Heidi, a radio DJ, is sent a box containing a record - a "gift from the Lords". The sounds within the grooves trigger flashbacks of her town's violent past. Is Heidi going mad, or are the Lo... Read allHeidi, a radio DJ, is sent a box containing a record - a "gift from the Lords". The sounds within the grooves trigger flashbacks of her town's violent past. Is Heidi going mad, or are the Lords back to take revenge on Salem, Massachusetts?Heidi, a radio DJ, is sent a box containing a record - a "gift from the Lords". The sounds within the grooves trigger flashbacks of her town's violent past. Is Heidi going mad, or are the Lords back to take revenge on Salem, Massachusetts?
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.
- May 3, 2013