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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rob Zombie has really outdone himself with The Lords of Salem. The film
plays like a throwback to the psychedelic satanic Horror Movies of the
early 70s. The movie starts out with a slow build getting to know the
lead character, Heidi. Heidi, played by Sherri Moon Zombie, is a
recovering addict that works for the local radio station as a DJ for a
popular late night radio show. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts, which
is famous for its witch trials during the 1600s.
When Heidi arrives at the radio station for her show she receives a demo record from a band called The Lords. Thinking the album must be from a new and upcoming band, the DJs play it on the show. When the sound goes out over the radio, many local women go into a trance, very much like when the tape is played in Evil Dead! Heidi has severe headaches when the album is played and from that point on starts having hallucinations. There are many flashbacks to the 1600s, when a coven of witches were having their Sabbath or Black Mass, dancing around a fire nude, praying to Satan, and playing music. The local Salem Authorities catch all the witches and put them on trial. Found guilty of witchcraft, they are burned alive at the stake. While dying, the leader of the coven curses her accuser, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and all of his ancestors.
Heidi lives in a historic building with an older lady that lives in the apartment below her. She invites Heidi for tea with her friends, but right away you can tell the older ladies have something to hide. Heidi starts a slow decent into madness after hearing the Lords of Salem album again. And that's when we get the flashbacks to the ancient evil witches and their strange satanic rituals.
Sherri Moon Zombie does her best acting to date, but she is still no match for the older scream queens that play the witches Dee Wallace, Patricia Quinn, Judy Geeson, and Meg Foster steal all the scenes. Meg Foster and Dee Wallace especially shine in their roles. One of things I like about Rob Zombie is that he casts a lot of familiar faces from the horror genre and Lords of Salem was no exception.
Lords of Salem has a real art-house artistic feel to it, which Zombie's previous films did not have. There are several shots that remind me of classic Argento films like Suspiria. The use of colourful architecture and background scenery is almost like another character in the film. The movie was visually stunning and it owes a lot of its influences to classic Horror films like The Devils, The Sentinel, Eraserhead and The Shining. The only part of the film I was not all that keen on was the psychedelic ending. It just seemed out of context, but maybe I will like it better on a second viewing. It also had way too many gratuitous shots of Sherri Moon's backside which was a little distracting from the storyline in my opinion. Unfortunately, I don't think Lords of Salem will appeal to the general public and will probably not get a wide release the way his previous films did.
In the end, I think this movie will get very split reviews from horror fans. If you can appreciate an art-house independent horror film you will enjoy it. If you prefer a grindhouse style gory action movie, you will hate it. I am sure this movie will surprise and divide Rob Zombie fans. Up until now, Zombie has earned a very well-deserved reputation for films that push the limits of good taste. For the most part I have enjoyed most of his films (yes, even Halloween 2!) For me, Lords of Salem showed that he is not a one trick pony when it comes to his writing and I really appreciate that. I highly recommend you go and see it when it comes out and form your own opinion about it.
I'm not exactly a Rob Zombie fan, but the three films I've seen from
him (Halloween remake, House of 1000 Corpses, and Devil's Rejects)
still have something in them that makes them memorable and not totally
unworthy. I had no idea what Lords of Salem would be about but I
expected the usual "Rob Zombie overload".
Much to my surprise, the film starts off pretty effectively. Although the annoying "loud sound" cliché is used here whenever there's something spooky in the background (HINT filmmakers- stop putting a loud noise over a great scare moment in an atmosphere such as this. It just ruins it) there was enough great build-up of atmosphere and the story was evolving nicely, not to mention many of the visual imagery really got under my skin. However, as I probably should have expected, Zombie's just not that smart of a film-maker to create a film like this. There's a really great version of this story to be told somewhere, but Zombie, as usual, over-indulges and just keeps on assaulting our senses starting in the second half that by the time the third act starts, I was honestly bored out of my mind and just rolling my eyes at all of the "visuals". The film just starts off great and burns out the more it goes on, and by the end it ultimately just leaves a very bad taste in your mouth and the second half just basically erases everything the first half build so cautiously to create. It feels pointless and redundant.
