3 From Hell (2019) – movie review

3 From Hell. Image credit: Courtesy of filmstarts.de

I feel like this review is probably the most useless I’ve ever written on this website – and isn’t this a great way to start? Jokes aside, the latest film from Rob Zombie, 3 From Hell, has had a limited theatrical release in the USA, in September, and has been distributed on digital, DVD and Blu-Ray more than two weeks ago.

So, everyone who was excited for this movie has probably seen it already. Besides that, 3 From Hell has polarised audiences already: those who love Rob Zombie loved this movie as well; those who think he’s an overrated hack didn’t like his latest film either. What’s the point of me writing this review, then? Because this article is, actually, an attempt to get something out of my system rather than the usual review.

In fact, while I liked and appreciated certain aspects of 3 From Hell, I was also frustrated and pissed off by the end of the movie.

Continue reading and check my final grade below… 


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My review is also available on IMDb – 3 From Hell (2019)

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This movie is conceived as a sort of soft-reboot of The Devil’s Rejects, although it’s marketed as a sequel: Sid Haig (may he rest in peace) is kind of replaced by Richard Brake, whereas Otis is still played by an amazing Bill Moseley and Baby is still portrayed by a more-annoying-than-ever Sheri Moon Zombie. There’s no real story here, as we just follow the titular three from hell escaping prison and going on a murderous and violent road trip.

As I said before, 3 From Hell features some great aspects that Rob Zombie nailed perfectly: out of his catalogue, this is the movie that better resembles a 70s exploitation flick – yes, even better than The Devil’s Rejects, in this department. Visual style and sound-design perfectly capture the way those 70s low-budget shockers looked and sounded; the set-design is fantastic, as per usual with Rob Zombie, but here it’s even more impressive and details than most of his previous work; the score is absolutely fitting and just sounds great, to the point I would sincerely love to own it and listen to it every now and again.

Despite the lack of characterisation, Otis Driftwood and Winslow Coltrane (the character played by Brake) are incredibly charismatic: their personality emerges in every scene and, just like in Devil’s Rejects, the audience is uncomfortably drawn to them. They’re horrible people, but you can’t deny how morbidly fascinating they both are. And, honestly, the few scenes with Captain Spaulding were incredibly fascinating: Sid Haig was a fantastic character actor and his iconic character is always entertaining to watch.

Yet, the violence, which is what most people like in Rob Zombie movies is very raw and satisfying at times. The numerous scenes involving guns and shootings are very well-done, since they benefit from Zombie not holding back and from the great practical effects that make each of these sequences feel somewhat realistic.

Every other aspect of 3 From Hell, though, made me truly angry. First and foremost, the lack of a narrative structure: in a way, this can’t even be classified as a movie, since it comes off as a series of episodes where the three fugitives meet random people and brutalise them. Is that satisfying? Sure! But does it make a movie or is it just like watching gory clips on the internet? You know the answer.

This issue comes from the script, which honestly is on the level of a film student who wants to be edgy and cool. Rob Zombie is a great director, but he’s terrible at writing movies. In fact, the films I liked the most from him (The Devil’s Rejects and the Halloween remake) are the only ones where the script is somewhat solid: The Devil’s Rejects had a strong screenplay, with only a couple of plot conveniences, whereas Halloween clearly benefitted from the fact that there was a (great) script already, and Zombie just had to make a few changes.

In 3 From Hell, characters get saved from a doomed scenario just because someone appears and saves them for no reason; random victims trust Otis, Baby and Winslow even though they clearly are untrustworthy people; the titular three from hell escape from certain situations just because a deus ex machina comes into play…

Another awful trademark of Zombie that is, unfortunately, present in 3 From Hell is the overuse of shaky-cam whenever there’s action or violence: Rob, I want to see what’s going on! I want to experience how brutal and unflinching your film is! Why do you shake the camera to the point of giving me a headache? It’s a cheap trick to imply violence without showing it, so that you don’t have to hire talented FX guys to do the work!

Aside from these huge issues, 3 From Hell has other problems connected to laziness (the news footage at the beginning to recap the story), unlikeable characters (Baby Firefly is the most annoying protagonist in modern cinema, in my opinion), bad acting (again, Sheri Moon is not very talented), continuity (why do actors from The Devil’s Rejects play different characters in 3 From Hell?), lack of inspiration (the ending is just a throw-away scene) and pacing (an action-packed sequence is followed by one filled only with characters screaming at each other).

Personally, though, all these severe and less severe flaws don’t make or break the movie: the reason why 3 From Hell frustrated me is that Rob Zombie didn’t improve a bit in the past 14 years, he never listened to any of the criticism that would’ve made his films better and would’ve widened his fanbase. Weak script, annoying characters and obnoxious shaky-camera: he’s been relying on these for his entire career and, despite how easily fixable these problems are, he never attempted to better himself. Your scripts suck? Hire a good screenwriter or even a team of screenwriters who can brainstorm and make the plot of your movie better! Some of your characters are unlikeable? Either get better actors to play them or ask someone to write more relatable and compelling characters! What about the shaky-cam? Just spend time on practical effects and leave the camera on the tripod: the audience would be able to enjoy and witness how violent and graphic your movies are!

As I stated at the start of this article, this review is not meant to invalidate your opinion. I know plenty of people don’t care about what I consider to be issues in Rob Zombie movies, which is fine: I’m glad you enjoy his films. I just wish I could enjoy them more: he’s always had potential as a filmmaker but refused to try harder and improve upon his shortcomings behind the camera, which is why for me he’ll always remain one of the greatest “what if” in modern horror.

3 From Hell                                        5/10

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