The Lords of Salem (2013)

Posted: September 1, 2013 in Movies

salemWhen Rob Zombie decided to take the plunge into directing horror movies, fans of his psychedelic headbanging music definitely took notice. 2005’s strange, absolutely evil “House of 1000 Corpses” (and subsequent follow-up “The Devil’s Rejects”) earned Zombie the credibility as one of Hollywood’s brightest horror directors. The success of those films opened the door for him – as writer/producer/director – to relaunch the “Halloween” movie series. Critics were torn on his new view towards the Michael Meyers story, and the studio pulled the plug after just two films.

The problem seemed to be the darker, more cerebral direction the movies were taking. After all, who really wants to exercise their mind when the whole premise is based on a crazed lunatic hunting down teenagers to a bloody end again and again and again. Personally, I truly enjoyed Zombie’s versions of the films – possibly even more than the originals – but the studios felt enough was enough, and Rob returned to doing music, touring the world, and writing films on his terms.

2009 saw the animated “The Haunted World of El Superbeasto” DVD release – a mind-bending, obscene masterpiece that became a cult classic almost instantly. If you haven’t seen this, I can’t even begin to tell you how amazingly bizarre it is (my only recommendation being to hunt it down and watch it as soon as you can). Post-Halloween II, it seemed that Zombie had possibly hung up his hat as far as film making was concerned.

Thankfully, such was not the case. Mid-2011, Rob announced his intentions for a new film – titled “The Lords of Salem” -which was released by Haunted Pictures (Paranormal Activity/Insidious) in limited theatrical release this last April. And thus began the problems. Unless you lived in a city with more than 30 Starbucks shops, the film didn’t come to your theater. Even in many larger cities, the movie was limited to only a few screens or late-night-only showings. With such limited exposure, it was tough to attract an audience – and the film was considered a major flop by studio standards. Adding to the film’s demise is the fact that critics really didn’t care much for it, in general – earning some pretty low marks across the board after it’s release. I’m not sure exactly why this film was pretty much set up for failure from the get go, but I can tell you this – it’s far better than mainstream media would have you to believe.

lords2

The plot focuses on a troubled female DJ named Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) in Salem, Massachussets, whose life becomes entangled with a coven of ancient witches, a mysterious record sent to her radio station, and a descent into madness she just can’t control.  Heidi’s life-long addictions have her on the road to recovery, but the flashbacks and relapses make it almost impossible for her to see – let alone understand – the evil surrounding her. Where Rob Zombie really succeeds here is in the nerve-wrecking technique. Some will call the film “slow” or “boring”, but I felt as if the intent was to grind away at the viewers sanity so that, by the end of the film, you feel just as damaged and broken as the main character.

The visuals were also outstanding. While most of the film has the creepy, gray-scale backdrop one would expect, there are explosions of vibrancy and color that would make both Andy Warhol and Roman Polanski proud throughout. When scenes of faceless, monstrous priests and naked, dancing senior citizens come across as “beautiful”, the film-maker has tapped in to something special.

The film’s story and production isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you let the film crawl just a little bit under your skin, I think you’ll find “The Lords of Salem” – with its visual wonders and mindbending narrative – to be unlike anything you have ever seen before, and one of the better macabre/horror films of our time.

9/10

Rated R / 101 Minutes / Available on DVD September 3.

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