I've never disliked Moon Zombie, but her acting range has always seem limited. Here though, she's pretty impressive and I actually think Zombie did her a disservice. He should have just given a basic summary of this storyline to more talented filmmakers to write and direct it. Because it's definitely ambitious and definitely something that could have been truly amazing, that's what makes this film his most disappointing. I never expected anything unformulaic out of his other films, but because this started off with such potential and by the end I had to force myself not to fall asleep, it's just disheartening. A Rob Zombie film that is self-indulgent and stupid? Expected. But a boring one? Now that's a new low.
When it was first announced that Rob Zombie was working on another
movie, I was thrilled, as I had thoroughly enjoyed his previous movies,
and as I am also a big fan of his music. And it was with great
expectation that I followed the bits and pieces of information
leaked/released about the movie up until it was finally released.
And now having seen it, I sit here with my expectations and hopes totally shattered. The movie was mostly an odd mixture of bits and pieces of incoherent imagery that had the usual Rob Zombie trademark touch to it, yes, but in overall the story got lost along the way in the imagery. And as such, the movie was a rather dull experience.
Storywise, then it wasn't particularly captivating or innovating. The story is about Heidi Hawthorne (played by Sheri Moon Zombie) who receives a strange record at the radio station where she works together with Herman 'Whitey' Salvador (played by Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Herman Jackson (played by Ken Foree). The haunting tune on the record opens up to the dark and sinister past of the witching era of Salem, unleashing power that were better left in the past.
Out of the entire cast, then I think it was actually Bruce Davison (playing Francis Matthias) who did the best job, and made the most memorable impact with his acting. The rest of the cast did good enough jobs, but it just didn't fully shine through.
Don't get your hopes up too high, unless you are into weird imagery that doesn't necessarily need to have a solid supporting story to be interesting. But, personally, I wasn't entertained by this movie, and I actually had my smartphone out at a point and was playing Jewels Star.
I suppose everyone throws a swing and a miss every now and then, and for me, then this was one such instances from Rob Zombie.
Before I begin my review, I should probably start by saying that I'm
actually quite a big fan of Rob Zombie the musician (including White
Zombie), and I also liked his first two movies (House of 1000 Corpses
and The Devil's Rejects) very much - and I hated the first
Halloween-remake so much, that I didn't even want to see the second one
he directed, which allegedly should be even worse.
So, with that in mind, here's my review: The film is about a young, trendy rock-radio DJ, Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie), who suddenly finds herself in the middle of an occult Satan-worshiping witchcraft scheme, because her ancestors did something bad 400 years ago or something.. She's sent an old, crusty LP, which she (of course) plays on the radio, even though it's just a bunch of creepy, monotonous notes, played over and over again, giving all the local women in the town zombie-like headaches.
Now, this isn't just all there is to the story, but it just as well might have been, as the plot doesn't really seem to develop much from that point on. The movie is all about setting a mood, showing creepy images, and basically just making the viewers generally uncomfortable - which it actually succeeds doing. I felt bad watching this, but strangely attracted to it at the same time.
The cast is pretty good actually, with Jeff Daniel Phillips and Ken Foree as the other two radio-hosts, and Bruce Davison as the historian who tries to get to the bottom of this whole witch-thing going on. The problem is just, that the movie doesn't really go anywhere with it's plot, and it's not really a slasher-movie or exorcism-movie, which you could expect. It's purely about making you feel miserable, and that's not (always) a good thing.
Oh, by the way... if you're expecting to see a lot of Sid Haig and Michael Berryman, think again, as they've only got small non-talking, not-interesting cameos. Meg Foster is pretty good as the witch-"queen", though.
I really can't express my thanks enough to Rob Zombie for making this movie. It is it perfect? Really damn close. I really can't understand how some of the viewers 'didn't get it'. A better question, would be, "how could you miss it"? This move is to the Satanic 'arthouse' genre what '1,000 Corpses'and 'Devil's Rejects' was for grindhouse. Basically the genre done correctly by a Master. If you always had a taste for the Satanic 'arthouse' films of the '70's but always felt that it could have been so much more, don't miss "The Lords of Salem", it is the definitive expression of the genre. Bravo Mr. Zombie, and thank you for making this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Lords of Salem", Rob Zombie's fifth feature film, is perhaps the
most aesthetically and thematically adventurous (which is saying a fair
amount taking into account his first two films). "Lords" follows Heidi
(Sheri Moon Zombie), a troubled disc jockey at a Salem, Massachusetts
rock radio station. One night, a bizarre record encased in a wooden box
arrives at the station for Heidi; the only information on the box
reads: "The Lords", which is assumed to be the name of a local band.
