Here's the one thing that I know about the feature film career of Rob Zombie. I am one of the many voices making up part of the problem. I LOVE his first film, he still hasn't topped it for me. It's a carnival sideshow experience in which you are taken by a variety of eye-catching grotesqueries by someone you don't entirely trust. Unfortunately, every movie he has given us after that one has been more of the same, with the exception of two movies that many fans didn't care for. I love The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto. I didn't love The Lords Of Salem. Sadly, the more that Zombie retreats back into his comfort zone, the more I appreciate him trying to channel Ken Russell in The Lords Of Salem, and the less likely it is that we will ever see him try that again.
Which brings us to 3 From Hell, a film that continues the saga of "the Firefly family", the notorious and nasty criminals we last saw being abruptly halted by a hail of bullets as they headed towards a police roadblock. The basic plot is similar to The Devil's Rejects, it's three bad people doing bad things until a final encounter leads them towards either another victory or potential death.
Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, and Sid Haig in place? Check (although the role for Haig was greatly reduced, he has only one main scene, when news of his illness came along just before his death this year). A decent soundtrack? Check (note - it's still a bold move for ANY film to use In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida even all these years after Manhunter). Maniacs who like to deliver verbose dialogue before they commit their atrocities? Check. A '70s aesthetic throughout, no matter what time the film is supposed to be set in? Check. The baddies being a lot smarter/luckier than anyone with their M.O. would be? Check.
On paper, this should be another easy win for Zombie. It's not though. Although it fails in different ways to 31 (which remains arguably his worst film), it still fails. Some fans may disagree with that, and I'm happy that Zombie is at least keeping his core fanbase happy. He seems to have a good relationship with them, and often delivers just what they want. It's just a shame that he doesn't take a chance nowadays on exploring other genre styles that will allow him to grow more, and potentially surprise audiences.
Most, but not all, of the problems here like with Zombie himself. The script is more of the nonsense that he likes to hear being delivered by his favourite actors, always a mix of gleeful nihilism and purported wisdom from those who are savvy enough not to be constrained by the laws imposed upon society by men who just weren't brave enough to give in to their base desires at all times. It also all starts off on the wrong foot, a double whammy of viewers being told a time period that never feels right and an air of sympathy for the main characters that you just can't see ever happening. EVER. Nobody onscreen is worth supporting.
The second main problem, aside from anything done directly by Zombie, comes from the main performances. Few people onscreen are actually bad, but they're rarely actually good either. Moseley is pretty much in self-parody territory now, pushed into that area by Zombie, and every moment he's onscreen feels a bit silly. Richard Brake, stepping in to the void left by Haig, has the potential to make a better impression in the role of Winslow AKA "Foxy", but he ends up looking and sounding far too much like Moseley. That leaves us with Mrs Zombie, who is the worst of the three, and suffers the most from the script. There's just no way anyone would consider her for a parole hearing, for example, given her history of constant unpredictable madness, and she's getting a bit too old to play the role in the same giggling and coquettish way she did back in House Of 1000 Corpses. You get supporting roles for people such as Daniel Roebuch, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Dee Wallace, Bill Oberst Jr, Danny Trejo, Pancho Moler, Emilio Rivera, and many others, although some are little more than the most fleeting of cameos it is some light relief to spot some of the familiar faces dotted around.
With House Of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, Zombie delivered one hell of a double-bill. That hasn't changed. It's just that some people will have an inferior third instalment they can choose to watch at the end. Or, and bear with me, we can all forget it exists and just stay a lot happier. This film says nothing worthwhile, does nothing new, and deserves, well, I am sure you can guess.
Here's the movie available from Rob Zombie's site (because he needs the clicks more than I do . . . the blogger typed sarcastically).