So with The Lords of Salem, I thought I’d have a big fun time. But it turned out to be less fun and more like a toss-up between a trippy, mood-altering creepfest and a weird indie film by people who were way too deep into their drug use.
Horror fans sure do seem to love Rob Zombie’s movies. Sometimes I feel like his fans follow along blindly. I dig his music, mostly; White Zombie and his later solo stuff have that horror/sci-fi/psycho metal/thrash thing happening. I’m on board. Even his films The Devil’s Rejects and House of 1,000 Corpses show a passion for fun, crazy horror. So with The Lords of Salem, I thought I’d have a big fun time. But it turned out to be less fun and more like a toss-up between a trippy, mood-altering creepfest and a weird indie film by people who were way too deep into their drug use. I guess either of these can be good or bad depending on how you look at it. And your own personal drug use.
Ex-heroin addict Heidi Hawthorne (a mediocre, but lovely Sheri Moon Zombie) is a DJ at a radio station in Salem, Massachusetts. One day she recieves an old-looking box with a vinyl disc in it labeled only “The Lords”. She plays it and it has a strange effect on her. The question is whether she is going mad or if The Lords are coming back to take revenge on Salem. Or something like that. Ultimately it’s about witches trying to bring about the birth of Satan. Sign of the goat!
This movie is pretty tripped-out. It’s kind of like a surreal European horror film from the 70’s. You know the type; like those creepy/goofy Italian vampire movies? Granted, The Lords of Salem is a better film than those, but it has a similar vibe to me. There are surely some good things going on here, and Rob Zombie should be credited with those things for sure. He manages to pick a wonderful old school cast full of actors that are great to see here. Bruce Davison, the awesome Dee Wallace, Judy Geeson, and Patricia Quinn all as a trio of witches, Maria Conchita Alonso, Andrew Prine, of course Sid Haig and Michael Berryman, (though I dare you to actually find them in the film), and Meg Foster. Although, maybe we could have seen a little less of Meg Foster… Ok, Let’s be clear, in the opening sequence we see a group of witches, most of which are of, uh, mature age, chanting around a fire proclaiming their eternal devotion to Satan. They disrobe, completely. For a moment I admit, I had a kneejerk reaction to geriatric full-frontal nudity. But yes, I also get that it was a brave acting decision and it goes to the weird creativity of Rob Zombie and the actors involved. But still. The scene was perhaps a little longer than necessary. But then, Zombie does that a couple times in the film, which only occasionally alludes to some Kubrick style camera work.
That’s also apparent in The Lords of Salem; taking certain styles from other films and using them here – an homage to other directors and films, perhaps. Feel free to deabate that at your leisure. Some shots ARE surely like Kubrick’s, while some remind me of William Friedkin’s shots in The Exorcist based on their tone and physicality. Maybe a little Ken Russell thrown in. And frankly, those are some things I liked about it. It really gave certain scenes the feeling of watching a creepy horror film from the 70’s when atmosphere was paramount instead of gratuitous gore.
But The Lords of Salem takes a slow burn of a road to get to its’ conclusion, and it resorts at one point to a sort of psychadelic episode that just felt kind of goofy and over-indulgent to me. And most of what humor there was in this sort of escaped me. And despite the fact that this film is clearly a work of fiction, I suspect that most Wiccan people won’t be terribly pleased with the light in which witchcraft is cast here. Seems to me the last thing you want is a whole community of Wiccans pissed at you for perpetuating a stereotype. Hopefully no one will that too seriously.
To be honest, I can’t really be sure whether to like this movie or not. There are some really interesting visuals at times, and some genuinely creepy moments. There are some familiar style shots that still have a personality all their own. But in the end, I can’t really say any more than I merely found it interesting for these things. Would I tell you to see it in the theater? No. DVD or Netflix is plenty. And maybe only if you are a fan of Rob Zombie. And I gotta say, I saw a Q and A after the film, and Rob seemed a bit more like just a guy who loves making films as opposed to a learned director. Maybe that’s to be taken into consideration here. He’s a guy with a few films under his belt, but he’s still finding his directing legs. Or maybe you’ll think this film just sucks. Somewhere between two and half kittenhands and three. Two and three quarters? This movie was just weird, man.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, also thinking maybe Rob shouldn’t have cast his wife Sheri in the main role. Just because we get to see you naked doesn’t mean you can carry a film.