Ever wonder what a 101 minute Cradle of Filth video would look like?
This is the worst kind of film for me to review. Not because it is bad. Handing me a bad film to review is like handing Jason Voorhees a half dozen college students on a spring break camping trip (Crystal Lake shirt from the Horror Movie T Shirt category). Two hours later and I am cleaning blood off my machete with a warm, satisfied feeling in my stomach. No, this film is tough for me to review because I am actually a fan of Rob Zombie.
It’s true. I like his music, and some of his films are amazing. House of 1000 Corpses and the Devil’s Rejects are horror classics. It’s to the point that as I arrived in the theater I already had the first two glowing paragraphs of this review written out in my head once this film turned out to be amazing (or even adequate).
Time makes fools of us all however, and in this case the amount of time is 101 minutes. I spent most of that time waiting for anything to happen. Ever take a long road trip and find yourself running low on gas? Ever do that and hit one of those weird stretches of highway where they don’t apparently believe in gas stations (hello West Texas) and as you approach each exit you desperately hope that you will see a Unocal or Mobil sign? Your desperation and eagerness increases with each passed exit until finally you end the movie parked at the side of the road on a desolate two lane highway with nothing but coyotes for company.
So it was for this film. Rob can definitely build atmosphere, and when it comes to horror foreplay he is a master. The problem is every time the build up reached the point where something, anything interesting had to happen it would stop with a screeching jump cut, leaving the audience with the equivalent of movie viewer blue balls. Even in the few scenes where something happens inevitably end up being dreams or hallucinations of some kind. I would like to say that having the main character wake up in a cold sweat after a vividly horrible dream is a cool movie tool to help establish otherwise intangible plot points. However, it should not be used to cover 1/3rd of the scenes. It became so standard during the course of this film that in the final scene where something actually was happening I kept waiting for the main character to wake up yet again.
This is why the film felt more like a Satanic rock video than a film. It is chock full of creepy Satanic images and hallucinations from deep in Charles Manson’s subconscious but lacking in anything really scary or disturbing. The whole thing felt like Rob Zombie messing around on his home editing system, putting together a video of some anti-Christian footage that his friends might enjoy while half drunk but not really for public consumption. Very self indulgent, and given that he cast his wife as the main character and a bunch of his friends as supporting characters I’d say that is an apt description. The whole time I was watching I felt the same burning desire for a fast forward button that I felt while watching Terence Malicks Tree of Life. I know Rob intended this film to be a tribute to the Shining but he more closely parallels Malicks film style, only without the Christian overtones.
The story, I guess. Sheri Moon Zombie (the Devil’s Rejects, House of 1000 Corpses, Grindhouse) plays Heidi Hawthorne, part of a three man late night DJ team that looks like Rob learned a lot from his interviews on the Howard Stern Show (I actually listened to his last appearance on that show and he pretty much says that is where the inspiration came from). She and her fellow DJs Whitey (Jeff Daniel Phillips-Faster, Hide, Unknown) and Herman (Ken Foree-Dawn of the Dead, the Devil’s Rejects, Water for Elephants) interview Francis Mathias (Bruce Davison-X-Men, Harry and the Hendersons, Short Cuts) the author of a book on the Salem Witch Trials. That night Heidi has a record delivered to her in a wooden box that screams Necronomicon from a band called the Lords. She plays it and begins to hallucinate about witches. The next night she plays it on the air and a bunch of women in the town of Salem are more or less possessed.
At that point things kind of mosey down the road with not much happening. Every ten minutes another amazing scene is set up and seems to be leading to something that could be considered a plot point or pivotal moment, but just as you think something is about to happen Heidi wakes up. A lot of Satanic and anti-Christian messages and images are use. The witches burned (for the record, no witches were burned in Salem. They were all hung. I’m not saying that makes us any more civil than Europe. I’m just a stickler for historical accuracy) are trying to come back and want Heidi to be their vessel from which Lucifer (or something) will be born. Heidi’s landlady and her creepy sisters (Dee Wallace-E.T. the Extraterrestrial, the Howling, Critters Patrical Quinn-the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shock Treatment, The Meaning of Life Judy Gleeson-Gilmore Girls, Spanish Fly, the Duke) are working together to make this happen and at one point beat Francois to death with a frying pan (closest thing to exciting as this film gets, honestly). Religious images are shown over and over again and laughable Satanic verse is spoken in a voice that makes monster truck announcers sound serious.
If you have an axe to grind against Christianity and love Satan then this is the movie for you. You can’t say Rob Zombie doesn’t deliver a message. One star. He does create good atmospheres. One star. His wife is pretty damned hot in the scenes where she isn’t looking like a strung out drug user. One star. Total: three stars.
The black holes:
No real horror to speak of, nothing scary, and nothing happens. One black hole. The story is about as solid as a soggy corn flake and more or less serves to connect Rob’s images together. One black hole. The course of the entire film is like a beach ball with a BB hole in it, leaking air and finally ending with a vague fart sound and a quiet settling. One black hole. At no point in the film to you get an idea of what the evil plan is or even who the villain is. No antagonist to speak of, and when the plan is finally unveiled you still don’t know what the hell is going on or why you should care. One black hole. I don’t think playing a subdued character is Sheri Moon Zombie’s forte. Furthermore I felt no interest in her character or any kind of connection whatsoever other than she was hot (or any of the other characters for that matter). One black hole. Given the number of times I have bitched about rater R movies that avoid nudity this is weird for me to say, but there is a lot of nudity in this film but with very few exceptions (Sheri being all of them) you will truly regret having seen them. Some things watched can’t be unwatched. One black hole. It’s honestly hard to take Satanic rhetoric seriously. They have all the issues that Christian rhetoric has except that it just sounds silly (if you have ever listened to an Anton Levey interview you know what I mean). I mean, worshiping Satan means you actually believe in the Christian pantheon but are going to go with the guy who will burn you in everlasting fire. One black hole. It’s rare that I have to say this since I usually find something to entertain myself with but as I left the theater I really felt like I had wasted my time. Two black holes. Total: nine black holes.
So a grand total of six black holes. To be honest I was more than generous in my stars and reticent in my black holes. If I weren’t a Zombie fan I would have probably unloaded my black hole shotgun into this movies face and the closest thing to a star I could have found would have been that it was filmed in English. Sorry dude. I honestly hope your next film recaptures some of the magic of your earlier films, or at least has something happen somewhere in the film. Should you see it? Honestly probably not. If you are a Rob Zombie fan I think you will get more from renting the Devil’s Rejects. If you do go see it load up on Strawberry Mojitos at the Applebees down the street beforehand. This movie will look a lot better if you are plastered. Date movie? If I recommend you don’t go see this film there shouldn’t be any kind of logical process that would lead you to taking a date to it unless you secretly hate all women and see dating as your opportunity to punish them all for not being your mom. Bathroom break? There isn’t a single scene of this film (including the “climax”) that you couldn’t easily miss without losing a thing from your movie experience. Cut out, drop a deuce, smoke a cigarette, run back to Applebees to recharge your alcohol battery, and come back in time for the ending credits. Using your imagination while listening to to the post movie fake newscast might just make for a good time.
I always feel dirty after dumping on a movie by someone I like. Why can’t McG come out with something? Wrecking his movies is not only fun but I feel like I am performing a public service. Sigh. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Feel free to comment on this film or my review below. Off topic questions or suggestions can be sent to email@example.com. Thanks for reading. Talk to you soon.