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The legions of horror fans who accused Rob Zombie of unoriginality in House of 1,000 Corpses will have to give him some props for his follow-up, The Devil’s Rejects. After all, when was the last time you saw a Southern-fried sheriff, frantic to catch a family of deranged killers, yell out to one of his officers, “You get that movie critic over here as soon as you can”? Sadly, the cinéaste-cum-crime-fighter, brought in to give insight into one felon’s Groucho Marx– borrowed name, is one of too few daffy touches in this sequel, which, unlike the fun-house-flavored Corpses, takes its ’70s-slasher veneration much more seriously. Then again, writing, pacing, and acting are all taken much more seriously, too—meaning that it’s probably time to start regarding Mr. Zombie as a bona fide filmmaker. The Devil’s Rejects begins with a police raid on the murder-happy Firefly household, where, you might remember, Corpses’ poor-unfortunate protagonists were tortured with backwoods accents, satanic poetry, and all manner of sharp objects. Mother (Leslie Easterbrook, taking over for Karen Black) is arrested, but Baby (Zombie spouse Sheri Moon) and Otis (Bill Moseley) make a run for it. The remainder of the movie, then, just follows the pair as they alert their daddy, Capt. Spaulding (Sid Haig), about the trouble and try to have some fun while they lie low in the dusty middle of nowhere. Naturally, they torture and kill a few folks in the process. Zombie’s dialogue is once again corn-fed and occasionally funny (such as Mother’s sentimental “I keep thinking about the old times. Like when you was a fucking baby”). But the overall lack of jokiness means that, this time around, the endless bloodletting goes beyond enjoyable fright-film excess. Zombie makes you watch anyway, of course, which is not only the point but also the director’s best tribute to the Vietnam-era auteurs who inspired him. From the opening credits that freeze on Zombie’s weirdly magnetic actors to a bravura (yes, I said it) Bonnie and Clyde– esque ending, The Devil’s Rejects is grittier and more confidently stylized than its predecessor, and at times it’s downright hypnotic. Better yet, it generates chills without a zombie, spooky kid, or ghost child in sight. Now that’s original. —Tricia Olszewski