Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Movie Review: 3 From Hell

3 from Hell *** / *****
Directed by: Rob Zombie.
Written by: Rob Zombie.
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie (Baby), Bill Moseley (Otis Driftwood), Sid Haig (Captain Spaulding), Jeff Daniel Phillips (Warden Virgil Harper), Richard Brake (Winslow Foxworth Coltrane), Kevin Jackson (Gerard James), Tracey Leigh (Judy Harper), Sylvia Jefferies (Heather Starship Galen), Emilio Rivera (Aquarius), Richard Edson (Carlos Perro), Pancho Moler (Sebastian), Dee Wallace (Greta), Stacie Greenwell (Janice), Anny Rosario (Juanita), David Ury (Travis O'Rourke), Clint Howard (Mr. Baggy Britches), Daniel Roebuck (Morris Green), Wade Williams (Buford Tuttle), Sean Whalen (Burt Willie), Steven Michael Quezada (Diego), Lucinda Jenney (Nebraska), Bill Oberst Jr. (Tony Commando), Jan Hoag (Guard Betty Lou), Dot-Marie Jones (Slackjaw), Nancy Linehan Charles (Dr. Bowman), Austin Stoker (Newscaster Gibson), Emiliano Díez (Rodrigo), Richard Riehle (Sheriff Wolf), Tomas Boykin (Derek Zoom), Alexandra Ella (Tracee Wild), Rob Welsh (Luke Luke), Jackie S. Garcia (Princesa), Flor de Maria Chahua (Bella), Alicia Adams (Poker), Billy Blair (Garbage Man), Mariano 'Big Dawg' Mendoza (Gonzo), Greg Serano (Warlock), Christine Weatherup (Abigail Duck), Christopher B. Duncan (Glassy Wolf), Tom Papa (News Anchor George Glass), Esteban Cueto (Big Cue), Marco Morales (Clutch), Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez (Shovel), Danny Trejo (Rondo), Matthew Willig (Creep), Amir Abdalla (Sheriff Deputy), Rian Bishop (Sheriff), Chaz Bono (Digby Neville), Duane Whitaker (Dr. Bankhead).
For better or worse, Rob Zombie is completely unable to make any kind of film other than a Rob Zombie film. Give me the keys the one of the biggest horror franchises in history – Halloween – and he’ll flip it, spending much more time examining and adding complexity to Michael Myers, instead of his victims – and when he somehow got to make a sequel, he essentially made one about PTSD. Those two films were his only real flirtation with the mainstream – before then, he made the ultra-violent House of 1,000 Corpses (which was re-edited by a nervous studio about the level of gore to the point where you can see the skill Zombie had, but also made the film rather incoherent) and his best film to date – 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects, a quasi-sequel to House of 1,000 Corpses, and one in which Zombie staked out ground as an exciting new voice in horror – as he went completely balls to the walls in the level of violence and blood and dirt and grim – but didn’t really make a torture porn film, which had popular at the time. Since the Halloween movies, Zombie has struggled to get things made – Jason Blum gave him some money to make his most ambitious film, The Lords of Salem, a trippy film that I’m not sure quite added up, and he crowd-funded the awful 31 – a film in which the ultra-rich (so rich, they dress like French aristocrats – watch poor people kill each other for their amusement.
For his latest, he’s back in Devil’s Rejects territory – making a sequel to his best film, which was challenging for two reasons – the first being the last time we saw the Rejects they were being gunned down in slow motion as Free Bird played (the single greatest scene in Zombie’s filmography) and two, one of the rejects, Sid Haig, was on death’s door in real life when he shot the film (he died in September). Zombie gets by both problems – first, he gives us a selection of news broadcasts saying the three survived, were on life support for months, and are now in jail. And second, he has Haig’s Captain Spaulding be executed early in the film – but not before he gives Haig a terrific death row monologue – a fitting send-off to the great character actor.
From there, it appears like Zombie has tried to cram every film he has wanted to make into one film – as if he wonders if he’ll ever be able to direct a film again. For a while, he has made a women’s prison picture – with Shari Moon Zombie’s Baby at the mercy of a sadistic prison guard (Dee Wallace). He has made a Desperate Hours inspired (the film is actually brought up) in which Otis Driftwood (Bill Mosley) and the new recruit to the rejects – a half-brother – Winslow Foxworth Coltrane (Richard Brake) take the sadistic warden and some staff hostage to get Baby out of prison. After yet another stop over at a seedy motel (Zombie loves violence in seedy hotels) – the trio heads to Mexico, and the film becomes a Rob Zombie remake of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch – with the trio wondering if perhaps they have outlived their time.
The film is pure Rob Zombie from beginning the end. There is a ton of over-the-top violence and bloody, it has Shari Moon Zombie acting like a psychopathic giddy school girl, and Mosley waxing political. Zombie is clearly making the film for Trump’s America – the horror of the real world finally catching up to Zombie’s view of the violence and rot in American life. The 3 from Hell are obviously horrible – the murder their way through everyone. And yet, everyone they meet is somehow even worse – they are just as violent, but more selfish, more driven by greed.
By design, the film is episodic in a way that makes it feel choppy. It’s almost as if Zombie figured out the scenes and moments he wanted, then worked out the plot of the film later. It isn’t the twisted genius of The Devil’s Rejects – or even Halloween II. Yet, it is still very much a film only Rob Zombie could or would make – with his twisted worldview on display. It’s not a movie that will win him any new fans to be sure – and it’s not likely he’s going to get a mainstream film out of this one. But in a film world this is increasingly corporate, erasing director’s fingerprints and turning films into theme park rides (I like the Marvel films, but sorry Martin Scorsese has a point) – it’s refreshing to see someone go for broke, and stick to his guns. Oddly, the film reminded me of Rick Alverson’s The Mountain – a film I watched recently, and didn’t like at all. I admired Alverson sticking to his nihilistic, completely uncommercial sensibility – I just didn’t think the film he made was very interesting to watch or discuss. Zombie’s film, for all of its flaws, is both.   

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