The Lords of Salem

The latest mind-bending film from Rob Zombie is his best to date.

The Lords of Salem
Dir: Rob Zombie (2013)

Zombie is back with his first film in a little over three and a half years. This time around, Zombie coincided the release of his new album with the release of his latest film and a novelization of said film.

The Lords of Salem follows Heidi (played by Zombie’s wife, Sherri Moon Zombie), a local radio DJ, who receives a mysteriously box one day at her radio station.  Inside the box is a record by who she presumes is of a band named The Lords.  Upon playing the record, Heidi (and many other females of the town) are thrown into a world of hallucinations of the town’s violent past.  The past being that of the Salem Witch Trials of many centuries before.  The rest of the film follows Heidi’s descent into madness as the original Lords return.

Does that sound dumb?  Probably.  That’s what I thought upon reading the synopsis well over a year ago. But, like a few other directors that I enjoy, I see all of his films.  Zombie broke into the film world with the questionably unoriginal House of 1,000 Corpses (2003), then followed it up with his best film to date, The Devil’s Rejects (2005). After these two, he did a couple re-imaginings of the Halloween franchise.  Let’s pretend those didn’t happen, and not because they are good or bad, but because Halloween is hallowed ground in the horror genre.

As far as quality, you could argue that this film falls somewhere in between those films.  However, after I saw the film then spent the rest of the evening thinking about it, I would go out on a limb and say that it is Zombie’s best film to date.  Zombie is a modern day horror film auteur.  His films all carry a distinct look, sound, and feel.  His ability to create an atmosphere is crucial to success of each and every scene.  Like many great horror directors, Zombie is able to draw an audience in, get them comfortable, then have them either wanting to hide their eyes, or run out of the theatre to the nearest trash can.  Yes, that is a compliment.

With all of that being said, Zombie pulls no punches in this film.  In a recent interview, Zombie stated that this was the first film where he had entire creative control from beginning to end.  The editing of the film was actually done in the same room where he recorded his new album.  This is without a doubt Zombie’s best looking film.  He once again collaborated with Cinematographer, Brandon Trost, to create almost overwhelming visuals that were at times (dare I say it) “Stanley Kubrick-esque”.  This is even more evident in the third act of the film.  This film is full of long, beautiful, panning or dolly shots to enhance the madness on screen. Nothing that is shown in the closing scenes of the film would be something any audience member would be expecting.  Creepy? Yes. Horrifying? Yes. Predictable? NO!

The use of music is always something that Zombie uses to drive his films.  Obviously, with his musical background, this should be expected.  The soundtrack is always a great mix of classic rock, folk, and seemingly everything in between.  Just take a peep at the track listing for the soundtrack. Rush. Rick James. The Velvet Underground.  Once again, Zombie delivers eclectic music to accompany his visuals.  The score of this film was dark, eerie, and left me with a creepy feeling as it was stuck in my head for long after the film ended.  This was by far the best score of any Rob Zombie film.

One thing I love about Zombie’s films is the reoccurring cast members.  This is something that few well known directors of today tend to do.  This film featured many familiar faces from Zombie’s past films including: Sherri Moon ZombieKen Foree, and Jeff Daniel Phillips.  Another fan favorite, Sid Haig, was unfortunately cut from the film. Sherri Moon Zombie once again plays the lead role in this film, and it’s by far her best performance to date.  Her past performances as “Baby” (in House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects) were intended to be obnoxious and did she ever deliver.  Even though she seemingly spends half the movie in a trance where she aimlessly stares at objects or just looks confused or sick, she pulled it off, however I didn’t come into this film expecting to see any Oscar performances, so I can’t say that I was blindsided by this.

Unfortunately for Zombie, I think this film appeals to such a narrow audience that the box office numbers won’t be all that impressive. But, on the other hand, I think Zombie’s main concern is always producing a product that he’s proud of, not one that’ll make the most money in the theater. Something that impressed me was seeing that it is reported as the lowest budget film in Zombie’s short filmmaking career, yet didn’t come off that way in the slightest. This is the film that Rob Zombie was meant to make from the beginning of his film career.  I highly recommend this film to any fan of Zombie’s, as well as any fan of the horror genre looking for a breath of fresh air and a break from Hollywood remakes of horror classics.

 

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3.5 / 5 stars     

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