After playing the record on air, Heidi's life begins to drastically
take a turn for the worst, and she finds herself plagued by disturbing
visions related to a coven of witches who were executed in the late
1600s. If that weren't bad enough, the witches are returning, and the
record also had a strange effect on all of the townswomen who heard it
Some have gone so far as to say that "The Lords of Salem" is Zombie's magnum opus; I believe his career is far too young to judge that (I also was not a fan of his "Halloween" remakes, but loved "House of 1000 Corpses" and its counterpart "The Devil's Rejects"). However, these fans have their fingers on the pulse of something special, and it seems Zombie's auteur status is beginning to take full shape with this film.
The film is riddled with references to '70s and '80s Satantic witchcraft films, much in the vein of "The Dunwich Horror" and "The Devonsville Terror", although "Lords" also makes nods to cinematic classics such as "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Shining" with its ambitious cinematography, and, if only by virtue of its basis on the Salem witch trials, cribs elements of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible". There's a gritty grindhouse feel that permeates the film, but what's interesting is that it turns tricks and becomes something of an art display; Zombie channels Dario Argento, Alejandro Jardowsky, Lucio Fulci, and Mario Bava in equal spades. While Zombie dabbled with surrealism and artsy provocateur in "House of 1000 Corpses" quite abundantly, he takes it a step (or five) further in "Lords". The last 20 minutes of the film are nothing short of surrealist horror disturbing, lush, and austerely haunting imagery is paired with the sacrilegious carnival freakshow shtick that Zombie became known for; this bizarre combination frames a contentious relationship between the art house elements of the film and its use of B-horror movie conventions.
"Lords" has an impressive cast for being such a small production; Sheri Moon Zombie carries the film as our troubled leading lady, and holds her weight, while Bruce Davison plays a quirky writer with abundant knowledge on the Salem witch history. Judy Geeson makes up a modern witch circle with genre favorites Patricia Quinn (famed as Magenta in "Rocky Horror") and Dee Wallace ("The Hills Have Eyes", "Cujo", "E.T."); all three women turn in solid performances with a certain sense of self-awareness. Meg Foster plays the ancient leader of the original coven, and tackles the role full-on; she's easily one of the most frightening on screen incarnations of a witch I've ever seen. All of her scenes are wonderful, particularly the historical flashbacks and the executions.
Also worth noting is the wild soundtrack for this from the "Lords"' groaning record to tracks by Bruce Springsteen, classical pieces by Mozart and Bach, and a marvelous use of "All Tomorrow's Parties" by The Velvet Underground, Zombie assembled an interesting collection of songs for the film, but for one reason or another, they all work.
One issue that Zombie does have with the script, as many others have noticed, is that it never seems to quite get on its feet. The plot somewhat meanders for the majority of the film, not particularly taking one course or another, before launching into full-blown grand guignol mode. That said, in Zombie's defense, I somewhat get the sense that he was going more for a mood piece with the film as opposed to the serial killer drama of "The Devil's Rejects" or the backwoods frenetics of "House of 1000 Corpses". "Lords", in many ways, is Zombie's most restrained film; in others, it's easily his most provocative.
Overall, "The Lords of Salem" is, if nothing else, a completely unique movie experience, especially for horror fans. It conjures up some of the horror genre's greatest witchcraft conventions (and those of B films in general) and disseminates them in the fashion of art house cinema. This attempt at combining high art with the conventions of B-grade horror cinema is quite a feat, and though I'm not sure Zombie totally hit the mark, he came extremely close to it. 8/10.
Since he transcended from the realm of Rockstar to Film Auteur with
"House of a 1000 Corpses", Rob Zombie has had mostly a love-hate
relationship with his fans. And with his latest release, "Lords of
Salem", Zombie, proves that this will be much of the same. Despite the
fact that this time around, Zombie is completely thinking outside the
norm of what has been his filming style and technique. Where before he
set out for a certain shock value, with "Lords" Zombie has given us a
very atmospheric, almost trippy film that borrows elements from such
other masters of horror as Cronenberg, Polanski and Lynch.
