The Lords of Salem

Even though I did not care for his last two outings I've always felt Rob Zombie was a good director.  Halloween and (especially) Halloween 2 suffered in the dialogue department while the latter just had a bit of an inane story.  Visually though, the guy know's what he's doing and occasionally he does pump out a very good movie (Devil's Rejects, anyone?)  When the first trailer for his newest effort was revealed I was a bit surprised, while it certainly featured some of the insanity the guy is known for the preview seemed to show a different style.  Gone were some of his more hectic filming techniques seemingly replaced by a much more composed style.

The film opens strong with a coven of witches in a blasphemous ceremony, the head witch Margaret (Meg Foster) leads the pack by disrobing, chanting, and dancing as a ritual begins.  It's a very eerie visual and I have to say that Meg Foster plays one of the creepiest witches I've seen in a very long time.  Present day kicks in and we're introduced to Heidi (Sherri Moon Zombie) a former drug-addict turned radio DJ who lives in Salem, Massachusetts.  Heidi is one part of a shock-jock radio trio (made up of a few horror regulars) who regularly interview famed Salem residents.  One night after work Heidi receives a mysterious package in the form of an unlabeled Record by a band that goes by "The Lords."
 Heidi plays it once she gets home and a feeling of unease comes over her.  It doesn't stop her from playing it again however, this time as part of the radio station's on air program infecting all women who happen to be listening, this is when Heidi's hallucinations begin.  Zombie certainly has a knack for the visuals here, and each day her visions get worse and worse.  Everything from witch-rituals to church folk blaspheming are covered.  It works and each day the tension builds leading up to the announcement that the famed "Lords" are putting on a concert.  As the date draws near Heidi succumbs to past addictions which only make things worse as her life begins to spiral out of control.


The first hour of the film is truly a "slow burner" in the vein of past occult-based films such as Race with the Devil or Rosemary's Baby.  Throughout the film the imagery really works in setting up the doom laden atmosphere.  The cinematography and set design of this film are both top notch giving us a very bleak looking set mixed with lots of vibrant lighting and wide shots.  John 5 (Zombie's guitarist) handled the music and did a wonderful job.  All of these things come together perfectly as the film builds to what you think is going to be a wonderful climax, however the last 30 minutes left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.  Zombie was certainly building towards something, leading the audience to a very dark place, however it's uneven, the visuals in the beginning worked great because there was some thought behind them, but it gets to a point where you begin to wonder if Zombie was unsure of how to end the movie, sticking in stark imagery just to...Well, stick in stark imagery.  Heidi's hallucinations slowly mix with the reality of what is going on, but the hallucinations are so odd and out there a lot of people will just be scratching their head.  The film takes an almost retro approach to get here; and Zombie ends the film like a music video.  It leaves you wishing he'd have taken another route, ended it on a more straightforward path, I left wanting more and was let down that such a good build up ended like it did.


With that said, I won't end this on a completely negative note.  I for the most part really enjoyed the ride I was taken on.  The ending did leave me feeling jipped, however I still feel the film had more positives than negatives, especially the flashbacks to the witch trials.  The movie did feel a bit incomplete though and I can't help but wonder if a "director's cut" will ever see the light of day.  I will say this is easily the best film this guy has made since The Devil's Rejects.  When  compared to the atrocious Halloween 2 It is certainly a step in the right direction.  He's a filmmaker who always has something to say, sometimes I just think maybe he has a problem conveying it in script-form.  I'd really like to see him tackle something as a director only, I think his talent as a director would really come through.

5 comments:

  1. Very good review. I had high hopes this would be equally as good as The Devil's Rejects but serve as it's own film. I will check it out when it drops on dvd.

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