Halloween’s coming up, time to get spooky. Let’s kick off our rewind with a look back on Rob Zombie’s ‘Firefly’ trilogy.
House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
A group of friends realise they’ve bitten off more than they can chew when an alluring hitchhiker aides their travels. Rob Zombie’s directorial debut takes inspiration from the 70s grind-house aesthetic with the first instalment of the Firefly trilogy, House of 1000 Corpses.
Displeasing to the eye, the infrared and handheld sequences fail to blend with the narrative. Zombie’s direction could be interpreted as parodic opposed to dramatic and poses a distraction instead of anything artistic. Though camera work is the film’s biggest flaw, all can be forgiven by a grotesquely wicked plot that has rightly gathered a cult following.
Zombie presents some of the most horrific visuals the early 2000s had ever seen. Impressively, a lot of the effects are practical, further reiterating his admiration and homage to the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). B-movie makes a comeback and it’s as gross as ever, adding this morbidly realistic aspect to the violence.
As far as directorial debuts go, House of 1000 Corpses is technical chaos but it was only a foot in the door for Zombie. The characters are fantastic, which is reason enough to persevere with this trilogy.
The Devil’s Rejects (2006)
The nefariously vile Firefly clan return for more torture, slaughter and sadistic humour in The Devil’s Rejects. An interesting switch in perspective leaves you rooting for tyrannical trio, Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis (William Moseley) and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig).
Achieving a darker tone with concise angles and transitions, the direction is a lot clearer. The sequel has the personality which its predecessor lacks. Zombie forgoes extravagant plot twists and predictability, drawing the focus towards a psychopathic notion that could easily become reality. Embrace the marvel of gore because a stomach of steel is needed to tolerate the Firefly’s antics.
Leading the charge as the twisted patriarch is Haig joined by Moon and Moseley, all oozing of undeniable charisma. They comically bicker like any other family and it almost makes you forget they are the villains. Performances from all three actors are sublime, incomparable even, as they tap into the pinnacle of vulgarity.
Where Zombie struggled to set the pace with 1000 Corpses, he more than makes up for in The Devil’s Rejects. Closing the movie in a bittersweet conclusion complemented by Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird, the sequel offered the best way to end the Firefly chapter.
3 From Hell (2019)
Trio of terror, Baby, Spaulding and Otis, are resurrected for one last hurrah and they have a crazed addition to their crew. After being left to rot in prison, the Firefly family unleash mayhem upon their escape.
3 From Hell sees a significant change of pace that swerves into the crime genre. Does it work? Sure. Is it satisfactory? Not really. It’s extremely tame. Zombie puts a halt to onscreen violence for the most part, showing only the aftermath. The franchise loses its buzz. Between the characters and the story, very little is up for grabs and they instead give the impression of overstaying their welcome.
Haig’s presence is greatly missed. From the second his character exits the film, a gaping hole is left behind. Moon, however, continues to shine as she takes up the mantle of the beloved foul-mouthed rogue. Aesthetically, Zombie challenges the norm and gets creative, including the use of a kaleidoscopic effect that easily fits the mood.
Unnecessary? Yes, but the Firefly’s are always fun to watch. Nearly painstakingly slow, the plot drives forward, relying on character likability and curiosity to keep viewers engaged.