After a late-night DJ (Sheri Moon Zombie) listens to a mysterious record that arrives in the mail, she starts having nightmarish hallucinations that may be tied to a coven of witches executed several hundred years ago.
I was cautiously optimistic going into this film. Even though I have really only liked one of his previous works – 2005's The Devil's Rejects – I wasn't ready to give up on him. It turns out that was a good thing, as I think The Lords of Salem is a huge leap forward for him artistically. The white trash caricatures, profuse swearing and MTV editing that usually populates his work has now been replaced with deliberate pacing and wall-to-wall atmosphere. This is helped along with a great score by Rob Zombie bandmate John 5 – including the droning, trance-inducing centerpiece – and the breathtaking cinematography by Brandon Trost. The latter cannot be stressed enough, as it recalls such classic horror films as The Shining, Rosemary's Baby and The Devils. Hopefully, you can now tell Zombie is striving for more than what he usually gives us.
What still remains is Zombie's penchant for casting veteral genre actors though, as they appear here in droves. They include the likes of Ken Foree, Meg Foster, Dee Wallace and Patricia Quinn and are a joy to watch. There were apparently many others that didn't make it into the film like Daniel Roebuck and the late Richard Lynch, so here's hoping those scenes are included on a future DVD release.
While it is true the narrative is paper-thin, it is clear that atmosphere was the priority on this project. To defend myself from sounding like a hypocrite, after basically condemning Berberian Sound Studio for the same thing, all I can say is I felt The Lords of Salem had intent and direction. Zombie's conclusion may not have the punch I was hoping for, but at least he made a clear choice. There were several points where it felt a little fragmented and unfinished, but I was always transfixed by the stunning visuals.
|Director Rob Zombie (left), actors Sheri Moon Zombie & Jeffrey Daniel Phillips and DP Brandon Trost.
I know a lot of people like to harp on Sheri Moon – even I had a hard time sitting through her portrayal of Baby in House of 1000 Corpses – but I thought she gave a solid performance here. Far from her usual shrill and abrasive demeanor, Heidi is much more restrained and unassuming, and it suited her.
Though I may have liked The Lords of Salem more for what it wasn't, than what it was, this is a step in the right direction for Rob Zombie. I am now kind of excited to see what he does with his next project, the seventies hockey flick, Broad Street Bullies.