What is it that makes us cheer for the bad guy sometimes? Is because the villain is often the most interesting character, such as Hannibal Lecter in anything they place him in? If so, can one construct this likeability? Rob Zombie is certainly making great efforts to make his “devil’s rejects” a super team of depraved serial killers who are also marketable enough to become action figures in the real world. If this is all true so far, then to what lengths of depravity should we allow our villains to go?
When I ponder this, I do not wonder too much about the iconic Universal Pictures monsters, nor the more recent parade of never-dying slashers such as Freddy, Jason and Mr. Myers for there are still heroes and victims that are pitted against them that we have hope for. The darker side of us may have wanted to see how inventive Jason would be in each Friday the 13th film, every single year of the 80s, with his methods for disposing of teenagers…but we still wanted to see Jason fall too.
When and if Rob Zombie’s villains are toppled, it is in a blaze of heroic glory, such as the lengthy climax of Devil’s Rejects. It is as if he took Henry of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and added a smear of cartoon all over it. A road movie where goodness and morals have no place. There is no crack in the darkness to let the light in. Perhaps what truly unnerves me is the trust amongst the villains that occurs in Rob Zombie’s earliest films. How people can bond and develop love and friendships based on the amount off blood they shed. This relates Zombie’s films to that of the Hostel films, as well as to the film Hostel owes most EVERYTHING to, Salo (or 120 Days of Sodom). Those latter two films go so far as to have professionally organised groups (some wearing matching tattoos) to support regular events (or even festivals) of evil. There is bonding to the point of love-making between these sorts of people (most notable in Salo). It is as if the four killers of Last House on the Left were never caught or killed for their actions and went on to make a road movie then join a social club.
Some villains in Hostel get their comeuppance, but the organization behind the wickedness ultimately wins. All of these films just mentioned have the commonality of villains who admit and admire their own sinister desires, often revelling in it and whom overwhelm their victims for their evil is too big and/or powerful to lose. So often in thrillers we see villainous groups fall apart out of greed, malice or plain insanity as one or more members wish to be the succeeded in the end, but Salo displayed a new beast in a disturbing light. Multiple egos all finding a consensus turned encouragement for each other.
Perhaps what I am aiming at with all of this is a question: do you find it scarier to think of these evil thoughts dwelling in all of us, making us into a monster? Or that someone might be willing to dedicate all their powers to nurturing that darkness to ensure it is safely maintained and exercised? I might be asking myself this in between sessions of the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror specials where I know I will certainly be hooting and hollering as I watch Jason remove limbs, aliens burst out of chests, and perhaps some zombie heads explode. So perhaps I’m simply suggesting you decide how close to Hades you wish to travel this Halloween. Do you wish to run from the undead? Or do you wish to challenge every moral fiber in your body?