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A MORE FOCUSED ROB ZOMBIE.

Byline: Bob Strauss Film Critic

ROB ZOMBIE is improving as a filmmaker. Maybe someday he'll outgrow his extended adolescence, too.

The White Zombie frontman claims ``The Devil's Rejects'' is not a sequel to his horror-directing debut ``House of 1000 Corpses.'' But it is, and he deserves praise for the new film's higher levels of wit, acting and gritty craftsmanship. Why so much attention has been lavished on gratuitous sadism and titillation is another matter.

This time, the foul-mouthed, Marx Brothers-loving, cannibalistic/necrophilic Firefly family leaves its rural torture shack for some homicidal road-tripping. Actually, the family is forcibly evicted by the religiously crazed, revenge-seeking Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe in his juiciest role in years), whose brother wound up a Firefly fillet.

Not all the Fireflys get away. It's only hairy, perverted Otis (Bill Moseley again) and his rump-shaking little sister Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie, contributing what she does to all of her husband's cinematic and music video works) for a while, bloodying the Texas desert and cussing up an affectionate storm at one another. Eventually they unite with their rotten daddy, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig back for more, too) the killer clown, who was dreaming of love action with aging porn star Ginger Lynn Allen in some fat woman's trailer at the time of Wydell's raid.

All of this makes the piece sound, well, sleazier than film buff Zombie's higher aspirations try to make it. Indeed, homages to such recognized classics as ``Bonnie and Clyde'' are visible here and there. For some, though, these touches might well get lost among bits like the extended motel room hostage situation, which is built around the fun notion of defiling former ``Three's Company'' star Priscilla Barnes in ways you never would have imagined.

Anyway, as sick as the Fireflys' rampage gets, these charismatic, corn-pone Corleones eventually become the victims of Wydell's retributional rage. Now, nothing wrong with everybody going psycho in a horror movie. But it isn't exactly subversive to make your audience sympathize with the worst kind of thrill-killers. It's just morally cretinous.

Which, it must be noted, is in perfect keeping with the general humor of ``The Devil's Rejects,'' some of which is riotously, profanely hilarious. And some of which is just stupid. Gotta admit, the fussy film critic was pretty funny. But I think Zombie put it in there in anger, as a response to reviews of his first movie. Which is fine, too, since the improved quality of this movie indicates, he hasn't rejected all of our suggestions.

Bob Strauss, (818) 713-3670

bob.strauss(at)dailynews.com

THE DEVIL'S REJECTS - Two and one half stars

(R: extreme violence, sex, nudity, language, drug use, children in jeopardy)

Starring: Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe, Priscilla Barnes.

Director: Rob Zombie.

Running time: 1 hr. 41 min.

Playing: In wide release.

In a nutshell: More sadistic ultraviolence from the sociopathic family that Zombie introduced in ``House of 1000 Corpses.'' This movie is better made, but the question is, why bother?
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 22, 2005
Words:501
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