3 from Hell (Movie Review)

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: Ten years after surviving the shootout at the end of THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, Otis B. Driftwood and Baby Firefly escape from prison and go on the run with their half-brother Winslow Foxworth Coltrane. But there are people out there who aren't very happy that Otis and Baby are still alive.

REVIEW: Although I get some entertainment out of watching writer/director Rob Zombie's HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and think the sequel THE DEVIL'S REJECTS is awesome, I wasn't very enthusiastic when I heard that he was making a third film in the series. I felt that the ending of THE DEVIL'S REJECTS wrapped things up perfectly, and I was concerned that this was just an act of desperation. I know Zombie wants to branch out into doing other sorts of movies, like a Groucho Marx biopic and a sports drama about the "Broad Street Bullies" era of the hockey team the Philadelphia Flyers, but hasn't been able to get those projects off the ground. So he resurrects fan favorite characters for a project he knows he can get funding for, 3 FROM HELL. But regardless of the reason behind 3 FROM HELL's existence, this thankfully isn't just a slapdash "greatest hits" compilation, which is what Zombie's previous movie 31 felt like. There is indication that care and effort was put into this one to make sure there wouldn't be a steep drop in quality after the heights of THE DEVIL'S REJECTS.

The movie has to put some effort into explaining how Otis B. Drifwood (Bill Moseley), Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie), and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) can possibly be alive after appearing to be shot to death at the end of the previous film. Through faux documentary and news report footage we learn that they were each shot twenty times but overcame a million to one odds to survive and get locked up in prison. Ten years pass, moving the story from 1978 to 1988, but don't expect 3 FROM HELL to be part of the current '80s nostalgia trend, as there's really nothing in here to shine a light on the decade it's set in.

It may seem ridiculous that Otis, Baby, and Spaulding all survived, but I can go along with it, although it might have been more acceptable if at least one of them had died. Spaulding is given so little to do – he is not one of the titular 3 FROM HELL – that he could have easily been left in the grave. I was actually shocked at how Spaulding was handled here, but I assume Zombie took this approach because he just wanted a chance to shoot a little more footage of Haig as the character, which is an understandable motivation.

3 from Hell Rob Zombie Bill Moseley Sheri Moon Zombie Richard Brake

Of course, once the movie has established that the rejects are alive and in prison, it has to start working toward getting them out of prison, and the person who arranges bloody early releases for Otis and Baby is Winslow Foxworth Coltrane, a.k.a. "The Midnight Wolfman". Their half-brother we had never heard about before. This character is played by Zombie's 31 star Richard Brake (who also played a Michael Myers victim in Zombie's HALLOWEEN II), and he fits right into the franchise even if he is a bit of a deus ex machina. He's a homicidal maniac just like his siblings, but I didn't find him to be as interesting as they are, or as interesting as Captain Spaulding. There are times when Otis and Baby talk about how it's "just the two of us" now, even though Foxy is standing in the room with them saying he's up for anything, and that's kind of how I viewed the character as well. Otis and Baby are the focus, and Foxy is also there. He's just along for the ride, talking about his goal of getting into the porn industry and including the word "motherf*cker" in most of his sentences.

Otis gets out of jail fairly early in the movie, after we see him doing some hard labor alongside Danny Trejo as returning DEVIL'S REJECTS character Rondo. Trejo only makes a cameo, but his appearance plays into events that take place in the film's second half. It takes much longer for Baby to get out of prison, with almost half the movie going by before she gets sprung. It's during this time that we begin to see why Sheri Moon Zombie, who got third billing in the previous films, has ascended to top billing here. Once one of the more presentable members of her bloodthirsty family, Baby has gone off the deep end during her time in jail, now daydreaming about becoming Snow White and having visions of a cat-headed ballerina dancing in the snow – a vision reminiscent of the madness on display in Zombie's HALLOWEEN II. When even Otis has to comment that "she has gotten wacky", you know this is a different, crazier, more dangerous Baby than we're used to. Moon Zombie does a fine job of playing this new twist on her character and there are some fun moments during the women's prison movie section of 3 FROM HELL, especially when Baby is sharing scenes with Dee Wallace as a guard named Greta, but during my first viewing of this film that stretch of the movie started to feel interminable. I just wanted the story to get out of prison already and into the world. I'll probably be able to go with the flow more during future viewings.

Eventually Baby does get out of prison, and dives right into the sort of shenanigans you expect her and her brothers to get up to. While there was a shift in tone and style between HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, this time around Zombie chose to stick with what worked on THE DEVIL'S REJECTS… and if you examine things too closely, you might notice that 3 FROM HELL mirrors THE DEVIL'S REJECTS in a lot of ways. An extended sequence of people being tormented in the home of Warden Virgil Harper (Jeff Daniel Phillips) is much like the extended sequence of people being tormented at the Kahiki Palms motel in THE DEVIL'S REJECTS. Otis, Baby, and Foxy kill and banter while on a road trip just like Otis, Baby, and Spaulding did. In THE DEVIL'S REJECTS they seek shelter at Ken Foree's brothel and party with prostitutes, here they seek shelter in a small town in Mexico and party with prostitutes. And just like in THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, they have a vengeful relative of one of their victims coming after them. The presentation is different, but the film follows a familiar path.

There's a lot of THE DEVIL'S REJECTS in 3 FROM HELL, but the film also features some nice nods to memorable moments from HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. One of the best comes when Baby befriends a fellow named Sebastian, who feels like he's a horrible monster just because he's a little person and wears an eyepatch. Baby says Sebastian has "the same vibe" as Tiny, her brother who was also in a couple scenes of THE DEVIL'S REJECTS but had most of his screen time in HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. Sebastian is played by Pancho Moler, an actor who was my favorite thing about 31 and in this film makes Sebastian the only character I really cared about. He's one of the better people in the film, and he takes a strong liking to Baby. I was concerned about his well-being when things fall apart.

I wasn't concerned for Otis and Baby. Not that I ever was – I was rooting against them for the entirety of THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, I wasn't one of the viewers that was won over by them. But at this point they might as well be considered immortal. I couldn't see Zombie going through the trouble of resurrecting them and spending a large chunk of movie working on getting them out of prison just to kill them off by the end. So when 3 FROM HELL shifts into a climactic action sequence that goes on for roughly 20 minutes and features a gang of heavily armed men wearing luchador masks going after Otis, Baby, and Foxy, I was pretty sure that Otis and Baby were going to be okay. And I didn't care whether Foxy would die or not.

Yes, it's true, 3 FROM HELL does gift us with the sight of a gang of bloodthirsty luchadors, and I can't be too negative about a movie that does that. I had some serious doubts about this project from the beginning, I was hoping that Zombie wouldn't ruin the ending of what I think is his best movie by making a disappointing follow-up. While I do still wish the ending of THE DEVIL'S REJECTS had been the end for these characters, I did find 3 FROM HELL to be a decent sequel. I enjoyed watching it and will be watching it again.

Now hopefully someone will give Zombie the funding he needs to branch out and do something different with his next movies.

3 FROM HELL is getting a three-night theatrical release through Fathom Events on September 16, 17, and 18.

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.