April 22, 2013

Movie Review: The Lords of Salem

The Lords of Salem, where to begin. This movie, the fifth from Rob Zombie, sees him return to the land of original material for the first time since 2005's The Devil's Rejects. This is likely his most accomplished effort, and easily the most bizarre of his offerings. Still, in keeping with his previous output, it is surely going to divide audiences. Personally, I loved it, but I also enjoy his other films as well. Zombie is a creator with unique vision, whether you like it or not, at least he isn't out there regurgitating the same old thing.

This movie is a daring, nightmarish vision that is engaging and unsettling and not like anything he has do me before. Rather than rely on jump scares and other cheap tactics, Zombie opts to go for mood, atmosphere, and just generally creepy imagery. This the sort of movie that slowly draws you in, gives you that off kilter feeling in the pit of your stomach and leaves you wondering just what it is that happened.

This tale of madness and witches, set in the land of the famous trials that saw twenty innocent women burned to death, plays out as a descent into hell. While we all know that there were no witches, this movie supposes that there was an actual coven, led by Margaret Morgan (Meg Foster). They are caught and burned, but not before putting a curse on the women of Salem.

The time settles in the present on Heidi Laroq (Sherri Moon Zombie), a radio DJ and part of a team with the two Herman's (Ken Foree and Jeff Daniel Phillips). One night she receives a mysterious wooden box containing a record from a group called The Lords. Assuming it is some local rock band looking for publicity, she plays the record. It is a droning piece of repetitious doom, but when certain women hear it, they begin to act strangely. Heidi suffers the most seer effects as she is plunged into a surreal world of demons, witches, and the eternal battle of good and evil.

The Lords of Salem is an experience. The movie does have a narrative that you can follow, but some things that happen just do that, happen. Do not go in looking for a clean, clear tale. For example do not look for where the record actually came from, you will just have to accept that at face value. Let the imagery wash over you, nibble around the edges of your psyche and proceed on inside where it slowly takes over. Well. Maybe that is a little extreme, but this movie really does some weird stuff.

The movie feels like Kubrick, Argento, and Fulci got tossed in a blender and then filtered through Rob Zombie's intestinal tract. There is something about it that I just loved. It is sensical nonsense, it is a visual journey that will leave scratching your head. Love it or hate it, it is unapologetic, vulgar, grimy, and does not care what you think.

It is a movie that made me think about how movies like this are not made anymore, at least not for theaters. It is a movie that does not care what the mainstream audience thinks, It does not cater to popular tendencies, it plays by its own rules, main it up as it goes along. The Lords of Salem plays into Lucio Fulci's idea of pure cinema that is not constrained by traditional narrative. What's not to like?

Writer/director Rob Zombie lets out a different side of his cinematic persona. It is not a gore fest (although it does have some blood), it is more cinematic, carefully crafted, and just more classic in look. He put away the white trash and started moving in some different and interesting directions.

The performances are also quite good, and yes that includes Sherri Moon Zombie. She makes the character likable and interesting and better than I had hoped for. The supporting cast is also quite good. Bruce Davison is solid as the historian with insight to what is going on. Ken Foree and Jeff Daniel Phillips are good as the radio partners, and I am not sure I ever wanted to see Meg Foster like that. Then there is the modern day witch coven, creepy, funny, and scary payed by Judy Geeson, Dee Wallace, and Patricia Quinn. This brings up another point, the cast is filled with great and familiar actors, who all fit their roles nicely.

Just watch The Lords of Salem, let it infect your psyche. Love it or hate it, I really don't care, just be glad somebody is trying. (I know he is not the only one, but you know what I mean). Always remember... Why the goat?

Highly Recommended.

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