It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Here is a gaudy vomitorium of a movie, violent, nauseating and really a pretty good example of its genre. If you are a hardened horror movie fan capable of appreciating skill and wit in the service of the deliberately disgusting, "The Devil's Rejects" may exercise a certain strange charm. If on the other hand you close your eyes if a scene gets icky, here is a movie to see with blinders on, because it starts at icky and descends relentlessly through depraved and nauseating to the embrace of road kill.
How can I possibly give "The Devil's Rejects" a favorable review? A kind of heedless zeal transforms its horrors. The movie is not merely disgusting, but has an attitude and a subversive sense of humor. Its actors venture into camp satire, but never seem to know it's funny; their sincerity gives the jokes a kind of solemn gallows cackle. Consider the fact that it's about a depraved family of mass murderers who name themselves after Groucho Marx characters (Otis P. Driftwood, Rufus T. Firefly, Captain Spaulding) and that the sheriff calls in a film critic to give him insights into their pathology.
The critic is such a Groucho fan that he knows Groucho played God in Otto Preminger's "Skidoo" (1968), something I also knew, but I bet you didn't. The sheriff wants to bring in Groucho for questioning, but the critic knows he died in 1977. "Elvis died three days earlier and stole all the headlines," he moans, risking death at the hands of the sheriff department's Elvis fans.
"The Devil's Rejects" has been written and directed by Rob Zombie (also known as Robert Cummings and Robert Wolfgang Zombie), a composer and music video producer whose "The House of 1,000 Corpses" (2003) was a "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" wannabe. Pause for a moment to meditate on the phrase "A 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' wannabe," and you will begin to form some idea of Zombie's artistic vision. Now give him credit, in this movie, not for transcending "Chainsaw Massacre" but for sidestepping its temptations and opening up a mordantly funny approach to the material. There is actually some good writing and acting going on here, if you can step back from the material enough to see it.