Say this for rocker-turned-filmmaker Rob Zombie: He has obviously made the film he wanted to make, and if The Devil's Rejects is too stomach-churning for most audiences, it is still an effective, and sometimes ghoulishly funny, homage to grindhouse flicks like Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. This is gut-bucket filmmaking at its most lurid-and most fascinating.

Rejects takes up where Zombie's previous splatterfest, House of 1,000 Corpses, left off, with the homicidal brother-sister duo of Otis Driftwood (Bill Moseley, very scary) and Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie, the director's wife, playing a cheerleader type gone psycho) under siege by police at an isolated farm house. They're wanted for a series of grisly satanic murders, but manage to escape from the onslaught and reunite with scary clown Captain Spaulding (vet B-movie actor Sid Haig, pulling out all the stops), who happens to be their dad.

The rest of the film is basically a "maniacs on the run from the law" picture, with the family pursued by take-no-prisoners Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe, entertainingly chewing scenery), whose brother happened to be one of the family's victims. A key sequence here is the family's confrontation with an innocent family at an isolated motel. The women are forced to strip and undergo various humiliations, while the men are killed in spectacularly ugly fashion.

This scene alone could drive patrons from the theatre, but there's also a penultimate sequence involving Wydell, now totally bonkers and imagining he's an avenging angel, torturing the family before attempting to kill them. He doesn't, which allows Zombie to close the film with a brilliantly effective capper involving slow motion, fast editing, lots of gunfire and a truly wonderful use of the Lynyrd Skynyrd oldie "Freebird."

The Devil's Rejects is the kind of feature that would have been condemned for its immorality 30 years ago, and would have wound up playing the bottom half of a Times Square double bill. But it's an effective piece of low-budget horror, showing Zombie's growth as a director. Everything about the film, from its washed-out color scheme, hand-held camera work and grungy mise-en-scène, has been well-thought-out, which only adds to its tacky pleasures. Unlike splatter flicks of the past, shot on limited budgets with barely competent casts, Zombie had the money, and the talent, to do what he pleased, and this is what he chose to film. It's hard to argue with the results, which are totally effective in their sleaziness. But now that he's proven he has some real directorial chops, it's time to ask Rob Zombie: So what else can you do?
-Lewis Beale