Spanning 16 years, Rob Zombie’s Firefly family trilogy remains an iconic piece of modern grindhouse cinema. Each entry came at very different points in Zombie’s career, and each one means something different to audiences. Admittedly, this is completely subjective, but we still thought it would be fun to take a look at each film and pit them against each other to see which is the superior disturbing gore fest!
Round I – Story
Film is the art of visually storytelling, so this is an incredibly important category. House of 1000 Corpses follows a group of friends being terrorized by the Fireflys, Devil’s Rejects sees them on the run from an overzealous and brutal Sheriff, and 3 From Hell sees them escaping prison and hiding out in Mexico.
While it is fun to see them more as the villains in House, storywise it’s not all that different from many other 70’s horror films, in fact Zombie himself admitted that it was very inspired by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Devil’s Rejects then gives us by far the strongest opening and ending scenes.
It’s fascinating to watch them on the run, and have it all culminate together in a blaze of glory (that we all thought was the end of them). However, in what will probably be a very controversial choice, we have to give this point to 3 From Hell.
In just under two hours, it shows us the aftermath of the aforementioned blaze of glory (including the immense media attention), as well as how both Otis and Baby make their escapes, and eventually hiding out in Mexico where their bloody past finally catches up with them. It may not have the best pacing (which we’ll get to later), but if we’re just looking at story and plot points, 3 From Hell has the most interesting.
Round I Winner – 3 From Hell
Round II – Style
It wouldn’t be very farfetched to say that each of these three films are from three different genres. House is more of a traditional horror film, Devil’s Rejects is a crime thriller, and 3 From Hell is also a crime thriller, but also sort of a prison escape movie.
The latter two are more gritty and closer to realism (as close as you can get in these movies), which is why Dr. Satan was cut from Devil’s Rejects. And while this may be one horror fan’s biased opinion, it seems that given Rob Zombie’s music video background, he thrives when he’s able to go fully surreal.
And while none of these are truly as surreal as he would get in Halloween II or Lords of Salem, House of 1000 Corpses allowed him to play with 70’s horror tropes/styles, and his love for it really shows.
It’s similar to the Alien vs. Aliens debate (if you prefer the former you’re more of a horror fan, if you prefer the latter, you’re more of an action fan). So for those reasons, we have to give this point to House of 1000 Corpses, simply because we all love horror!
Round II Winner – House of 1000 Corpses
Round III – Kills
They say a slasher film is only as good as its kills, and while these technically aren’t slashers, the rule similarly applies here. Initially, we can eliminate 3 From Hell, because while it does contain many kills, most of them are simply done via gunshot or machete, and the other two are far more creative in the kills department.
House of 1000 Corpses gets downright brutal with the face-wearing, torture, and grotesque artistic displays of corpses. It’s also implied that Dr. Satan performs gruesome surgeries on his victims. And while this all makes for amazing kills, so much of it occurs offscreen. Devil’s Rejects, on the other hand, gives us a compelling but brutal scene where Sheriff Wydell becomes just as sadistic as the Fireflys.
Couple this with the hilariously random woman from the motel getting run over, and the blaze of glory (which technically didn’t kill them, but when the movie was made, they were meant to be dead), Devil’s Rejects takes this easily.
Round III Winner – Devil’s Rejects
Round IV – Structure
A good story is important to a successful film, but so is pacing how that film is put together. 3 From Hell previously won on story in that it had the most interesting plot points, but it will sadly lose this round. It starts off really strong with the prison escape dynamic, and has a good momentum going.
But once Baby escapes halfway through, the film seems to come to a complete halt and shift. And until the final battle with the Mexican gang, it never really gets that momentum back again. Devil’s Rejects certainly has better pacing, even with the slower moments in the middle, because we can all tell that it’s building towards something. But again, we have to give this final point to House of 1000 Corpses.
It starts off completely benign, as our characters enter into a world that seems fun, all while the dread slowly sets in. It’s no accident that the Firefly family is cordial and welcoming at first, only to slowly reveal just how sadistic they are. It’s a perfectly paced horror film, done in the style of 70’s grindhouse, and we’ll always love it!
Round IV and Overall Winner – House of 1000 Corpses
Which of these is your favorite? Which other Rob Zombie movies do you love or hate? Let us know in the comments below. And for more reviews, rankings, fun facts, and other frightening horror content, follow Halloween Year-Round on Facebook and Twitter!