I know that many people are and those people will probably watch this film regardless of what I have to say. It’s nothing to do with his music, I love a good head bang now and again, it’s entirely to do with his previous movies, all of which I have ultimately hated.
Until The Lords of Salem that is.
But lets go back to his first two outings, writing and directing horror films House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects – both of which I believed to be overblown, puerile, derivative wastes of celluloid, as boring as they where badly scripted and shot.
Like a kid in a candy shop Zombie threw everything bar the blood splattered kitchen sink in his first features, none of it hitting the mark horror or otherwise. This was mainly due to the terrible anti-hero characters he had created in both, all of whom inspired nothing but indifference.
Next up was his Halloween reboot which although never touched the sublime brilliance of Carpenter’s original did at least try in its first act to offer up some originality by demystifying Michael Myers. To do this he created a back story showing him as an abused boy, always fated to grow up to be a psychopath.
Zombie’s failure here came in making Myer’s too likable and understandable so that in the second act – where we were introduced to a bland band of teenage idiots – the audience, after seeing Myer’s sad life story for so long, had no sympathies for them. This left us with a mundane rehash of the original that left you crying out for Jamie Lee Curtis to come in and cut them all down. Oh and Halloween II wasn’t much better.
You can understand then that it was with a heavy dose of cynicism and a terrific amount of trepidation that I sat down to watch Zombie’s latest offering, The Lords of Salem. Thankfully I can truly say it seems that the Robert Bartleh Cummings (for that is the name he was born with) has finally delivered a well made, grown up, interesting and entertaining horror movie.
The story revolves around Heidi (wife and long time collaborator Sheri Moon Zombie), a DJ on a local radio show who receives a strange record in a wooden box one day marked for her attention with a note simply saying ‘A gift from the Lords’.
When Heidi plays it the music has a dramatic effect on her triggering a hypnotic state, strange hallucinations, ill health and frightening flashbacks all of which grow gradually worse and worse.
With her fellow DJ’s worried that she has relapsed back to her old drug addiction Heidi is alone in the increasingly strange and frightening world that her life is becoming and left wondering what is hidden in Apartment 5. Why are her landlady her friends so interested in her health? And how does all this connect to the dark Satanic past of Salem and its persecuted witches?
Wonderfully well shot, Zombie seems to have finally matured as both a director and writer, and the story with its flashbacks to the 1696 witch trials, thrown together with the creepy goings on in Heidi’s life (resulting in her descent into madness and despair) is well scripted and realised, especially due to Sheri Moon’s gripping and realistic performance.
With its slow build, tense scenes and in-depth character development, The Lords of Salem gives nods to Dario Argento, Roman Polanski and Ken Russell and is reminiscent of the brilliant Berbarian Sound Studio, not only in its sonic subject matter and excellent soundtrack provided by John 5 but also in its distinctly European feel and psychedelic freak outs.
Alongside his wife, Zombie has gathered an excellent and eclectic cast with Jeff Daniel Phillips, X-Men’s Bruce Davison and horror cult legends like From Beyond and Dawn of the Dead’s Ken Foree, Inseminoid’s Judy Geeson, Meg Foster from They Live, Patricia Quinn from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Howling’s Dee Wallace and Predator 2 and Running Man star Maria Conchita Alonso – all of whom are brilliant.
With its Satanism, wicked witchcraft and truly unsettling ending, both The Lords of Salem and Rob Zombie deliver a creepy, scary, mind trip of a movie that although perhaps not entirely original or perfect, has more impact, entertainment and innovation than all of his previous films put together.
Thanks to The Lords of Salem I am now a fan of Rob Zombie.