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Continuing to cater to a primarily male audience, Lion's Gate has released one of the better horror films from 2005 as a Blu-ray disc: Rob Zombie's Devil's Rejects. This is a sequel to his cult classic House of 1000 Corpses and is just as shocking and entertaining as the first film. This high definition release looks pretty good and reproduces the film very faithfully. It would make a nice addition to a Blu-ray collection.
Set some months after the events shown in House of 1000 Corpses, the film opens as the Texas Rangers descend on the murderous Firefly family's ranch in force. A firefight ensues in which several officers are killed and wounded and three members of the Firefly clan escape: Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig). Looking for a place to lay low, the trio meets up at an old motor inn where they take a group of traveling musicians hostage and user them for some sick entertainment.
The officer who lead the raid, Sheriff John Quincy Wydell (William Forsythe), is furious that three people got away. That is nothing compared to the rage he feels when he discovers a picture of his brother, murdered, in a scrapbook taken from the Firefly ranch. Realizing that these people are responsible for his brother's death leads the Sheriff down a dark path. Vowing vengeance, the officer of the law slowly goes mad, and becomes just as evil as the murderers he's hunting.
This is not a move for the timid, but if you enjoy very dark humor and a good amount of violence, you can't go wrong with this flick. The humor especially worked well as a counterpoint to the frequent violent acts. A good example of this is when Spaulding's car breaks down and he has to steal another one. He walks up to a lady in a parking lot, in full clown make-up, and says "I'm gonna have to be taking your car today. See I have some top secret clown business that supersedes any plans that you might have for this here vehicle." The fact that viewers know that Spaulding would kill the lady just for fun makes the scene both humorous and a bit suspenseful.
Writer/director Rob Zombie did a great job with the tone, style, and feel of the film. He made the film in a 70's style and he did it quite well. The good guys are morally ambiguous just like Dirty Harry or Charles Bronson's character from the Death Wish films, and the bad guys are likeable in a twisted sort of way. The movie has a washed out look reminiscent of older films, and even the outfits and vehicles could have appeared in a 70's classic. The yellow sunglasses that one deputy wears are outrageously funny.
Zombie used music very effectively in the film too, often slowing the action down a lot while appropriate classic rock songs played. These slow motion sequences were some of the most memorable and effective in the film.
Note: The only Blu-Ray DVD player on the market at the time of this review is the Samsung BD-P1000. Apparently an error crept into the design, and a noise reduction algorithm on one of the chips was turned on which creates a softer picture. As yet there is no fix for this, though a firmware upgrade is expected in October.
This Blu-ray disc presents the film with its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded for up to 1080p playback. The image quality looks very good and accurately reproduces the look that the director and DP were going for. As I mentioned in the body of the review, the colors are intentionally muted and a bit drab looking, which works well in the context of the film. The disc reproduces these colors nicely with a good amount of definition. The picture generally had a good amount of depth, though in some of the darker scenes the image flattened out a bit. The detail was excellent, with fine details being strong, though this wasn't always an advantage. The CGI blood didn't look too convincing in high definition, especially in slow motion such as the ending scene. Not all of the blood was computer generated however, just the effects were something would puncture the skin, so much of the gore looked fine. Overall I was very happy with the look and appearance of this movie.
This disc offers viewers the choice between Dolby EX and DTS-HD soundtracks. Both sounded very good and will sure to please fans of the movie. Rob Zombie filled the movie with classic rock tracks and used them to great effect, matching the lyrics to the on-screen action in a masterful way. These songs were reproduced wonderfully, many of them sounding better than I've ever heard them before. David Essex's Rock On, for example, starts over dead silence with a few low notes sounding before dying down to nothing again. As the vocals start the words echo on and on accenting the visuals. The tone was rich and strong but not overpowering. The dialog (and screams) were clear and easy to discern while the sound effects came through with a nice amount of *umph*. This was a very nice sounding disc.
While there aren't as many extras on this disc as were included on the 2 disc standard definition release, Lions Gate did port over some nice bonus features. First off there are two commentaries, one with Rob Zombie and the other with the three principal actors. These were both well worth listening to, especially the later. The Sid Haig and his costars have a great time talking about the film and the making of it, and their enthusiasm is infectious. There are also eleven deleted scenes which are pretty good and could have made it into the finished product. Often scenes were cut because they just didn't work, but that's not the case here.
A violent, grim, and darkly humorous film, this picture isn't for everyone. It's not a good movie to pop in on a date. If you like taut horror films that are well crafted however, this film is for you. The Blu-ray presentation is very good. The image has a lot of detail and wonderful reproduced colors. If you can stomach it, this disc is highly recommended.