I got the pleasure of viewing Rob Zombie’s ‘The Lords of Salem’ earlier than my U.S. counterparts and was really looking forward to see what the newest offering from Zombie had to give me. I know Zombie has a lot of people out there that really does not like his work and detest his remakes of the Halloween franchise. For me personally, I have liked his stuff on the whole, though I can’t say I am a ‘No questions asked.” loyalist to his work as I know many are. I have even liked his first remake of Halloween and thought H2 was flawed but not in the way that many others seem to think. I think Zombie has always had a unique take on things, a cool visual style to his work and he is very knowledgeable about the horror film genre from the 70’s and earlier.
So when I had heard about the ‘The Lords of Salem’ I felt it would suit Zombie very well and fit right into the style he is known for since many of the horror movies from the 70’s time period dealt with Satan worship and occult themes. So how did the movie sit with me after my viewing? Well I have to admit, not very well. Let’s stir this cauldron up and mix us some witch’s brew. You are going to need a strong drink for this one.
‘The Lords of Salem’ centers around the character of Heidi (played by Sheri Moon Zombie) who is a radio talk show DJ in Salem, Massachusetts that hosts a variety of guests talking about occult subject matter but also has all the corny sound effects and humor you find in early morning talk shows. They even have a black metal guest on that plays right into the stereotypical black metal, church burner from Norway archetype to the nth degree. You know even for the black metal guys that are anti-church I don’t think would be as extreme as this dude here and the whole talk radio thing seemed too corny for my tastes and would have been better served to be played a little bit more toned down.
Anyway, Heidi receives a strange package one day at the station that has a vinyl record in it by ‘The Lords’ that when played has some sort of strange music that seems to affect the women of the town. When Heidi has a guest on to talk about his new book about the witches of Salem from the past he hears the music and later does research into what it is all about which is used to propel part of the story.
As the movie progresses we are treated to flash scenes that show a) Some of the past of Salem and offer to fill in the story and b)To give the film the Rob Zombie visual effects and style he is known for, except here compared to his other movies I feel are more tame or ineffective. Now do not get me wrong, there is bizarre stuff here and there is some gory stuff but none of it made me feel like, “Oh man this movie just went off the deep end and makes me wonder what is going on.” Instead some of the stuff seemed a little forced and especially with one character whose sole purpose in the movie just seemed to be there as a vehicle to show the viewer more of what happened in the 1600’s than to really function as a serviceable role in the movie. We also have some tacked on love story that meant nothing and did nothing.
As for the story I think it’s one of the easier to follow stories Zombie has written. Zombie does place in scenes that are strange, weird and symbolic but overall the story is easily followed and I was able to figure out kind of what was going to happen pretty early. This is also what hurts the film. Zombie’s original films tended to have some things in them that were kind of…unexplainable, which in his case helped his films (Though others would disagree). In ‘The Lords of Salem’, the story is really nothing that we haven’t seen before and it doesn’t leave us wondering much. Towards the end we see some strange scenes that are very odd and have all kinds of weird ass shit going on but also those scenes contain certain segments that are symbolic to what is happening to the Heidi character. Mainly I think it’s because Zombie didn’t want to show his wife in certain sexual situations, so he wrote the scenes we see for this in a symbolic way.
Zombie said some people have claimed to need to see the film again to figure out what is going on. Honestly, I don’t see why. The message and story is plain and simple. If you are looking to find out the meaning of some of Zombie’s unique visual style in some of the flash scenes, don’t, because honestly there isn’t much there to find meaning too.
I found ‘The Lords of Salem’ to be a little light, for the most part, for Rob Zombie though it had some strange things in it he is known for but nothing was particularly outstanding either. The story was basic once you take out Zombie’s visual flair (which isn’t as overt as in other films until the very end) and the movie is also a very slow moving piece while only clocking in a little over an hour and a half.
I feel even for some Rob Zombie fans this may turn out to be a little disappointing to them. The movie is slow, predictable and kind of boring. On top of all this we get to see burned(?) corpses dressed as priests jerking off (and yes we get to see an eyeful of cock here) and naked witches that are not pretty to behold in any way. If the movie was good I could at least handle the naked, haggard witches but if the movie is going to be like this at least put in the 70’s exploitation naked witches to give me something to look forward too.
Send these witches to the stake and fry them up…I’m done.