Dir. Rob Zombie
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
Forget what you’ve read. Forget what you’ve seen. Forget everything you know about Rob Zombie. The Lords are coming. Rob Zombie has been in the director’s game for over 10 years now and he has divided critics across the board but one thing has been made clear, he is a force to be reckoned with.
There has been much hype behind THE LORDS OF SALEM. Zombie’s first original work since his Firefly family films and after causing controversy with both HALLOWEEN entries, THE LORDS OF SALEM needs to be something special to keep Zombie’s legacy as a director going as long as that as a musician.
Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon-Zombie) lives alone in an apartment block in Salem. Flitting between her sole lifestyle and co-hosting her radio show with the rest of the ‘Big H Team’, Herman (Ken Foree) and Whitey (Jeff Daniel Phillips). When she mysteriously receives a new vinyl from a band called ‘The Lords’ events turn from good to bad for the recovering drug addict. Seeing visions and activity in the vacant apartment 5, her world will soon be turned into a fixation of Satanism, witches and the occult.
One thing is clear, Zombie is with Sherri for more than what lies in the heart. Casting her in a lead (as well as mostly naked) was certainly a brave move and while her work will not win any Oscars, makes the character her own in a way that any other Hollywood starlet could not. Sherri manages to show Heidi’s breakdown believable as she is dragged into the world of the witches that make their presence closer and closer throughout the film to some terrifying results.
But it’s not Sherri’s casting that stands out but rather pales in comparison to that of her protective coven, the marvellous trio of Patricia Quinn, Lacy Doyle and Dee Wallace. Their innocence turns into a sinister urge as the truth of their caring nature becomes apparent.
Like it’s inspiration of the ‘70’s horrors that show throughout, ‘…Salem’ is a slow burner that rewards patience with a pay-off that will haunt you for a very long time. Not only does Zombie show that he has a keen eye for detail but his inspiration of all things 70’s and horror works wonders for a film that is much needed in the way THE EXORCIST kicked a fuss back in 1973.
THE LORDS OF SALEM is not HOUSE, REJECTS or HALLOWEEN. This will not have you hiding behind you cushion every two seconds at the sight of something disgusting or have you rooting for the psychotic family of killers as they brutally torture their victims. What Rob Zombie has done with ‘…Salem’ is craft a 21st century ROSEMARY'S BABY. The birth of a monster that will antagonise some of Zombie’s most hardened fans and entice a debate over what makes a successful horror film. For all of the references and influences splashed across the 101 minutes, this is quite possibly the freshest horror film of 2013.
Unfortunately it’s easy to get lost in several of the films key moments and that line between story teller and director will not be to everyone’s liking. Also, the 70’s inspiration can seem a little baffling at times when it seems the wardrobe department forgot to update after 1975 and the use of mobile phones is ever present. It’s like someone hit the time warp and forgot that not everyone where’s fur coats and flares and lives in a charming paint pallet of brown in 2013.
We feel that at the 101 minute mark, Zombie should have cut the last 2 and leave his wife to go back home. A film that doesn’t need the last closure and would work better with a little ambiguity. It feels like the Mona Lisa has a hairline across her smile, something so beautiful with a mark that it could do without.
Travelling from the bizarre to the insane sometimes faster than the mind can capture but the iconic imagery held within this film will certainly capture your imagination. Amongst the many critics and split opinions across THE LORDS OF SALEM it’s not a film that will win everyone over, least of all fans of Rob Zombie’s earlier work. What this does do is testify Rob Zombie’s talent behind the camera and ability to create a film that differs so differently to the genre that we now see as either a haunting or torture fest and while ‘Lords’ certainly doesn’t shy away from scenes of a graphic nature, it does this tastefully and in sync to the melodramatic feeling that ‘Lords’ brings with it.