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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.
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.
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.
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 films have a way of polarizing fans. His first features,
House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects were incredibly violent
and graphic entries in the horror genre that are either loved or
loathed depending on the company. His takes on the Halloween series was
well appreciated, but many still thought the films to be dark, dreary
Still, there is no denying that Rob Zombie is an important cog in the horror genre wheel. Zombie and fellow writer/directors Eli Roth and Ti West are all but carrying the genre on their backs while Hollywood either reboots old classics or stretches franchises long beyond their 'best before' dates (I'm looking at you Paranormal Activity!). Their collective projects still have an aura of originality about them and having their name on a movie poster can all but guarantee you are going to see something fresh, or at worst interesting to watch.
Rob Zombie is back in the director's chair for The Lords of Salem that had its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival as part of the Midnight Madness Selection Series. The film surrounds a radio station DJ named Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) who receives a mysterious box with a vinyl record and a note stating, "A gift from the Lords". When Heidi listens to the record, it awakens an evil in her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts and she begins to experience flashbacks and dreams that interweave with her reality as the spirits of the renowned Witch Town attempt to puncture our world to seek revenge on an atrocity that occurred over 300 years ago.
Heidi will be haunted and tormented by visions and dreams of the past or of an alternate reality that will drive her literally mad. A trio of old women living in her building, who have their own secrets, will offer her comfort but their alterative motive will hardly come as a big surprise to general intelligent movie fans.
With Heidi's life spiraling out of control and with her friends powerless in either understanding or resolve, it is up to Heidi to fight the evil that has now surrounded her and hopefully ensure that the old witches of 1696 Salem are not resurrected.
Rob Zombie has some familiar B to C-List actors to help bring his tale to the big screen. Richard Lynch (The Sword and the Sorcerer), Meg Foster (They Live), Bruce Davison (X-Men), Maria Conchita Alonso (The Running Man) and Dee Wallace (The Howling) all have roles in this strange and very polarizing film. Of course, Zombie staples such as Sid Haig (The Devil's Rejects) and real life wife Sheri Moon Zombie appear in roles which must have made script readings feel like a family reunion.
Rob Zombie stays true to the style that has made Zombie a name familiar outside of the music industry. You won't find any cyans or turquoise color schemes in any of Zombie's films. Everything is dark and devoid of neutral colors. Even the blood spilled in The Lords of Salem looks more like black tar at times that it does a river of red.
But this is also Rob Zombie's best work. And in writing that, I expect that it will be loathed by the Zombie fan base. I was never a fan of House of 1,000 Corpses and I never understood the fans reaction (which was just short of throwing palm leaves in front of the director) for the two Halloween remakes. I short, while everyone was putting Rob Zombie on a pedestal, I was still chasing squirrels.
But The Lords of Salem is more of a polished piece. The body count is incredibly low and throughout most of the film, nothing really happens other than the trip down the rabbit hole that befells the poor Heidi. The screening audience that filled our sold out theatre seemed to laugh at scenes that were not intended for humor (we did not). And restless fans without any gore to quench their bloodlust routinely left for washroom breaks or extra concessionary artery blockers something that is not common in high expectation horror films.
The Lords of Salem did come off the rails just a bit in the final chapter. There is a mutant/reptilian type baby that is birthed followed by the final scene of Heidi on top of a heap of bodies and the 'Directed by Rob Zombie' title card. It was an unworthy finish to what was an involving movie prior to its reveal.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I went into Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem very opened minded. I
didn't know much about this film other than seeing the trailers, and
knowing it was Zombie's new film. After seeing Evil Dead (2013) and
being completely let down, with what I thought was my most anticipated
horror film of the year, I thought gosh, I hope something else comes
out this year, that really surprises me, and doesn't let me down.
Little did I know, The Lords of Salem would be just that.
The story revolves around Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie), a local radio disc jockey. When she is mysteriously sent a wooden box containing a record from a group, known only as "The Lords", her world begins to spin violently out of control. The sounds within the grooves trigger flashbacks to the town's violent past. Heidi finds comfort in her fellow co- workers, Whitey (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Herman (Ken Foree). The apartment building she lives in, is ran by Lacy (Judy Geeson), a friend of Heidi's. Is Heidi going insane? Or are the Lords back, to take revenge on Salem, Massachusetts?
I was completely blown away by this film, and in my opinion, it's Rob Zombie's best film to date. It's completely different than anything he's done before. I was captivated with The Lords of Salem from beginning to end. There are so many dark undertones to this film (substance abuse, witchcraft, and the religious aspects), and the imagery had me in all. Rob Zombie recently described the film as, "If Ken Russell directed "The Shining." I have to completely agree with Rob on that description, but I would also like to add, the film gave me vibes of both Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby", and Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining." The Lords of Salem is beautifully shot by Brandon Trost (Halloween 2), and the haunting score by John5 is outstanding.
The acting in Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem, is one of my high points for the film. Sheri Moon Zombie does a great job, bringing a lot of emotion, and character to Heidi. One of my favorite scenes in the film, is with Whitey and Heidi's character. It's a phone call scene between the two of them, and Whitey is telling her how much she means to him, and how he will always be there for her. I sat there in the theater, and I actually teared up. Margaret Morgan (Meg Foster), the lead witch in the film, was so disturbing. She gave a fantastic performance, and really went for it. Megan (Patricia Quinn), Sonny (Dee Wallace), and Lacy (Judy Geeson) play sisters within the film. Patricia Quinn (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) gave one of my favorite performances in The Lords of Salem. Dee Wallace (Cujo) played a fun, self- help guru. It was nice seeing her in the film. Judy Geeson (To Sir, with Love), also does a great job here. She brings a lot of heart to the film. Mr. Matthias (Bruce Davison) plays a local author in the town. He gives a great performance, and really tries to help Heidi's character throughout.
The Lords of Salem is Rob Zombie's best screenplay. As I've said before, this movie is such a departure from what we have seen in the past. I was pleasantly surprised to see this movie wasn't riddled with all the typical Zombie "white trash" dialogue.
I can not recommend this movie enough. If you are able to see this on the big screen, do it. I myself, have already seen it three times in the theater and I can't get enough. No, not everyone is going to like this movie. I think people will either love it, or hate it. This is Rob Zombie's disturbing masterpiece that packs a royal punch, and leaves you thinking long and hard about what you just watched as you leave the theater. Highly Recommended.
Anyone who doesn't get this films needs to bone up on director Ken
Russell. Watch Altered States, watch Whore, watch The Devils.
Rosemary's baby also an obvious influence here.
I find House of 1000's Corpses to be a straightforward 80's slasher homage, with a comic influence.
Devil's Rejects recaptured grindhouse, kicking it up a few notches and combining it with anti-hero themes and the good old road movie.
This however, takes us back to the art horror stylings from the late 70's - early 80's... I get tastes of Jacob's Ladder surrealism and fugue states. Russells obvious religious and neon overtones, and his psychedelia and primal explorations. I even get a bit of the hags from macbeth.. beautiful.
You have 23, 32, 5-2 for some simple Robert Anton Wilson references.
An outstanding work. Most fans of recent commercial horror simply will not get this. I, however will be watching it again after rewatching all the films and directors I mention above and will surely watch it more than a few times after that.
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