In the documentary accompanying the film as part of the extra content on the 3 From Hell Blu-Ray, a shaven-headed Bill Moseley, eyes twinkling with mischief, and a visibly ailing Sid Haig reminisce about their experiences of fan conventions and the one question that has dogged them for years:

“Hey Sid, is their gonna be another Devil’s Rejects movie?”

“No…”

“Why not?”

And they both crow in stereo: “Because we’re fucking dead!”

Yup gentle reader, that’s right, even the notorious Rejects themselves thought they bit the dust in the hail of bullets that climaxed Rob Zombie’s 2005 The Devil’s Rejects as our gang of kill-crazy psycho Redneck antihereoes drove their convertible, guns blazing and Freebird on the stereo, into a heavily armed police roadblock, their orgiastic spree of rape, mutilation and murder slamming to a halt in a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid-style freeze frame.

But, we never actually saw the bodies…

So, 14 years later, Zombie has resurrected his trio of demented killers, the murderous Firefly family each miraculously surviving 20 gunshot wounds apiece in a faux documentary opening that sees them nursed back to health, tried, convicted and becoming folk hero media sensations somewhere between the Mansons and Ted Bundy (cue a series of country-fried cardboard cutouts demanding “Free the 3!”) as they are interviewed for a TV documentary while languishing on Death Row.  

After a bravura scene where he’s interviewed in the Death House the night before his execution, killer clown Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) stays true to P.T. Barnum’s maxim of “Always leave them wanting more,” and exits the film. Enter long-lost half sibling Foxy (Richard Brake) who first violently breaks Southern Fried messiah Otis (Bill Moseley) out of prison, then together they engineer homicidal moonchild Baby’s (Sheri Moon Zombie) release before they drift Mexico way like all good gringo outlaws, towards their date with a violent destiny…

While the health issues plaguing the late Sid Haig have led to a truncated appearance, on-the-hoof rewrites and the eleventh hour introduction of Brake’s new character (a menace to society in his own mind reminiscent of Christian Slater’s Arkansas Dave in Young Guns 2) to shoulder some of the heavy lifting, 3 From Hell is exactly the sequel to The Devil’s Rejects you’d expect from Zombie. There’s guts, there’s gore, there’s carnage, as the Firefly family ride again, slaughtering innocent and guilty alike as they cut a bloody swathe across the country working their way through Zombie’s familiar tropes – tits, torture, senseless murder, clowns, luchadors, dwarves, tough guy talk and a classic Rock soundtrack (Baby’s too-cool-for-school entry to Suzi Quatro genuinely may be the fist-punching, hell yeah! highpoint of the film) – as he once again homages not only Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch and Walter Hill’s Extreme Prejudice, classic noir (The Petrified Forest and Desperate Hours), Babes Behind Bars prison movies, 70s exploitation and grindhouse cinema but also his own oeuvre, as the Devil’s Rejects hack, slash and shoot their way to a twisted form of bloody redemption.

While there’s a nod and wink towards an Oliver Stone condemnation of celebrity culture and tabloid media intrusion, Zombie really doesn’t do depth and 3 From Hell may be enormous fun, but feels at times almost like a parody of Natural Born Killers, Zombie giving us a trio of media savvy psychos milking their notoriety for all it’s worth. Nasty, mean and half an hour too long, 3 From Hell is a grindhouse B-movie that hasn’t taken it’s Ritalin, Zombie trying to pack around four films into one and not quite doing justice to any of them but as ever where Zombie shines is in his casting filling out the background with forgotten character actors like Austin Stoker and a practically unrecognisable Dee Wallace (Elliot’s mom playing a rare and very memorable villain) while giving the excellent Moseley a chance to chew the scenery like it’s Kobe beef, the addition of the always magnetic Brake a stroke of brutal genius, the two veteran actors riffing on each other beautifully. 

But this is a Rob Zombie movie and as such it’s a love letter to his wife Sheri Moon Zombie who’s never been better than she is here. Kooky, kute and kompletely kerr-raaaayzy, her Manson Family-esque flower child serial killer Baby is indisputably the star of the show, her demented parole hearing reminiscent of Spud’s job interview in Trainspotting, her Cats-inspired fantasy of freedom a surreal delight while her practically Beauty and the Beast relationship with Pancho Moler’s put-upon artist Sebastian feels almost sweet, particularly when she spends much of the rest of the film hacking and slashing innocent and not-so-innocent alike before turning vengeful, primal Fury when going up against heavily armed masked Mexican cartel soldiers with only a bow and arrow and a wicked sharp knife.

Far from subtle, if you’re a Rob Zombie fan, you’ll likely love 3 From Hell. If you’re not a Rob Zombie fan, well, what the f@ck are you doing watching 3 From Hell anyway?

Rental Review: 3 From Hell
3.5Overall Score
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