by Patrick Bromley
Sheri Moon Zombie doesn't get a lot of credit as an actor. She's regularly used as a case study in nepotism, getting parts in movies because her husband, director Rob Zombie, casts her in all of his films. Aside from the fact that Zombie should be allowed to cast whomever he wants, I find most of the criticisms of Sheri Moon Zombie's work to be, in a word, bullshit. Yes, there was a learning curve early on, but by Zombie's remake of Halloween in 2007, she was already delivering an accomplished performance as a woman destroyed by grief and pain. She's even better in 2013's The Lords of Salem, playing a woman slowly unraveling and losing herself to a supernatural force, witchcraft as a metaphor for addiction. Both performances still have rough edges for sure, but so do Rob Zombie's movies. The rough edges are what make both interesting and exciting.
Minor spoilers for 3 from Hell to follow.
After a few minutes of documentary-style catch up to fill us in on what happened post-Rejects, we catch up to Baby proper 10 years later. In one of my favorite moments in a movie all year, she is more or less reintroduced into the film via a slow motion prison walk scored by Suzi Quatro's "Wild One." From the reveal forward, it's obvious that this isn't the same Baby Firefly that Sheri Moon has played twice before. Years have passed. She's now covered in tattoos. She has become even more unhinged, as if such a thing was even possible. That's made worse after a long stint in solitary, during which she begins to hallucinate (in one of the movie's more striking images, reminiscent of Zombie's Halloween II) a ballerina with a cat head for which she develops great affection. Baby, already a psychotic, appears to have snapped. It makes her even more unpredictable than she already was, which is really saying something.
Baby has always been textbook crazy, her trademark laugh used as a way of mocking her victims and letting us know just how much she enjoys her "work." In 3 From Hell, she's more wild animal, particularly when she's under attack and has to fight back. Baby manages to be the most dangerous of the Three thanks to Sheri Moon's physicality and ferocity -- an attack dog that's been cornered and intends to fuck you up, a warrior queen in full headdress poised and ready to strike. She does all this while still displaying a previously unseen softer side, too. Her later scenes opposite Pancho Moler have a sweetness unlike anything in Zombie's previous films, and Sheri Moon reveals a sadness and humanity to Baby that makes her more interesting than she's ever been.