sake of being evil was the intent, this movie would be a waste of time, but Zombie in his brilliance does something, as I have never seen done before. He presents a story and concept where we long for justice for those who are the incarnate of evil, and yet, we find ourselves eventually caring for those very individuals. We are also presented not only with the hypocrisy, but also the hope that is available through, Christianity. I must say now, and I hope Rob Zombie sees this review at some point, but if I could interview anyone on the planet, I would like to talk to Zombie about his views on various subjects. Why for example does one who has a “perceived” notion and hatred of Christianity, portray it in such a thought provoking and intelligent way? What are his views on spirituality? In addition, there would be many other questions. To be honest, this man and his genius intrigue me tremendously.

Click to enlargeThis story carries on after the story line of House of 1,000 Corpses. It is essentially the same characters and a continuation of that story. Where House of 1,000 Corpses lacked and showed little hope, this movie is thought provoking and brings to light several components to reflect upon whether one be a Christian or not.

Rob Zombie shows his brilliance as a filmmaker in this film. He reminds me as a cross between Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez. I know that sounds like a crazy mix but his brilliance with edits, shocking story telling, and effect is along these lines. He also does a brilliant job at using such a horrifying story to give such a brilliant artistic presentation. From his various stylizations in this film, to the shocking character development I was enthralled.

The story reminds me of a great Christian author that I always loved, Flannery O’Conner, and specifically the story A Good Man is Hard to Find. What O’Conner accomplishes in that story is to present a side of evil that is truly evil. It has the mixture of what is good and evil and the conflict is developed for the reader. In this case, Zombie does the same for the viewer of the movie. I can’t help but think that if Flannery O’Conner were still alive that she would stand and applaud Zombie’s effort.

We see evil as truly being evil, but we also see the potential of good among those that are evil, and in a strange sort of way, we find ourselves caring for those that are evil. This is a lesson that many who present themselves as Christian could learn from. While we are often quick to judge the one we call Christ, Jesus Christ illustrated this perfectly, especially in his death on the cross and his own willingness to ask for forgiveness who were killing him.

I won’t go into much detail because I don’t like spoiler reviews, but I will say that the contrast between the Devil’s Rejects, and one that is “called by God” is brilliantly portrayed in this movie. It is while the one that is “called by God,” is executing vengeance that we find ourselves caring for the ones who are in essence evil. This creates a great conflict within the viewer. What is our role, our responsibility to those that we perceive as being evil? What is the role of the one called by God? When does one called by God, take the concept of vengeance into their own hands as opposed to leaving it in the hands of God? What is the difference between vengeance and justice? Zombie portrays this conflict amazingly well, especially from one who is perceived by many as being the “anti Christ” incarnate.

30.jpg (72 K)Zombie also portrays the conflict beautifully between those called by Christ, and those who are called by Satan. All through the movie, just as in House of 1,000 Corpses, we see Christianity in the background and playing a vital part to the story. Here even more so than in House of 1,000 Corpses. There is an example of Zombie’s brilliance here in one incredible scene prior to a crucifixion scene. We see a quick edit to a image of Jesus Christ on a cross being crucified. The image is on the screen for several seconds intending to catch the attention of the audience member, and thus causing us to reflect about what it is that Zombie is trying to portray. That image, and what follows is still stuck in my head some two weeks after seeing the movie. I have had to reflect for that long on the movie and not since Jacob’s Ladder and/or Mystic River have I reflected on a movie as much. For those that don’t know, those are two very respectable movies that have garnered the respect of many in the movie going audiences. Zombie’s film, in my opinion needs to have that much respect because it is that good.

Now before being condemned to Hell by many who read this review, I must say that not in a long time have I had a movie open up doors for spiritual discussion as has this movie. My son in law attended the movie with me, and before we left the theater, I had two individuals, one being the manager of the theater come and talk to me about the movie. They asked specific questions about spiritual issues, and were intrigued by the fact that I was a pastor. One individual stated that they were the child of a pastor and that the movie had gotten them to think about spiritual things. They even stated that their father had been talking to them about Alice Cooper and the journey that he has been on. My son in law was amazed at how individuals had come up and asked me about the movie and at how easy it was to open up a discussion about good and evil, forgiveness, love and, even love and caring for individuals who are evil. Zombie paints a picture that makes that easy to do, and my hope is that individuals can look beyond the gore, nudity, language and more presented in this movie and be able to discuss the serious questions this movie addresses. If they can, they will engage themselves in one of the most significant spiritual discussions they could ever engage themselves in.

