They’re finally back, the horrifying gang that once terrorised the audience through brutal murders and their uncontrollable lust for violence. We first encountered Baby, Otis and Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie’s 2003 film House of 1000 Corpses where we enter their hell and begin to learn about the horrific atrocities they like to commit. Zombie was back in 2005 with The Devil’s Rejects, which once again is gory, nasty and features the famous three committing their souls to evil. General consensus ranks The Devil’s Rejects as a better film, however, the vibe that comes from House of 1000 Corpses feels far more like a raw and gritty exploitation film than it’s sequel giving it something more appealing if you like films that are over the top and weird. 3 From Hell has been anticipated by fans for a long time, but it seems that Zombie has grown up somewhat and decided he wanted to make a character-driven film that disappointed fans who were looking for excessive gore and violence.
Following their capture in the previous film, we follow Baby Firefly, Otis Driftwood and Captain Spaulding on what happened to their lives. Captain Spaulding is executed for his crimes against humanity, Otis is sent to imprisonment and Baby is sent to the crazy house. After 10 years of being locked up, Otis finally hatches a plan to escape and whilst out doing digging duty, his brother manages to murder everyone and take Otis away. From here they begin a pursuit to rid Baby of her chains and get her out of the cage she’s been trapped in. Once they are reunited and outside of bars, they travel to Mexico to see if they can continue to raise Hell whilst going unnoticed by anyone that will cause them trouble.
The initial trouble with 3 From Hell is that it is a film made solely for fans and followers of the previous two films; without any context and as a newcomer to Zombie (which could very well be the case after 14 years) it’s not a particularly easy to understand, watch or even like film. It relies on the audience already having a repertoire with the characters, and knowing how horrific they were before they were incarcerated, which doesn’t really give much credit for those who aren’t familiar with the film’s predecessors. For those who are knowing of the other films, 3 From Hell still doesn’t quite deliver because after waiting patiently for many years, we should have expected a mind-blowing film about three vicious characters, but that’s far from the truth. Zombie has certainly moved away from his violent style that he is so commonly known for, and for some that will be a draw, but to ensure this trilogy and keep the fans happy, it seems he shot himself in the foot by taking away the carnage and making a more sober horror film that relies heavily on character development and loyalty.
Unfortunately 3 From Hell lies to us a little as very near the beginning of the film beloved killer clown, Captain Spaulding, is executed in prison and therefore isn’t truly part of the film. Sid Haig was due to have a larger role in the film but due to health reasons was unable to commit to it, which gives the film somewhat of a memoire feeling as this was Haig’s last role before he sadly passed away, therefore it’s wonderful to see him reprise such a beloved and well known character, even for a shorter segment that most would have liked. Therefore Baby and Otis are joined by brother Winslow Foxworth “Foxy” Coltrane, who is supposedly just as nasty as the rest of them. Even though it’s understandable as to why Spaulding couldn’t be in the film for longer, it does feel like we’re misled from the very beginning; even the posters for the film feature Spaulding instead of Foxy and therefore the 3 From Hell aren’t quite who the audience were expecting.
The biggest flaw of this film is that it offers absolutely nothing of any worth to the audience. Compared to the other two films in the trilogy it doesn’t have nearly as much violence as would have been expected, and the characters don’t come across as psycho as they have in the previous films – they are far more relaxed and laid back, which you could argue happens after being in prison, but as the most notorious criminals out there, it would have been nice to see them even more horrific than before. The storyline doesn’t reveal anything interesting about the characters, even though it tries to rely on building them out. Even though there are some bloody violent scenes in there, the only one that really stands out is watching a completely nude, bloodied and abused woman run in slow motion down the street as she’s chased by Baby and then stabbed to death in someone’s front lawn in broad daylight. More of this and 3 From Hell would have gone back to it’s exploitation roots and delivered another gut-wrenching and nasty film that truly deserved its place within the trilogy.
3 From Hell isn’t the spectacular, horrific and extreme horror film comeback that we were all waiting for from Rob Zombie. Sadly, it’s quite a dry attempt at reengaging the audience, and will only really resonate with those that have an undying love for both House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, which means the majority of the horror audience have been completely left behind. Let’s hope that Zombie finally puts the three to hell, and doesn’t reprise them for yet another film that rehashes the same ideas. After over 10 years of waiting, this one is a true disappointment.
Directed by: Rob Zombie
Written by: Rob Zombie
Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, Jeff Daniel Phillips