The Lords Of Salem Review

by: Sean Brickley

“What else did you expect from Rob Zombie?”

This is the question my wife asked me as we were leaving the theater after watching Rob Zombie’s newest offering, The Lords Of Salem. The question was posed as a response to my statement, “What a bizarre movie.” She had a point and this was something I should have expected being a fan of Zombie’s other films (with the exception of Halloween II and that stupid unicorn). With The Lords Of Salem though, Zombie pulls no punches and does an astonishing job of transcending past any of his previous accolades in the morbidity department. And just for those you who are wondering (you know who you are), Sheri Moon Zombie’s derriere does make its obligatory cameo.

Heidi Hawthorne (Moon) is a happy-go-lucky radio DJ (and recovering addict), forming the Big H Radio Team in Salem, Massachusetts alongside Whitey and Herman Munster. It’s an interesting departure for Sheri Moon because it’s probably the most normal role she’s had yet. She is much more identifiable. She overcame her troubled past and made something of herself instead of terrorizing people. When she’s laughing and having a good time it’s not sadistically and at someone else’s expense – it’s simply because she is a regular person. Additionally, her two cohorts on the air provide good comedic banter and show a genuine concern for her well-being. It’s interesting to watch Heidi’s reluctant descent from this state throughout the movie.

Not long into the movie, Heidi receives a record at the station enclosed in a somewhat ornate wooden box labeled simply as “The Lords.” The group has a bit of a laugh before leaving the station at the end of their shift; Heidi with the wooden box on her person. This is pretty much the moment in the movie where everything begins a gradually steepening downward spiral into, “just what the hell is going on right now?”

Heidi gets home and listens to the record, which sounds somewhat like a severely out-of-tune Velvet Underground. It immediately begins to have hallucinatory effects on her during which she sees visions regarding the witch trials Salem is historically known for. The intensity of what she is seeing even has a physical effect on her which is more than evident the next day. This is furthered when her fellow DJs play the record on the air. Whitey especially becomes more and more worried about her as to him it looks as though Heidi is possibly relapsing – which she eventually does.

Meanwhile, Heidi’s apartment manager and two of her friends begin to take a greater interest in Heidi while really strange things begin happening down in apartment 5. As the story progresses, more unfolds about Heidi’s lineage and how exactly her ancestry intertwines with Salem’s dark history. The events befalling Ms. Hawthorne are revealed to have been set in motion for quite some time. Whether or not Heidi has the willpower to resist the pull of a centuries-old witches coven becomes the ultimate question.

I liked the premise of the movie. It’s not necessarily the most original of concepts – modern protagonist bears the brunt of some supernatural event that occurred years before they were born – but the storyline in its simplest form could really be expanded on to create a somewhat decent horror flick.

The problem for me was the presentation of the story in this case. More than half of the time I felt like Rob Zombie was intentionally trying to confuse the shit out of me. The effects were wild but for the most part discomforting and just plain hard to understand. For example, the abundance of naked old witches only made me hope that for their sake they were wearing prosthetics. And if you think I’m being harsh and that “all nudity is beautiful and artistic”, then go see The Lords Of Salem and wait for the scene depicting the ritualistic stroking of a giant red dildo. Then we can talk about the witches in all of their natural beauty.

Another issue I had with the movie is that it seemed to have a bit of an identity problem. I don’t have a problem with directors/writers paying an homage to their inspirations so long as it’s done properly. Lords just seems to want to pay tribute to too many predecessors that it seems jumbled at times. I liked Suspiria. Rosemary’s Baby is a classic piece of film history – as is The Shining. Does this mean that I would want Argento, Kubrick and Roman Polanski (each from their respective time periods) to go sit in a room, get completely shitfaced and pen out an epic script for some twisted Satanic horror movie?

Actually, yes I would. That movie would most likely rock, but it would be because those three wrote it and made it, not because someone tried to undertake the task of emulating them all (all underhanded Polanski comments aside) within the confines of a 100 minute movie. That really is a monumental task and The Lords Of Salem is evidence of that.

Is it an entertaining movie? Sure, if you can get past not understanding some of the things you’re viewing and just have fun laughing at the spectacle of it all. And you will laugh. The circus-like atmosphere in parts of the movie more than makes up for the overall lack of anything that is really that scary.

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