Wednesday, October 16, 2019

3 FROM HELL (2019) Movie Review

Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 14
Total First Time Views: 5
Amount raised for AMAZON WATCH: $1,069.04

3 from Hell (2019) d. Rob Zombie (USA) (111 min) (1st viewing)

It’s hard to believe it’s already been 14 years since Rob Zombie established himself as a genre icon with only his second feature film (especially since it was ostensibly a sequel to his debut, House of 1000 Corpses). Generating rave reviews from some of the nation’s top critics and eliciting genuine conversation about the complexity of nihilism in the age of Hostel and Saw, The Devil’s Rejects exploded onto the scene and established the rock star-turned-filmmaker into a genuine hero for the black t-shirt-wearing masses.

Of course, he has proceeded to prove increasingly divisive, with his two Halloween installments, the artsy-but-muddled The Lords of Salem, and his white trash entry into the Most Dangerous Game sweepstakes, 2017’s 31, but the loyalty to his opening one-two punch has sustained itself through the years, expressed in real-world dollars by the literally hundreds of convention appearances by stars Sid Haig and Bill Moseley.

Despite the fact that Rejects concluded with one of the most satisfying and cathartic movie endings on record (you may never hear Lynard Skynard’s “Freebird” the same way again), the compulsion to continue the adventures of Otis (Moseley), Baby (Sherri Moon Zombie), and Captain Spaulding (Haig) has finally born fruit... a harvest that is neither delectable nor bitter, but simply bland. We didn’t need another installment in what is now the “Firefly Franchise,” but if we had to have one, it would have been nice not to be a watered-down, beat-for-beat retread of its direct predecessor.

This is no glib exaggeration. Following a recap of what our infamous trio have been up to for the past 10 years (having impossibly survived the barrage of lawful bullets sent their way, our antiheroes have been sentenced to life imprisonment and/or death row, becoming counterculture icons along the way), there is the inevitable jailbreak, the sadistic torture and murder of hostages, the clumsy road-trip banter, traitors in their midst (Richard Edson standing in for Ken Foree), and a vengeance-seeking vigilante (Emilio Rivera standing in for William Forsythe) bringing down the full weight of justice upon the clan who ultimately upend the tables and emerge victorious.

Sound familiar? It should, and feels almost purposely so. It’s the most crassly commercial thing Zombie has done to date; even his remakes and sequels to remakes showed a distinct artistic vision and a desire to depart from expectations. Here, he is bald-faced aping what has gone before, but with half the verve and none of the vicious determination and independence that stamped his early work. It’s the fast-food version of Rob Zombie… as presented by Rob Zombie.

Due to the actor’s failing health, Haig is relegated to little more than a cameo, but rather than simply plunge forward with only Otis and Baby, Zombie conjures a spontaneous half-brother named Winslow Foxworth “Howling Wolf” Coltraine (Richard Brake) from the wings for no other good reason than to keep the tried-and-true formula in place. Brake, who was far and away the best thing about 31, is squandered in what basically amounts to a carbon copy of Moseley’s Otis – Otis Mark 2, if you will.

We now have two slim graybearded foul-mouthed psychos to tweedledum and tweedledee off one another, while Sherri Moon sneers and cavorts for all she’s worth. There’s a cadre of luchador-mask-wearing assassins, CG gun splatter, un-PC representation of life in Mexico, and not an ounce of inspiration to any of it, with the f-bomb laden dialogue seemingly improvised on the spot.

There are also the expected cameos from genre stars like Dee Wallace as a hard-worn prison guard and, as a confused party clown, Clint Howard in one of the worst examples of forced weirdness/comedy seen in quite a while. Danny Trejo shows up as a fellow prisoner, Daniel Roebuck as a reporter, and so on. It seemed clever and inspired a decade and a half ago. Now it just feels strained and obligatory, much like the film itself.

We are expected to relate to and root for the Fireflies simply because they have returned. Some fans will do just that. But for anyone expecting to be shown the courtesy of a legitimate plotline or even the suggestion of character arcs should probably look elsewhere. Here there are no stakes and no surprises, except at how little Zombie respects his core audience, supposing that they won’t notice they’ve seen this movie before, or that they won’t even care.

Worse yet? They probably won’t. Long live the Rob.

ALSO, just in case you'd like to hear Ian Simmons from Kicking the Seat and I ramble on further about the film and our love/hate affair with Mssr. Zombie, you can listen to the KtS podcast HERE:

3 from Hell
is available now on Blu-ray from Lions Gate and can be found on most major platforms.


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