Friday, October 29, 2010

Corpses, rejects and masked mayhem

After a recent re-viewing of The Devils Rejects, I have to say that it may be one of the most effective horror films of the past ten years. It has as much in common with Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs as it does with Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You feel dirty afterward. & beyond the effective documentary like style Zombie employs, it's the bizarre characters that inhabit the ugly world of the film. While using 70's & 80's horror icons like Ken Foree, P.J. Soles & Michael Berryman could come off as gimmicky, here it does kinda work. This is casting done right.

The concept of Rejects is one of true horror. As It'll Be Dark Soon already pointed out, what if we ended up following Leatherface & his family for that whole film instead of having the usual 'good guys' to watch & get chased. It is this concept that allows for a truly love it or loathe it factor. The problem people have with it is that there is no moral center. The protagonists are serial killers. I really have to question the criticisms: If the film makes you feel unsafe or dirty isn't it accomplishing what so many other recent horror films have tried to make the audience feel & failed miserably at? The difference with the Saw & Hostel franchises and even the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre is that they all came off as sanitized horror. I felt no horror whatsoever throughout the duration of Hostel. But when watching the hotel scene in Rejects, there was a feeling of sheer unpredictability. Anything could happen at any moment.

Now the bad thing with this particular director & his catalog is, for the most part inconsistency. The problems I have with Zombie stems from stylistic choices. House of 100 Corpses saw the director stuck in the music video phase. It came off as a singer/music video artist wanting to be a filmmaker. Granted, the characters were quirky (though unrealistic) enough. Rejects saw him cut the rope that bound him to that style and allowed him to make his one truly great film.

Then, something went a little wrong. The remake of Halloween tried to have it's cake and eat it too. It attempted to give Michael a backstory (& a much too large one at that) while at the same time cramming in the obligatory 'remade' scenes of the original. As an overall storyteller, I think it would have been best if someone else did the writing and then have Zombie shoot that script. I mean the the film has some good qualities, but just not enough of them for me to love the movie. If Halloween was a director taking a slightly wrong turn, then Halloween II is not even being in the right town. Stylistically, it's all over the place. I understand he's a fan of Lynch & Kubrick, but dragging those influences into a slasher film can seriously fuck with the way you are telling a story. It doesn't help either when the script is weak. Sometimes making a film different from the pack works (see: Nightmare On Elm Street 2). Sometimes it falls flat on its ass (see: Friday the 13th Pt. V). This was the latter.

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