Fans hoping for an explanation as to how the Fireflies survived the shootout at the end of The Devil's Rejects will get no answers in 3 From Hell. A trio of killers that hails from an entire family of psychopaths, Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) burst onto the scene in director Rob Zombie's debut film, 2003's House of 1000 Corpses. They then returned for more carnage in 2005 sequel The Devil's Rejects, which saw the colorful, music video-esque aesthetic of Corpses transform into that of a gritty, sleazy 1970s-set exploitation flick.
The Devil's Rejects saw the titular trio do battle with a sheriff that exhibited many of their same tendencies for violence and sadism, to the point where viewers eventually found it pretty easy to root for the devils they knew, who at least didn't torture people while pretending to be on the side of the law. Of course, The Devil's Rejects famously ends with Otis, Baby, and Spaulding getting shot full of holes by police as the classic sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird" play. It's held up by many horror devotees as a near-perfect conclusion for the characters, and for many years, most assumed it would stay that way.
Yet, with Zombie's belated threequel 3 From Hell now released, The Devil's Rejects' stylish denouement is forever tarnished. Fans obviously knew this would be the case the moment a third film was announced, but most at least hoped Zombie would attempt to provide some type of explanation. However, 3 From Hell completely glosses over the whole situation, casually informing viewers at the beginning of the film that despite sustaining what definitely should've been deadly injuries, the Fireflies somehow survived, ended up standing trial for their crimes, and going to prison. To say the resolution to this particular cliffhanger is disappointing would be putting it mildly.
Of course, since 3 From Hell is set after The Devil's Rejects, it was obvious that Otis, Baby, and Captain Spaulding would need to be alive for the story to work. That said, the route Zombie chose to go when it came to explaining (or in this case not explaining) their survival is pretty lazy. It's glaringly apparent that - as Zombie has admitted in interviews - he originally intended The Devil's Rejects to be the end of the Firefly story. So, when he ultimately decided to make 3 From Hell, he pretty clearly realized he had written himself into a corner, and instead of trying to invent something - anything - to try and make sense of their survival, he just threw up his hands and said to his audience "they're still alive, now let's move on."
Many would argue that no explanation Zombie could've invented for the Fireflies' survival would've been truly satisfactory after such a clear, on-camera death scene in The Devil's Rejects. While that may be true, something would've been better than nothing. Zombie could've introduced the supernatural into the narrative, and had the Rejects make a literal deal with Satan (not to be confused with their old pal Dr. Satan) to survive or be resurrected. Or perhaps it could be revealed that authorities insisted the Fireflies be given the best possible medical care immediately after they were shot, so as to make sure they could be publicly tried and punished for their crimes. If nothing else, 3 From Hell definitely illustrates the risks of writing a definite end to a story one might want to one day continue.