I don't typically go for exploitation films (see my post on Trip with the Teacher), so this was a difficult category for me. I was sorely tempted to list Herschel Gordon Lewis's The Wizard of Gore, but since it's been nearly a decade since I saw it, I don't remember enough about it to come up with a halfway intelligible discussion. So instead I've chosen Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects. While some might argue it isn't sufficiently low-budget to be considered grindhouse, but it's pure exploitation through and through.
The Devil's Rejects seems to be everyone's favorite Rob Zombie movie, but it's actually my least favorite (yep, I even enjoyed Halloween II more), and I can't quite decide if I actually like it. Nevertheless, there is much to appreciate about it. For instance, it contains what is to my mind one of the most iconic images in horror. Check it out:
The whole sequence leading up to this aftermath of being hit by a semi is pure atrocity. The victim wakes up wearing her dead husband's face as a mask, seriously freaks out and runs blindly into the road where she meets her fate. This is truly the stuff of nightmares. The actress really went for it with this scene, and her performance was disturbingly authentic. I also enjoyed the performances by Bill Mosely and William Forsythe, and the cameo by Brian Posehn of Mr. Show obscurity. But honestly, that's all the good I can think to say about it.
What I didn't like is that the members of the murderous Firefly family are the protagonists. As someone who almost exclusively sides with the victims in horror films, I found myself with no one to root for. (spoilers) When they are taken out by the police at the end, I had no sympathy for them and felt they got what they deserved. There was no emotional identification with them, which is where the feeling of true horror resides with me.
To be honest, I probably need to watch The Devil's Rejects again, since the first time I watched it was before my personal horror revival, and I wasn't watching much horror at the time. It was, by far, the most violent and disturbing film I had seen at that point, and it was very off-putting. Since then, I've really gravitated toward the kind of ultra-violent movies I used to avoid, so maybe I'd enjoy it more.
maybe I'd enjoy it more.