On a scale of 1-10, let the hate mail begin, while it may not be for everyone, you cannot deny the brilliance of this movie. I give a very enthusiastic perfect 10. By the way, Rob Zombie, I would still love to do that interview.

About this Film
Spiritual Connections

Kevin Miller has posted an amazing reflection on this film
Part 1
Part 2


Blogger Kevin Miller said...

Interesting review, Mike. I especially like what you said about Zombie's ability to make us "hate the sin but love the sinner" in terms of the Fireflies. It does raise some interesting questions: Like the cop in this film, most of us assume the best way to deal with evil people is to eliminate them. I just watched a docu on Hiroshima where that exact argument was made in terms of the Japanese. Kill off enough of the "bad guys," and eventually you will lessen the threat. The current War on Terror operates according to a similar philosophy. The problem is, like the War on Drugs, eliminating the bad guys isn't solving the problem, it's only making it worse. I think Zombie is on to something here with his portrayal of Sheriff Wydell. Unless those who stand on the side of justice can also love the enemy and believe in his/her redemption, it is only a matter of time before the "good guys" become as bad or worse than the bad guys they are trying to stop.

9:37 AM

Blogger onscreen said...

Havn't seen the movie and I'm not likely too. It's not that I don't watch this kind of movie, hell I loved Saw, it's just that I don't have enough time to watch all the movies I want to. But I did want to say that it's great to see other Christians looking past the obvious and looking for the spiritual in movies. Most of my Christian freinds look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them i can see redemptive spiritual qualities in such clasic R-rated movies as Pulp Fiction. It's nice to read positive Christian perspectives on movies that 'good little Christians shouldn't be watching' ;-)

4:09 PM

Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Thanks for the comments Kevin &
onscreen. I was talking to my son in law tonight whom I saw the movie with and it is good that it is still running in first run houses. We decided to try and go see it again. It is that good and that thought provoking. onscreen, if you get the chance to see this you will be glad you did.

8:16 PM

Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

By the way onscreen, need to find a way to get me to visit New Zealand. I hear it is the best place on the planet to visit. Used to have a sister n law that was from there.

8:18 PM

Blogger onscreen said...

If you do find a way to get down here, make sure you visit the South Island - thats where all the beautiful landscapes are, where LOTR and Narnia were filmed.

7:41 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


What an interesting and thought-provoking review. I saw this movie a couple weeks ago, and was really quite stunned by how incredibly effective and intelligent I found it to be. Try as I might, I haven't been quite able to shed all my preconceived notions about movies. Since I thought House of 1,000 Corpses was rather inept, I wasn't too excited by the prospect of seeing its sequel. But I went with my fiance and another couple, fully prepared to endure what I thought would be a disappointing and depressing two hours. But much to my surprise, I was proven very wrong. (I like it when that happens!) While the movie disturbed me immensely (I don't know anyone who *wouldn't* be somewhat disturbed by such unflinching violence), it truly made me feel. I found it impossible to disengage myself emotionally from the film. Whenever that happens to me, I know, in my mind, that I've just witnessed a very effective and perhaps groundbreaking film.

Like Saving Private Ryan and American History X, The Devil's Rejects takes a stark and unglamorous look at human brutality. And it isn't without sociological, and perhaps spiritual, merit. We live in a very confusing time, where the line between "good and evil" is not so clear-cut. (Maybe it's never been). In this sense, I found The Devil's Rejects to be socially and politically relevant -- an understated commentary on moral transgression and justice. And, on top of that, I think Rob Zombie has improved tenfold as a director. He's really honed his style and sharpened his creative vision, and the movie benefits greatly from the gritty screenplay and camera-work.

All in all, I found this movie to be actually quite outstanding, and something I will definitely rent, if not buy, in the future.


7:22 AM

Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Great comments and thanks. It is amazing at how many people will be critical of this film without seeing it. All along the way talking about how bad or "evil" it and Zombie are. Unfortunately for them, they are missing out on the big picture and the powerful messages this film gives.

7:43 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly. People unfortunately do that all the time. (I'm guilty of it too...I'm unwilling to see The Dukes of Hazzard because I can't imagine it will better my life any).

