Ten years after The Devil’s Rejects, Baby and Otis escape jail with help from Otis’ half brother Foxy, played by Richard Brake. The trio flee to Mexico, where they’re targeted for revenge by a masked gangster.
Remember that band you loved that broke up fifteen years ago? Imagine they reunited for a greatest hits tour. They needed a replacement lead singer, but the star guitarist can still shred. You see the show and enjoy the old songs, but can’t help feeling disappointed. That’s this movie.
I’m not sure if it was losing Sid Haig—whose role amounts to a cameo—or the CGI blood, or just time itself that’s worn on writer/director Rob Zombie, but the result feels tired.
That needn’t be a bad thing. Early nods to The Getaway and The Wild Bunch gave me hope Zombie was delivering a Peckinpah-style elegy both for his characters and grindhouse cinema itself. But rather than an original coda, Zombie retreads The Devil’s Rejects and closes with an open ending.
Bright spots exist. Bill Moseley shines as Otis, now a Manson-like figure who packs equal parts charm and menace. Zombie gives him the best lines, like a terrific sequence where Moseley and Brake discuss Humphrey Bogart and The Desperate Hours. And Sheri Moon Zombie has never been better as Baby, a character who has grown from Harley Quinnesque sidekick into full Joker menace.
I loved how House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects offered new grindhouse cinema. Like a band reviving a favorite genre with new music. But 3 From Hell isn’t new. It’s the greatest hits tour. Sure it entertains, but watching it reminds you of the older, better films. Nostalgia is bittersweet.