Just finished watching it. I've been very psyched for this film, and in many ways it delivers -- but in other ways, it doesn't. It's VERY well-directed; I'm talking almost Kubrickian. Yes, I'm saying Zombie's direction in many scenes is right up there with one of the all-time greatest filmmakers to have ever worked in the biz. You might find that far-fetched or hard to swallow, but watch it and then try to tell me I'm lying. Zombie doesn't rush anything and takes his time getting where he's going, allowing the story to unfold with heaps of slow, suspenseful tracking shots. And there are a number of scenes of such striking visual elegance that I actually caught myself saying aloud several times "Damn, that's a beautiful shot." I can't recall off-hand many, if any, hand-held shots. I think the entire film was shot on steadicam, and this adds a certain counterbalance to what is for the most part a preposterous storyline.
But that's not to say the storyline isn't effective. There's not a lot of story, I can say that much, but what story there is is played admirably straight-faced. There's a lot of dialogue which could have come off as overly campy but the actors play it all without so much as a grin; if you'd have caught them with tongue in cheek even once, it would have thrown the whole film off.
The actresses who play the three witch sisters -- Judy Geeson (better known as the snobby Brit neighbor from the show Mad About You), Patricia Quinn (Magenta from Rocky Horror Picture Show) and Dee Wallace (no elaboration needed) -- are all fantastic. It's especially good to see Quinn on-screen again. Bruce Davison turns in another typically solid supporting performance and the rest of the supporting players, including Ken Foree, Maria Conchita Alonso and Jeff Daniel Phillips (better known as the Geico cave man) are all believable, even if some aren't given as much screen time as others. Meg Foster is also good, though to be honest she was completely unrecognizable. I didn't even realize that was her in the role she played until the end credits. Also commendable is that fact that for once in a Rob Zombie film, not every other word out of every character's mouth is "fuck." I only counted a few F-bombs, from a filmmaker whose use of the word often rivals Tarantino's use of the N-word.
But as I said, there are some disappointments. One of the main things I was looking forward to with this flick was the big screen return of Barbara Crampton, but I learned a few months ago her scenes had all been cut. But that's actually not the case; she is in the film, but only for a few seconds, and with no lines. Talk about a tease -- and a frustrating one, at that. Others listed in the credits but who I don't remember seeing (their roles must have been either completely cut out or so small that I blinked and missed them) are Michael Berryman, Andrew Prine and Sid Haig.
I'm not sure this next bit would be considered a spoiler, but just in case...
SPOILER WARNING (left click and drag below):
Sheri Moon does her best to bring life to the lead role, but the simple fact is that her character isn't all that interesting. She's passive, a victim; I felt for her because of the things that happen to her, but I never found myself rooting for her because she made no effort whatsoever to combat the things happening to her.
There were also some holes in the story, but I'll refrain from discussing them until others have seen it. Suffice to say that there are certain incidents which aren't clearly explained and/or weren't followed up on, and I was left with a number of questions.
All that said, I stil enjoyed it. It's a slow ride, to be sure, but also an intriguing one, and is chock full of macabre imagery and often luscious cinematography. Despite the disappointments I mentioned I do think this is Zombie's best overall film after The Devil Rejects -- which is interesting to me considering the two films couldn't possibly be more different from one another. And while normally it takes more than some pretty shots to make up for a lacking story, the movie is so visually compelling that I've chosen to forgive it its story shortcomings. I give it an 8/10.