If "Lords of Salem" was made in the 1970's (perhaps even as late as 1981) then it would have been hailed as an iconic horror film, much in the same way as such other greats of the genre of that time, as Dario Argento's "Suspiria", "Rosemary's Baby" or even that of Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining". Sadly, however, the film finds life in 2013 where most of the audiences that will go and see it will neither understand or have the patience for Zombie's latest creation.
We find ourselves following along the life of DJ Heidi Hawthorn (aka Heidi LaRox), played by Sheri Moon Zombie, living life in Salem, Massachusetts, as night time radio's hottest DJs. When One night after a show with her cohorts and hosts Herman 'Whitey' Salvador (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Herman Jackson (Ken Foree), Heidi receives an old wooden box containing a vinyl record and a note saying it is from the band The Lords. Heidi takes the box home, and while she and Whitey are hanging around Heidi's apartment, Whitey plays the record. The music is mostly made up of string instruments being played in some strange rhythmic beat. The music, however, invokes a vision of days past for Heidi (and that of Salem) who sees what happens to a coven of supposed "real" witches back in the days that would get you killed for practicing or even being accused of witchcraft. The next night Herman puts the record up for the typical radio gig of Smash or Trash, dubbing the band The Lords of Salem. However, those women that are descendants of Salem that are listening to the show are hypnotized by the sound; stopping what they are doing entranced. Much in the same-way Heidi was the night before. Unaware at the time, the music triggers something inside Heidi that sends her spiraling out of control as she begins to see and deal with things that can not possibly be real.
Like many 70's films of the like, and while the film is set in modern day it has a definite 1970's feel to it, Zombie does as little as possible in the way of character development. Just giving you the bare essentials (Early in the film we see Heidi taking shots with her co- hosts after the job only later to find out that she is a recovering junkie. A fact sort of come into play later in the film.) of back-stories for them. Replaced instead with more back-story when it comes to plot. Although, that does not take away from the film. Zombie gives just as much as needed and doesn't get bogged down in useless or over dialogued scenes. Which is good. While I do not mind (as others) that Zombie puts his wife Sheri in all his films, her acting is quite limited, and at times with this film it is painfully so. As Zombie stretches Sheri Moon's acting ability and is a far cry from what she has done before. Zombie also has abandoned the shaky, hand-held almost documentary style of camera work from his previous films. Replaced now with thought out scenes shot on steady cameras using 35mm film; fantastic lighting and set designs with a moving, moody score that draws the viewer inside this strange world where a sect of ancient witches are hell bent in bring the Devil's child into our world. The plot is nothing new when it comes to this style and genre but Zombie makes it his own.
I can see the influences that Zombie has when it comes to horror. "Lords" is much in the way of "Rosemary's Baby" was when it comes to subject matter; "The Shining" where the tension builds through the slow pace of the film helped with a heavy score; scenes that highlighted (while not of the 70's, but just as insane) "Twin Peaks". Though if it were made by Argento instead of Lynch.
"Lords of Salem" took me a little while to absorb. I was lucky enough to have seen it in an empty theater with no distractions that plague today's movie going experience, because in my opinion (an opinion that Rob Zombie will only half agree with) is that this film, to get the true experience, needs to be seen in the theater. Although a mostly, if not fully, empty theater. I believe the impact of the visuals will be lost when it comes to BluRay, and won't lend the same stimulation of the cortex of the mind that of the big screen.
Like with Sheri Moon, we find the usual Rob Zombie stand ins. Although, timeout if you blink you will miss Sid Haig and Michael Berryman. The real standout, acting wise, is Jeff Daniel Phillips (aka the Geico Caveman). Phillips brings forth a certain reality and believability to his character.
Love it or hate it, Zombie, with "Lords of Salem, does exactly what he sets out to do with the audience with the visuals, the sound and added factor of a creepy-ass, empty theater: the film sits with you long after it is finished. Leaving to think and discuss with others about what the hell you have just sat through.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rob Zombie is a frustrating film maker. He is a man of many good ideas.
He is capable of some directorial flashes of ability and occasional
flair. He has stories he wants to tell. Yet his live action films are
all so half-baked and so horribly executed to the ultimate extent of
being uniformly and unsatisfyingly bad.
