There’s a lot of factors that go into my ultimate opinion about Rob Zombie’s 3 From Hell. First is the fact that I expedited my first time viewing experience within a month before this film’s release so the characters were fresh as ever, and nostalgia couldn’t have set in quite yet. The other being that an interview with the director stated that my personal favorite character Captain Spaulding wouldn’t be in the film very much due to the actor’s state of health. Take one of the distinct reasons I went to see the third entry in the trilogy away, and what do you have left? That’s what needs to be rationed out.
Rob Zombie has a unique charm to his direction, which is something that I found rather mesmerizing while watching his previous films (especially The Devil’s Rejects). All that charm that he created seemingly disintegrates before our eyes. Everything I found so enticing during his previous directorial efforts, I now found dull, occasionally annoying, and for the majority of the runtime, awkward. The tedious slow motion felt even more superficial and pointless than ever before - notably a scene with Baby walking down a hallway which seemed to last far too long. The pacing doesn’t pair with the other films, and while I enjoyed bits and pieces of the performances, it’s the way that Zombie handled his direction of them that made be dislike the film so much.
Out of the three films, 3 From Hell is the least structured and compelling. Following Otis and his newly introduced “half” brother Foxy as they break out of prison, hold a family hostage, and try to gain advantage of the situation to recover Baby before hitting the road. While this opening may sound intriguing, it’s the style in which it was filmed that makes it not live up to expectations for a prison break scenario. The relationship that develops in the beginning between Dee Wallace’s guard and Baby is odd and seemingly sort of thrown in for effect before being eliminated rather hastily. Without a spoiler overload, let’s just say that the three hit the road and try to escape the law by diving down to the border. That’s the entirety of the story. There’s very little happening here beyond a dropped in revenge plot in the final act of the film for a scene that, to be honest, is one of the worst acted moments in the film, despite being by an actor I love. While the plot is straight forward, it seems to take forever to get to the end with little levity over the violence, making it less enjoyable to witness happen. It’s also the fact that Zombie’s flow is missing in comparison to the other films and his shootout near the end appears poorly put together when compared to the excellent fast cuts of the John Wick franchise (something that some may not like me comparing here). What makes matters worse is that when placed against the others in his filmography, the ending leaves a ton to be desired while leaving less intrigue for a future installment.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
As was mentioned in the opening, Captain Spaulding is no more and this is deeply saddening, especially the way 3 From Hell handles his departure from the series. Richard Blake takes his place, being a “half” brother of the siblings that we haven’t seen or heard of prior to this film. This is because as Rob Zombie said in a recent interview he “was fucked” when he saw the state of Sid Haig’s health and had to slightly rewrite the role that was supposed to be for Captain Spaulding for the newly introduced “Foxy.” I adore Blake’s performance in Zombie’s 31, and his performance here is good. It very much resembles Doom-Head, which is a bit distracting. What’s also distracting is imagining Spaulding saying the same lines and fitting so much better in Foxy’s place. Out of the entire cast, Bill Moseley shows the most charismatic energy - clearly having a ton of fun on screen while portraying Otis. On the other hand, Sherri Moon Zombie appears to be giving a forced performance to continue where she left off in 2005 and it is overwhelming, as well as annoying. While the chemistry between the leads is strong, it can’t manage to get too strong when the key word in their vocabulary is the obnoxious usage of the word “motherfucker” every other line (sometimes even more often). Side characters are thrown in, some are entirely wasted, others oddly protective of the 3, and one villain that is a circumstance of a wasted opportunity making the last act feel the most monotonous of all the Zombie directorial efforts thus far.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
If there's one thing that 3 From Hell absolutely nailed, it would be the sound. Pulling inspiration from the previous two films, the score and sound effects sound almost exactly like they did back in 2003-2005, creating a third film that truly sounds the part for a third entry of the trilogy.
The effects are decent, yet not as fine tuned as the previous film. The one scene in The Devil's Rejects where Otis is wearing the face of another person looks more brutal and realistic than anything within 3 From Hell, and that includes a scene with a slight resemblance to one in Rejects. While you may say that this film had a smaller budget, I don't know that for a fact. What I do know however, is that the previous two films were made for only a couple million dollars, which is something that barely shows in their final products. 3 From Hell wears its problems on its shoulders, making it incredibly difficult to look past the flaws of the effects to appreciate the characters or even the less than worthy plot.
To put it bluntly, 3 From Hell is a complete disappointment, and this is coming from a new Zombie fan. The Devil's Rejects is brilliant cinema and House of 1000 Corpses is a campy horror - this film… I'm not quite sure what it's trying to be. I enjoy Otis' psychotic attitude and tolerate Baby's, but what I really love about the series is Sid Haig's Captain Spaulding, and for his role to be reduced to a miniscule cameo before being written off for good… I just can't handle it. This was a film that should have pleased Zombie-heads out there, but honestly this film is a fine example of why a sequel should never be made 15 years after the originals release; you wind up with a stain on the series as a whole.