In the eyes of most, writer/director Rob Zombie's masterpiece is still The Devil's Rejects, which drew inspiration from four classic movies. One movie it would seem The Devil's Rejects took few cues from, surprisingly, is its purported prequel House of 1000 Corpses. While villains Otis, Baby, and Captain Spaulding are ported over from House of 1000 Corpses to Devil's Rejects, becoming antiheroes along the way, the two films are an entirely different type of horror, and bear little resemblance to one another.
Whereas House of 1000 Corpses plays like a demented music video, full of quick cuts and striking use of color and contrast, The Devil's Rejects brings things down to Earth, removing the supernatural undertones present in House, and making the story of the Fireflies much more gritty and realistic. It's also a much more unpleasant film overall, as despite the sometimes shocking content also present in House of 1000 Corpses, that movie's twisted party atmosphere dulled its edge a tad. The Devil's Rejects wants to make its viewers squirm.
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The Devil's Rejects is a movie quite obviously attempting to emulate the sensibilities of late 1960s-early 1970s cinema, and for the most part, it does so wonderfully. Here are the four films from that period that Zombie has specifically cited as creative touchstones for his best work to date.
Released in 1967, Bonnie & Clyde is the classic crime film that tells the story of the real-life titular duo, as well as the later addition to the team of Clyde's brother Buck. Faye Dunaway plays Bonnie, while Warren Beatty plays Clyde, and Gene Hackman plays Buck. The trio goes on a cross-country crime spree, first only committing heists, then progressing to taking lives. They're all eventually shot to death by the police.
It's not hard to see what elements of Bonnie & Clyde were clear inspirations for The Devil's Rejects. While not the only members of the gang, Bonnie & Clyde centrally focuses on Bonnie, Clyde, and Buck, an outlaw trio consisting of two men and a woman. Clyde and Buck are literally brothers, while Otis, Baby, and Spaulding are part of the somewhat blood, somewhat not Firefly Family. Both trios are on the move for much of the runtime, and both are pursued by dogged law enforcers. And of course, both trios end up gunned down by the authorities, going out in the only real way they could have after such a journey. However, Bonnie, Clyde, and Buck definitely weren't quite at the same level of villainy as the Fireflies, to be sure.
Released in 1969, and directed by the legendary Sam Peckinpah, The Wild Bunch is a western, but definitely not in the classic John Wayne mold. The Wild Bunch focuses on a gang of aging outlaws that's finding themselves increasingly out of step with the ever more modern world of 1913. While it's nothing unusual for 1960s films to be judged as offensive by modern societal norms, The Wild Bunch already drew controversy at the time of release, featuring graphic violence and behavior from its titular bunch that raised eyebrows even then.
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Nevertheless, The Wild Bunch earned two Oscar nominations, and is now regarded as an iconic example of revisionist westerns. It's not hard to see how this film influenced The Devil's Rejects either, as Rob Zombie's magnum opus is sun-soaked, and evokes gritty westerns like The Wild Bunch both visually and in its overall style and tone. It's, again, about antiheroes doing antihero things, and the characters are again doggedly pursued by the law. The level of violence was also obviously seen and raised by Zombie.
Released in 1973, and directed by another legend in Terrence Malick, Badlands is another story about murderous outlaws, and like Bonnie & Clyde, is also based on true events, although more loosely. Martin Sheen stars as Kit Carruthers, a stand-in for real-life killer Charles Starkweather, alongside Sissy Spacek as Holly Sargis, a stand-in for Starkweather's girlfriend and accomplice Caril Ann Fugate. They are, of course, pursued by police, with Kit caught, tried, and executed, and Holly, a minor, getting off with a light sentence of probation.
Badlands is another story about people committing a cross-country murder spree, making the parallels with The Devil's Rejects again readily noticeable in that respect. It also has a unique style to it, and a distinctly counter-culture, no rules vibe. Kit is also not at all hesitant to kill people at a moment's notice, and is clearly unstable, readily murdering Holly's father when he refuses to let her leave with him. That's definitely in line with Otis, although not quite as sadistic, while the fact that Holly still goes with Kit after means she might be as crazy as Baby.
An absolute classic of the genre, Tobe Hooper's 1974 masterpiece The Texas Chainsaw Massacre should need no introduction for any horror fan. It introduced the iconic slasher Leatherface to the world, and was so scary that people at the time of release had issues getting through it, even though it has almost no explicit gore, despite claims to the contrary. There's not much left to say about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that hasn't already been said tenfold, but regardless, it's required viewing for any student of horror or independent cinema.
While The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is also a clear inspiration for aspects of House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects is definitely much closer to it in tone and sheer terror factor. Texas Chainsaw is another sun-soaked film, and is also very gritty and grimy, which Devil's Rejects most definitely took after. Rob Zombie's sequel is also quite unrelenting when it comes to disturbing the audience, although it never hesitates to get explicit with the violence, one area where it definitely tops Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's doubtful even Zombie would claim The Devil's Rejects is a better movie overall than Hooper's classic, but in many ways it's a more worthy successor than any of Texas Chainsaw Massacre's mixed bag of sequels, prequels, and remakes.
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Michael Kennedy is an avid movie and TV fan that's been working for Screen Rant in various capacities since 2014. In that time, Michael has written over 2000 articles for the site, first working solely as a news writer, then later as a senior writer and associate news editor. Most recently, Michael helped launch Screen Rant's new horror section, and is now the lead staff writer when it comes to all things frightening. A FL native, Michael is passionate about pop culture, and earned an AS degree in film production in 2012. He also loves both Marvel and DC movies, and wishes every superhero fan could just get along. When not writing, Michael enjoys going to concerts, taking in live professional wrestling, and debating pop culture. A long-term member of the Screen Rant family, Michael looks forward to continuing on creating new content for the site for many more years to come.
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