Review: Rob Zombie and the Firefly Family Return in 3 FROM HELL, A Raucous Violent Thrill Ride
Rob Zombie definitely has his own brand. After making himself a superstar in the music world, Zombie took his signature style and love of horror and finally translated it into the world of film with The House of 1000 Corpses, his ode to Tobe Hooper, introducing us to the now infamous Firefly family. The saga continued in The Devil’s Rejects, a movie that showed Zombie had complete control of his voice, no longer holding onto the rails of its predecessors inspiration, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Now, almost fifteen years later, Rob Zombie brings us back into the world of the Firefly family,
10 years removed from the hail of gunfire ending of The Devil’s Rejects, we learn that Otis, Baby and Captain Spaulding all lived through the bulletstorm and have now become cult-like celebrities, in the vein of Ted Bundy or the Manson family. With the aid of his half brother Winslow Foxworth Coltrane (Foxy), Otis is able to break the family out of jail and they go on the lamb to Mexico, where our conclusion ultimately plays out.
Looking at 3 From Hell in conjecture with the prior movies, it seems like Zombie has three distinct personalities in all three films. Corpses is his homage to the Sawyer’s but laced with LSD and amped up to 11 with a healthy dose of acid trip 70’s nostalgia, where Rejects is his road movie, foregoing the psychedelia of the era and instead embracing the raw and visceral violence of the cinema of the day. 3 From Hell feels like he’s just allowing the Firefly family to float, untethered. This can be taken in a number of ways and will be throughout the release of the film; I’m sure many will miss the social commentary and the moralistically grey lens of the other films but instead I embraced the wild ride that is 3 From Hell, which almost feels like an anime come to life. A plethora of wild characters with fun designs put into intensely violent situations with raucous and brash smash cut scenes, interspersed with moments of ridiculous dialogue and dark humor, it’s the most aggressive cartoon ever given corporeal form.
As far as the violence goes, Zombie really takes a swing at everything. The first half of the movie is spent between the prison and the Warden’s home and this is where things do get a little murky. While the time spent with Otis and Foxy is fun, two loud mouthed, obnoxious characters who truly feel like brothers consistently ragging on each other while casually enacting acts of violence, some of it feels too mean. An entire hostage situation in the first act of the film walks a dangerous line between black comedy and celebrating heinous brutality, and it often treads too far into the latter. When things get on the road and then into Mexico, it’s a bit more freewheeling and you don’t feel as slimy for rooting for the Rejects.
Sheri Moon Zombie is allowed to play around a bit more, with Baby really dipping into a pool of psychosis after her stint in prison, and although the movie is titled 3 From Hell, she really is the focal point of the bulk of the movie. Bill Moseley and newcomer Richard Brake as Foxy have fantastic chemistry, their brotherly banter helps lighten the mood of an often morbid flick, and Brake brings a certain amount of charm and crass levity while still imposing a physical intimidation with his character. Another 31 carry over is Pancho Moler as Sebastian, an endearing supporting character who steals every scene he’s in, as well as Zombie regular Jeff Daniel Phillips, who plays the lambchopped mustachioed warden. He’s got a sneer and affection of curse words that really draw the spotlight.
Listen, 3 From Hell is far from perfect, it can sometimes even feel pointless, but never in a way that’s aimless. Zombie set out to let his characters off the leash and that’s exactly what has happened here. 3 From Hell is a high octane firestorm of frenzied violence and disarmingly charming character chemistry. While it’s not a needed sequel, or perhaps end cap, to the series, it’s definitely a fun one.