Saturday, April 20, 2013

FILM REVIEW: The Lords of Salem (2012)


Rob Zombie is back with The Lords of Salem. Well...actually...I wouldn't really say "back"...like he's BACK. More like Rob Zombie has a new movie out called The Lords of Salem. Because...that's what this really is...just another movie by Rob Zombie with satanic priests jerkin' their collective prosthetic penises to the image of Sheri Moon Zombie riding a goat.

 
Now before we get into the prosthetic penises and goats...let's talk about the set up here.
 
Mr. Zombie actually had the idea for this film years ago. Apparently, after his very terrible Halloween  sequel...he was sort of sitting around looking for something to do when the studios came up to him and told him that he could pretty much do whatever he wanted. Just as long as it was cheap. And supernatural. So, he remembered his scattered ideas about Salem witches, a satanic heavy metal band and a radio station and basically wrote the entire script based on those things. Then...he watched The Shining  again and wanted to shoe horn dramatic cinematography and sweeping cameras into his movie...and here we are.
 
The Lords of Salem  starts off interestingly enough with a coven of witches led by Meg Foster's Margaret Morgan who are busy plotting the return of Satan...and getting nekkid. I would like to say how absolutely awesome it is to see Meg Foster in a horror movie. I've always loved her intense acting and have forever thought that her eyes would be mesmerizing in a horror film. So, here she is...playing the head witch in charge. And stealing the entire film from the lead role, while doing so.

 
Speaking of lead roles, the film cuts right to Sheri Moon Zombie's ass after the title card. A scene that didn't shock me in the slightest, given Rob's obsession with his wife's lovely backside. And lovely it is. Here, her ass is paired with a nice set of thigh-high socks....which is a personal fetish of mine. While we're on the subject of Sheri's ass....there's a scene later on in the film where she's seen laying on her couch (backside up, of course) and the boxers that she's wearing are pulled down a bit. Almost as if Rob insisted that her ass be on display as much as possible. Not that I'm complaining here. Sheri's a stunning beauty, and it's cool to see her in dreadlocks...just thought it to be a little distracting to her performance. And speaking of Sheri's performance, she really isn't bad in the film. her character of Heidi Hawthorne basically carries the entire picture on her shoulders...so, it's sort of crucial that you develop a relationship with her role. Unfortunately, she isn't really a great actress...so, the film feels a little lost at times when you're forced to rely mostly on her nice ass and her kind charm.
 
However, there are other memorable performances throughout the film. Rocky Horror Picture Show's Patricia Quinn shows up as a fortune telling sister to Heidi's landlord, Lacy...played by 70's exploitation film actress Judy Geeson. In fact, that's one of Zombie's very special gifts...the ability to cast the right talent for the right role. Barbara Crampton, Dee Wallace, Udo Kier,  as well as Zombie regulars Ken Foree and Sid Haig. Hell...he even got Maria Conchita Alonso and Michael Berryman to appear in the same film! Zombie's films have always been a veritable who's who of long-forgotten cult actors and Lords  is definitely no exception. It's just too bad they all feel a bit squandered in this film.
 
Anyway, Heidi is a radio DJ who gets a sinister-looking album by "The Lords" one day and plays it on the air...releasing a stream of intoxicating evil throughout Salem...thus hypnotizing the cunting daughters of the infamous town. It's not long before the true intentions of the Lords are known and Bruce Davison shows up as author Francis Matthias, who coincidentally wrote a book about witches himself, trying to figure out what these witches want from a historical figure.


There's also a little side plot involving Heidi's battle with her inner drug addict that adds to the depth of her struggle and provides a good distraction for her sorta boyfriend "Whitey", played by the talented and bearded Jeff Daniel Phillips.

The thing with The Lords of Salem  is that it's not a bad film. It's shot nicely and it is perhaps Zombie's most ambitious film yet. My biggest gripe is the pacing of the film as well as some of the script decisions. It's kind of all over the place. It all feels like a drunken old man telling a story with detailed conviction...while constantly weaving in and out of consciousness. It is a tedious horror film to sit through...which is crazy, being that it's a Rob Zombie film. And it never takes full advantage of the beautifully eerie Salem environments. It mostly takes place in Heidi's apartment, which hampers the entire scope of the film. Argento had the sense to expand his horizons in his own films. Creating seemingly epic productions. When you watch Suspiria, you feel like the film is so much bigger than it actually is and you lose yourself in all of the visuals...all because of Argento's brilliant eye for atmosphere and spacious sets. In Lords, Zombie tries his best to replicate this same idea but ends up creating more of a claustrophobic feel. And whenever he does try to shoe horn scope...it feels forced. There's one scene where "Whitey" pedals his ass all the way out to some goddamn dock...just to make a phone call to Heidi. The scene looks beautiful...but, was it really necessary for the story? It just feels like a sludgy throwback to all those great artsy horror films of the late 70's.

Some of the reveals felt kind of uninspired, too. There's one scene where Heidi is to be offered to the supreme dark lord...and without giving anything away, the scene comes off more ridiculous than fear-inspiring. Laughter erupted from the audience I watched the film with. And when Zombie attempts to disturb, it comes off more late night music video than anything truly terrifying. I found myself chuckling whenever the masturbating satanic priests appeared...knowing full well that the intended reaction was supposed to be utter shock. It's not that Zombie's a bad filmmaker by any stretch of the imagination. Perhaps he just needs someone else to write his films.

The Lords of Salem  is not a bad film. It's just not as great as it should have been. Whenever Rob Zombie is great, we get stuff like The Devil's Rejects. But, when he's terrible...Halloween 2. This is far from Halloween 2...but, it is still a disappointing film, nonetheless. That trailer I watched promised a great fucking film...not this. Recommended as a $5 matinee for the hardcore Zombie fans out there. And...yes, Sheri Moon Zombie rides a goat.


 



Thanks for reading,

bryan.





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