15th October 2019 (UK Blu-Ray Release)
After being imprisoned for 10 years, the "Devil's Rejects" are back at it again. Otis (Bill Moseley) escapes prison, meets Winslow (Richard Brake), and devises a plan to get his sister Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) out too. The Rejects make their way down the road and into Mexico, killing countless people on their way.
Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, Richard Brake
Being a musician himself, 3 From Hell director Rob Zombie knows all too well about the marketing tactic of reunion and retirement tours from ageing rock bands. KISS, Motley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne to name a few have all touted jaunts around the world as the ‘last time ever’ or something to a similar effect to garner interest, but have always found a way to make come back one more time.
The same ploy can be applied to 3 From Hell, Zombie’s third time round for the maniacal Firefly family. First appearing in 2003’s wildly unfocused but gleefully gory House of 1000 Corpses and last seen being riddled with bullets in a top-down convertible during the finale of 2005’s excellent The Devil’s Rejects, they found themselves in a situation that signaled the definitive end for the trio of Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), Otis (Bill Moseley) and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie).
But through the power of suspended disbelief, all three miraculously survived, albeit comatose for years. When they emerge back to consciousness, they’re rightfully arrested and sentenced to spend the rest of their lives behind bars with Spaulding being given an even harsher punishment of sitting on Death Row. But evil cannot be contained and while inside, Otis is reunited with his half-brother Winslow Foxworth Coltrane (Richard Brake) and the pair orchestrate a daring escape from prison.
After successfully getting Baby Firefly (Sherri Moon Zombie) out of jail, the gang head to Mexico to escape the law. But past troubles rear their head for the 3 From Hell and when they’re met with a ruthless cartel with nowhere to run, only one group will make it out alive.
The first hurdle 3 From Hell needed to jump was the explanation as to why this story can exist in the first place. Unfortunately, it fails to adequately do so, instead resting on the assumption that we should just be glad to see these criminals ride again. It’s a safe assumption but also a frustrating move by Zombie, especially after The Devils Rejects climactic conclusion perfectly wrapped up the volatile journey of the Firefly family.
Due to the declining health of star Sid Haig, the film reportedly went through numerous rewrites and it shows. Spaulding was purportedly meant to have a much bigger role in the film, which would make sense given his prominence in the previous two entries, but after Zombie saw Haig in a rehabilitation unit following surgical procedure, the character of Winslow Foxworth Coltrane was written in to replace Spaulding. There are brief scenes of Haig’s Spaulding present, but if you signed up to see the original band back together, you’re likely to be severely let down.
One of the highlights of the first two movies is the relationship and interactions between the three, something which is sorely missing here. The dialogue between Foxworth, who is a wholly unworthy substitute for Spaulding, Otis and Baby comes across as strangers awkwardly trying to strike up conversation and the chemistry is non-existent. It’s a disappointing disservice to the characters who have become somewhat cult-like figures in horror and it’s puzzling as to why 3 From Hell continued production when it’s so clearly lacking a major ingredient that made it such a tasty prospect in the first place.
Despite its flimsy setup, 3 From Hell does admittedly mask its shortcomings with some impressive stylistic choices. Its opening half an hour utilizes faux news reports and hazy, dream-like colour filters to give it a vibe not unlike Oliver Stone’s vastly superior Natural Born Killers. Zombie includes examples of his zany dream sequences too, the likes of which feature heavily in Halloween II and Lords of Salem, but perhaps unsurprisingly they mostly lead nowhere. Once the triangle of troublemakers are out of the slammer though, these visually interesting shots fall to the wayside and not only do we have hollow shells of what were once fantastic characters, we’ve got a film that becomes incredibly tiresome to continue watching.
There are fleeting moments where Zombie almost recaptures the magic of what made The Devil’s Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses so memorable – the home invasion of the prison warden being a real standout – but the Firefly Family should have been left to go out in a blaze of bullet-filled glory to the sound of Lynard Skynard’s Free Bird rather than being extinguished by this drizzling bore.
3 From Hell is out now on Digital Download, Blu-ray™ and DVD from Lionsgate UK.
Visually interesting to begin with
Initial novelty of seeing the trio back
Disservice to the characters
Awkward interactions between figures who are supposed to be a close family