I don’t know what you can chalk it up to. Maybe it was the unfortunate illness of the late great Sid Haig that caused Rob Zombie to re-write a lot of “3 From Hell.” Or maybe he just didn’t know where to take his characters next. For a movie that takes great pains to explaining in detail how and why the Firefly Clan survived, it’s disappointing when “3 From Hell” does absolutely nothing new with them. Rob Zombie has a lot of windows to basically re-invent his characters and present some kind of social commentary, but in the end it’s just Zombie treading water with middling results.
A direct sequel to “The Devil’s Rejects,” the Firefly trio has miraculously survived being gunned down on the highway after staring down police in one final hurrah. After a year of recovery, though, they’re taken in to custody and put on trial. After Spaulding is put to death, Otis manages an escape with his half brother Foxy Coltrane, and they mastermind a plan to break Baby out of solitary confinement. Now on the run from the law and leaving a trail of bodies in their wake, the trio head for Mexico.
“3 From Hell” feels very much made up on the fly for Rob Zombie, where he seems to have this idea for where he’s taking his characters. But once Otis is given his device of breaking free from his chain gang, the movie just runs in place. Mostly, it just recycles so many of the plot beats from “The Devil’s Rejects” just with a new coating of paint. The pair flees, hide out in a motel (where Baby seduces yet another hapless man), they meet up with a relative mid-way (this time Foxy), torture a family (for a very long time), hide out in a ghetto for a while, and have to face an anti-hero who is seeking their own brand of justice, ad boredom.
There is a moment in the prologue where Zombie takes us in to the media firestorm that comes after busting the Firefly Clan, with Zombie obviously channeling “Natural Born Killers.” There are interviews with some people calling them rebels, some calling them innocent, and one man lusting after Baby. There’s even scream the slogan “Free the Three.” Sadly, Zombies does absolutely zero with this set up, instead focusing on the Baby’s inherent madness in solitary, and Otis pretty much being Otis as he runs around with Foxy. It makes zero sense that the authorities manage to finish the Firefly trio, and then make great efforts to bring them back to good health, only to… kill them–again. What’s the point? And who was the writer character? How did he play a role in the grand scheme of the narrative?
That said, Richard Braker is a great on screen presence, even if his character has little appeal, and often feels like an obvious stand in for Captain Spaulding. All things considered, Bill Moseley is as great as ever, and Sheri Moon Zombie is shockingly entertaining in the skin of Baby for once. Zombie just doesn’t really seem to know how to look at his characters in a new light. It’s obvious he roots for them the whole time as they always have the upper hand, and almost always get out of tough situations, but there’s no actual substance derived from this when the smoke clears. “3 From Hell” just sputters out in the finale, watching like a middling, forced, overlong sequel, rather than the epic final stand of the Firefly clan.