The Lords Of Salem (2012)
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There was a massive (and somewhat surprising) separation of the fans over Rob Zombie's "Halloween" films: many fans claim that they are a mockery of all the things that were rich and original about the franchise, dismissing its roots for subpar acting, and abundance of ultra-violence and a lack of focus on all the things that made the original films scary. Others found them to be an amazingly intelligent envisioning of the same concepts that the series was already known for, though carefully reconstructing Michael Myers into a disturbingly realistic vision; replacing the pale "boogeyman" depiction of the character into something a bit more unnerving: a human. In the end, though, almost all of Rob Zombie's movies are painfully polarizing affairs that seem to split open hairline fractures in the horror community, and I feel that his latest film, "Lords of Salem", will undoubtedly (and sadly) carry-on that legacy.
Review by Ginose
Added: July 11, 2013
Under the journal narration of puritan reverend Jonathan Hawthorne , a gathering of (what appear to be) witches congregate in their revelry outside of the bounds of Salem, Massachusetts. Their perverse revelry is mentioned in disgust, by the reverend, who mentions he has a plan to stop them. Flash forward to 2012 local DJ, Heidi LeRoc, goes about her slow but otherwise charming life. She works a late-night shock radio show with her co-hosts Herman and Herman, leading to nights of frolic as they interview strange guests and entertains people with a number of shows pertaining to the strange and unbelievable aspects of their town. Before leaving the show, one night, Heidi is given a strange vinyl with nothing on the box but her (real) name. The vinyl is said to be from the Lords of Salem, assumed by the hosts to be a local band, and they decide to dedicate one of their "smash or trash" segments to it before even hearing it. However, upon listening to the record, Heidi becomes overwhelmed with visions that cause her physical illness, yet don't seem to appear to her friends. Beyond her unnerved and sickened feelings concerning the song, the music catches the ear of a recent guest of the show, in deep concern of what this music is or what it may mean for the people of Salem.
Much like ALL of Zombie's films to this point, "Lords of Salem" attaches itself to a number of styles (both visual and thematic) and ideas that were far more prominent in the distant past of horror; he takes a lot of queues from the Argento, Bava and Russel in his visuals: assaulting the senses with bizarre imagery, horrific cuts and a dreamlike aura that is supposed to resonate as much with us, the viewers, as it does with Heidi herself and these visuals are used to a great, GREAT effect... most of the time. Other times, however, we see the reach of Zombie's style, but not the grasp at which it attempts to seize us. It never loses focus, mind you, and Zombie is very much a director conditioned to trying to make his vision work under any circumstance (see "Halloween 2") regardless of whether or not it will stick with viewers, but the movie, as a whole, purposely attempts to confuse and misdirect at many points, for better or worse. See, as we are stuck operating within Heidi's mind more than we are simply outside viewers, we are left with many questions that aren't answered and, as far as we know, are actually irrelevant to the events that unfold; although this leads to some truly horrifying experiences, it also leaves us dazed, confused and frustrated when trying to better comprehend the overall story. Is that important? Depends on who you ask, but I feel that simply being left with a great number of questions by the films closing isn't a good thing, whether or not it was by design.
Performances, on the other hand, work PERFECTLY with this structure: Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, and Ken Foree have great chemistry both through the lighter and heavier moments in the movie, leaving no room for misinterpretation of their dynamic as both friends and long-time partners, and creating a lot more emotional resonance when bits of Heidi's past are brought to light, leaving everyone even more confused about the state of events transpiring around them. Meg Foster is phenomenal, for all the scenes the movie allots to her character, and brings life to the movie that I couldn't imagine anyone else could, in the role; both sweet and ominous at all times, there is no doubt that the role was written for her. Bruce Davidson seems to be loving his parts in the movie (maybe more than anyone else) but, admittedly, this also presents a strange problem in that his character and performance rarely operate on the same level of seriousness, leading to many sequences of Rob Zombie's trademark "am I fucking with you or not" storytelling. I liked this tone, here, but the ambiguity of the story elements mixed with this is... less fun than it was in the "Halloween" or Firefly family films, as it leaves us with a constant questioning of what is really working as a story element and what isn't.
The film knows what it is doing, even if you don't, and wants you to try and indulge in the descent into madness that you have brought yourself to. It looks great, it has a lot to consider (plot-wise), and it does so much more than you would expect from a modern horror film because, as I said, it doesn't want to BE a modern horror film. I'd say that "Lords of Salem" has a bit for everyone, but that would be inaccurate: it was made for horror fans. More specifically, this movie was made for Rob Zombie, and you'd better hope you're on the same wave-length when you watch it or... well, you'll just leave bitter.
- added 07/13/2013, 12:32 PM
This is definitely one of those movies that will
be very hit or miss. Honestly, it took me a while
to even decide whether or not I liked it, but
after letting it bounce around in my mind for a
while, I think I can say that I really liked it.
It's a very atmospheric flick and there are parts
that really stuck with me, so yeah, I'd definitely
recommend it. Not Zombie's best, but still quite
good - and Sheri Moon Zombie is actually becoming
a rather decent actress. 8/10.
- added 07/14/2013, 04:35 PM
I totally agree with your closing statement.
Myself and everyone I know who saw this film felt
the same way I did. Which was something along the
lines of, "I can't believe I just wasted time
and money on this utter piece of crap."
Polarized fans is right. After I got home from
watching this on opening weekend in a near empty
theater despite the fact that it was the only one
to host this movie in town, I had to look up some
reviews and try to understand what I might've
missed. Views were so spectacularly polarized, I
couldn't believe it.
Anyway, my biggest
problem with this movie was that what little
storyline it had was just a complete jumbled mess
that never came to a conclusion. I felt like this
movie must've been the subject of some extreme
rewrites and editing. Due to the length of time
it took to release it and things like, Sid Haig
being all, but completely edited out despite his
credit. It started off with some potential, but
ended up going nowhere. The pace was something
akin to a watching a special olympic hurdler who
then stumbles over the last few hurdles before
ending up completely flat on their face.
Seriously, the last half hour or so just looked
like some sort of hack job music video with a
bunch of naked old women in fat suits. I really
have no idea what the message or point of this
movie's existence is and the fact that it has
drawn comparisons to some very well know and
classic movies is just absurd to me.