Full disclosure: I am an unapologetic Rob Zombie fan. I haven’t loved everything he’s made (cough cough, 31, cough cough) but overall, I really enjoy his work. I think his visual style and his use of music are fantastic. I also think he would probably benefit from having someone else help him with his scripts, but I digress.
3 From Hell starts off where Devil’s Rejects left off. Instead of being killed in a blaze of glory in the police shootout, Baby, Otis and Captain Spaulding manage to miraculously survive despite each one being shot 20 times. After recovering and becoming Ted Bundy level of celebrity thanks to their trial, the trio is now serving their terms in prison. A previously unknown half brother named Foxy enters the picture and busts out his incarcerated siblings. Before too long our trio of Otis, Baby and Foxy step out to make mischief, which mostly means murder. One thing that doesn’t read is the fact that it’s been about 10 years since the first film. Save for a picture of Reagen, there’s pretty much nothing else to suggest that it isn’t still the 1970s.
Though it takes a bit to take off, all of the sequences in prison could have probably been at least half the length they were, overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. In fact, as a few days have gone by since I first saw it, I think I enjoyed it more after reflecting on it for awhile. I loved House of 1000 Corpses from the beginning. The distinct color palete, the style and the obvious love Rob Zombie poured into it. His love of the films he grew up watching, his love of these characters he was creating inspired by other similar characters from horror and grind-house movies. The Devil’s Rejects took the same characters and produced a film extremely different in tone than the first. Where House of 1000 Corpses was bright and silly and almost cartoonish, The Devil’s Rejects was gritty, and real with a more washed out and bleak tone. As better put together film, but also much harder to watch. In fact, as much as I respect what he’s produced in The Devil’s Rejects, it’s not a film I choose to watch very often because I find some of it a little too harsh to watch on your average day.
Rob Zombie’s films have never been ones I would recommend to the casual movie goer. They’re not even films I would recommend to the casual horror fan. A love of 70s films are a must to truly appreciate what he’s trying to achieve in his films. And love or hate the movies, he knows how to build atmosphere and a world.
3 From Hell is pure exploitation, but lighter than Rejects, a little more silly. The humor is a little sharper and helps the film from getting quite as heavy. It’s not a perfect movie, but I find myself a little surprised by how much people have been criticizing it. Beyond a few pacing issues and a rather bizarre moment with a ballet dancing cat (seriously, what was that?), it’s an extremely watchable movie.
This is also some of the finest acting work that Sheri Moon Zombie has done. I’ve been a might bit critical of her acting in the past. I can appreciate her, but especially against some of the amazing character actors Rob Zombie stacks his films with, Sheri Moon Zombie often appears as the weaker link. She genuinely shines in 3 From Hell, especially in her physical choices. Perhaps it’s being in her third film as “Baby”, but she seems much more confident and comfortable with her acting choices. Bill Mosely’s Otis is probably the most grounded he’s ever been. These characters are 10 years older and spent almost all that time in prison, in Baby’s case, in solitary confinement. With Spaulding’s patriarch indisposed, he’s taken on a bit of that role. Richard Brake probably has the hardest part since he’s stepping in with a character created because Sid Haig’s health was too poor to fully commit to what was necessary for the film. They play it off as well as they can, having Foxy also trying to figure out where he fits in with his siblings who already have a pretty well established rhythm. Brake pulls it off pretty well.
This may not be Zombie’s strongest film, but once it takes off, it’s supremly entertaining. It might not win over everyone, but I found it fun, watchable and entertaining. If you’re a fan of Zombie’s films, then five 3 From Hell a chance, I think you’ll enjoy yourself.
Want a second opinion? Bob’s Review here.