HOUSE OF A THOUSAND CORPSES, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS and his two HALLOWEEN refries are massively less than the sum of their parts. Zombie's concepts, his vision and his creative objectives are all fine and dandy in essence - yet following gestation they hit the screen as stillborn components, constituting badly realised, dreary, boring, tasteless, lumbering, corpulent entities of ramshackle celluloid grunge. Undynamic, uneven and repugnant, uninspiring to watch and altogether tedious to a fault. Nothing he does has any of the essential components of a good horror film - they are not creepy or scary, they are only shocking by way of how amazingly painfully contrived they are and there is nothing suspenseful or thrilling to be had out of any of them.
THE LORDS OF SALEM is a missed opportunity. Zombie was given full creative control, apparently, so I was expecting this to be the moment when he honed his ideas, clarified his vision and fulfilled his promise. Pre-release spin advising of the influence of Argento and the giallo movies built-up expectations - along with the Salem setting and accompanying witchcraft theme.
The plot has a lot going for it - recovering junkie DJ receives a vinyl record in a wooden sleeve with a music track by a band billing themselves as The Lords. The music when broadcast over the airwaves has a strange effect on some who hear it and the DJ chick starts to hallucinate some pretty disturbing visions. Add to the mix three malevolent sisters, a proposed free concert by The Lords and the participation of a cast which includes Meg (THEY LIVE) Foster, Judy (INSEMINOID) Geeson, Ken (DAWN OF THE DEAD) Foree, Bruce (WILLARD) Davison, Dee (THE HOWLING) Wallace and other genre stalwarts. There is a great deal here to pique interest and more than enough to cause me to want to watch.
Yet, it dies a death on screen. It is muddled, confused, plodding, lifeless and devoid of anything to stimulate any emotion other than mostly apathy. There is some beautiful and, dare I say, arty cinematography at times, indicative of Zombie striving to achieve some greater cinematic goal. But it all feels so flat and mundane. Most of the cast give it their best shot but they seem not to have been given a whole lot of direction resulting in their performances seeming quite perfunctory and superficial. Most unfortunately Sheri Moon Zombie lives up to her marital surname and acts like one. She looks quite cute in her spectacles and dreadlocks and she does have a very nice naked posterior - so much so that if they gave Oscars for best ass performance in a leading role hers would most likely win with little contest. It's not enough. I didn't care what happened to her or feel emotionally invested in her situation whatsoever. Mr Zombie either needs to direct her better or she needs to get some acting lessons - or he needs to get another leading lady for his movies.
LORDS is more proof that Rob Zombie has a problem and that problem is in two parts. One is that of coherence and emotional technique as a director - he is severely lacking in both. Two is a resolute failure of effective conceptual realisation. He's seen Hitchcock, Carpenter, Argento, Hooper, Polanski and Romero and he knows the act well enough. He just hasn't figured out how to pull it off yet.
All that apart, LORDS does represent progress in that it is Rob Zombies best cinema film to date. It's still bad, though.
Rob Zombie has done it again with his regurgitation of films he watched when he was younger. The movie all together is terrible, Rob Zombie had an idea but it's apparent in the film he didn't know how to execute it properly, it ended up being a forced boring mash up of old horror films(mainly Kubrick). As a director and writer Zombie has the potential to do some really inventive and stunning things but some where it gets lost. The music is horribly timed and is completely misplaced in a film like this. Sheri Moon Zombie has no business being in the lead of this film, first off her acting is cringe worthy at best. Second the movie plays as if she should be younger not pushing fifty (which is apparent). Believe me you definitely pass this one in exchange for people who know how to execute a full length film. Rob Zombie seems to know only music and their video's and that's something he should stick to.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The tragic part if this film is it had the plot elements to be good. But they were buried by obscenity and shock value ploys. The unnecessary things included masturbating zombie priests and a zombie pope, a demon that went unnoticed by the characters and can be described only as a sasquatch and many scenes involving fully nude old and heavyset women. Instead of showing the band's album took control of the women and turned them into witch's, they instead decide not to showcase that. They wrap it up with Sherry Zombie giving birth to the devil's child then disappearing and a mass suicide. It played out like an awful music video. There is nothing positive to be said about this movie except for the performance of the museum worker and that of Ken Foree. Avoid at all costs. The scare sequences are just plain laughable at times.
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