3 from Hell is the lively and hilarious direct to video horror release (it
played only briefly at a film festival) that is perfect for Halloween viewing.
This humorous splatter film is the long awaited (at least by me) third part of a
trilogy, which included House of a 1000 Corpses (2003) and The Devil’s Rejects
All three films have some recurrent actors and characters such as the
sociopathically sensual, Baby Firefly, the completely sadistic trailer trash
Manson clone, Otis B. Driftwood (Bill Mosely), and my favorite, the killer
clown, Captain Spaulding (played by the late Sid Haig.)
The film has attracted some of the most widely split critical reactions of the
year. Scout Tafoya, the critic on Roger Ebert.com gave it four out of four stars
and Comics Beat reviewer Edward Douglas called the film "easily, the worst movie
of the year." I think the film is a masterpiece within its genre but most people
probably would not appreciate its genre.
This relatively inexpensive horror flick was shot on digital film in just twenty
days for under three million dollars. At some points the director rob Zombie cut
out whole parts of the script to save money and speed up the filming process.
Like Roger Corman, Sam Fuller and Edgar Ulmer, Zombie excels in getting the most
possible out of limited resources. The heavy use of cheap, blurry film stock and
shaky camera moves actually makes the film more memorable
The multimedia musical artist and filmmaker Rob Zombie directed the film. I like
most of this films much more than his Alice Cooper inspired industrial metal
music (all of his worst tend to have horror themes.)
Zombie has said that he wants to expand to other genres but he might have to
change his name. I do not expect to see Julia Roberts or Meryl Streep make films
for a director named Rob Zombie.
Zombie’s film completely embodies the whole trashy grind house aesthetic (Zombie
actually directed the short Werewolf Woman of the SS trailer, which appeared in
Grindhouse film). With its resurrection of forgotten character actors
(horror queen Dee Wallace plays a sadistic prison warden who wants to destroy
Baby), and multiple references to old films particularly Howard Hawk’s works
this film has much in common with the more mainstream efforts of Quentin
Tarantino and Roberto Rodriquez.
Haig’s death during the filming left a big hole in the film, this his final
picture serves as a fitting tribute to man who was known for playing characters
on the other side of sanity. Haig was replaced by the more than competent
Richard Brake playing Otis' half-brother, Winslow Foxworthy "Foxy" Coltrane he
got the nickname after each kill he likes to howl like a wild canine.
Every character is unique in their derangement and personality quirks. The
youngest member of the group, Baby Firefly (portrayed by one of the reigning
scream queens. Zombie’s real life wife, Sheri Moon) is childlike and
psychologically unhinged She enjoys spontaneously dancing and singing, and she
loves seducing her future victims of both sexes before she brutalizes them and
kills them. She is like a murderous Zooey Deschanel or an ultra-violent All
American manic pixie dreams girl next door. She is most sympathetic when she
acts sympathetic and caring to the little person who loves her.
Despite the obvious aging of the characters, the film’s basic plot begins right
after The Devil’s Rejects ending. That film ended with all the main characters
apparently being shot to death by the police in a Bonnie and Clyde like
conclusion. We learn that despite the fact that all three characters were shot
over twenty times they miraculously survived. Swallowing the film’s opening
premise means suspending our disbelief.
Each member of the troop is hospitalized then imprisoned when they get better.
Sid Haig’s, Captain Spaulding character is executed early on, which explains his
absence (he is great in the 10 minutes of the film he appears in.)
Like the real members of the Manson gang, the devil’s rejects get massive media
attention and they become heroes to some disaffected members of society. The
film mocks the media and viewer’s obsession with bad people.
Some of the captive killers try to play up to the gullible public to get
sympathy. At one point the murderous clown character Captain Spaulding actually
says, “I am your bozo Jesus hung out to dry.” I remember in real life there was
an actual woman who fell in love with the real Charles Manson and wanted to
marry him while he was on death row. I am sure her parents were delighted.
Otis is the first to escape and he holds the police sheriff’s family prisoner in
order to blackmail him into getting him to release his deranged sister, Baby.
Before and after their escapes both Baby and Otis get grisly revenge on their
Later on they hook up with the pair’s half-brother, Foxy and they end up in a
brothel in Mexico (this is perhaps a little too close to the last part of
Devil’s Rejects). This leads to a terrible betrayal, and the gang ends up facing
off against a posse of armed killer wrestlers. The only reason we root for the
devil’s rejects family in over the top The Wild Bunch style conclusion is that
they are far more entertaining than their bland opponents.
The R rating is richly earned and the film includes more violence, sex, mayhem,
and potentially offensive material than any other film I have seen all year.
Beach Bum is the only runner up.
The DVD includes some amusing outtakes, and an enlightening doc on the film
called to Hell and Back: The Making of Three from Hell.
3 for Hell is less a movie than a loosely plotted deliriously unrestrained
horrifically graphic orgy of death and destruction with funny jokes. It is
highly recommended for a certain strong-stomached audience niche. I think you
know who you are.