It's simply misguided and irresponsible to call any movie "evil" or "amoral" without having seen it. I certainly can understand people not wanting to see this - that's fine. But it's very annoying, and somewhat self-righteous, when people who haven't seen this movie (or saw it and didn't like it) claim that one must be "sick" to appreciate it. I wouldn't define myself - or anyone I know who saw this movie - as "sick." I'd say that we're pretty normal and caring people. I'm just excited by solid, provocative filmmaking. There's no moral crime in that, as far as I'm concerned :)


10:47 AM

Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Again, great comments Lea. I am actually getting ready to answer part of your comments later on in the Dukes of Hazzard section in response to a comment there. Movies to me are like a Romans 14 type thing for Christians, to some they are clean and to others they are unclean. I can live with that, it is unfortunately many times the individuals who can't live with that that makes all of the fuss. I would say that if you have issues with movies like The Dukes of Hazzard, then don't see it. Hopefully the reviews on HJ, all of them, help the viewer think a little differently after they have seen a movie, and help them think differently, when need be, before they see a movie. Again, great comments.

3:21 PM

Blogger benjamin625frederick said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:04 AM

Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Guess we'll just agree to disagree. It would be interesting to know where you just saw the movie as it is in only 2 discount theaters in America right now. I don't think anyone, myself or Kevin is justifying the actions of the Firefly family, nor are we promoting them as anything other than evil. The discussion of right and wrong of going to particular movies has been hashed over many times in the past, and I am sure will again in the future. I would say that my review and comments by Kevin indicated that this was a hard movie to watch for many, but the questions we raise to challenge others to think outside of the box are still legitimate in my opinion.

9:10 AM

Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Still waiting on George's answer as to where he saw the movie, especially since at the time he made his comments there were only 2 discount theaters in America showin it and it had not been released on DVD yet. Is it a safe assumption that the comments were made without seeing the movie? I know of many who do this, and unfortunatley they loose all credibility with me when they do that.

9:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I find it interesting that you 'condone' violence and don't see it as influencing youth in our country. I saw this horrible movie and the terrible images of sadistic killing from a demented mind and I don't have much respect for the inhuman killing that is portrayed in film.

One other note. The killings that took place in Seattle were reported by the BBC as being a 'Zombie party' and execution style killing. Hmm..I wonder if this movie...Zombie, being the musician and director had any influence on these youth, a zombie party, the fact that it was the same weekend as the launch of showing this terrible movie on the independant film channel. It will be interesting to see and hear if this movie had an influence on the killer. Very interesting indeed.

This movie shows what our society would be like without the morality of religion..chaos, murder, no respect for the living or the law. A country without law.

Rob Zombie, a man who hates religion, respects no one but himself. It makes me sick that he can make a film like this and some people dream of making their own film. See what money can do? power etc.

His redemption? maybe he will become a 'born again' christian. Maybe he should visit IRAQ and see real killing on a wider scale.

I am tired of our culture desensitizing violence so we become immune to real life situations where we don't care and the youth continue to not care. I am sorry to hear as a minister you love this film and its' implications. It is true that religion is the biggest cause of war, violence and hate in our world. Maybe that is why you embrace this loving hatefilled, vile movie. As you condone violence period as you celebrate the violence in prejudice of the religion you follow.

--signed A woman who is tired of easy killing, violent movies, violent video games, hate against women, suppression and demeaning behavior of people in other diverse religions and the hatred of our testosterone religion driven world.

Time to look deep within yourself and ask why you love the violence so much. Why do you anyway?

10:07 AM

Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Amazing how one's perception is often times not based on reality. For example, I don't condone violence, but see violence as a often times, reality of life. The other issue I would bring out is that the perception that violence or observance of violence leads to violence. Recent national studies have shown that violent crime is at a 30 year low in America. All of that after all of the violent video games, movies etc. How many times have you for example seen a bank robbery on television? How many times have you robbed a bank because of it. Again, recent studies published by numerous publications have proven the low violent crime rates, yet people make perceptions that are in fact, not based on reality but instead based on perception. I believe that can be a violent thing. Regarding Zombie, I won't change my opinion of him. He is an incredibly gifted human being that I believe God loves, despite what Zombie in return may think of God. By the way, just heard that some of the cast is to be in the new upcoming Ted Dekker movie Three. Will look forward to seeing that. Last thing regarding violence, probably a good idea to stay away from the Bible as it is filled with horrible violence that goes beyond description.

5:03 AM

Anonymous Matthew said...

I too have seen this movie. While there are many implications of good and evil in this film, I believe there are other underlying issues in this movie. Things like redemption, losing your path to God, and so forth. Perhaps Rob is a genious or a lucky fool. Good review though.

2:56 AM


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