If you’ve been reading my reviews on this site, then you know that I’m not that big fan of the horror genre. Sure, there are many horror films I love, but I don’t love them BECAUSE they’re horror films, which is how many of these genre fans are. That said, I would say that I’m a fan of Rob Zombie as a director. I have given all of his films favorable reviews. Yes, even HALLOWEEN II, which I found to be a crazy, fucked-up film. I also got a kick out of Malcolm McDowell in that one. Anyway, I like it best when Zombie is working with something completely original (rather than an already existing franchise), so I was pretty pumped when I saw the trippy teaser trailer for THE LORDS OF SALEM. This was one of my most anticipated films for the early part of this year.
Sheri Moon Zombie (or course) plays a hip disc jockey named Heidi. She has tattoos, listens to Velvet Underground and has cool paintings of old silent films all over her apartment. One night on her radio show, she gets an album from a supposed local band to play called The Lords. It turns out there’s some weird subliminal shit on there causing Heidi to have hallucinations and eventually making her nuts by the end of the movie. Heidi also has a crazy landlady with 2 crazy sisters, who may or may not be witches. Oh yeah, there’s also a prologue that flashes back to a witch trial and we get to see some witches burn. There’s also a guy named Francis (played by Bruce Davison, quite well actually) who wrote a book about the Salem Witch trials who’s trying to figure out what the hell is going on with Heidi. Meanwhile, Heidi has dreams (or are they) that involve naked witches, Priests who demand blowjobs, and beast-like midgets. All of this is connected somehow….. and good luck figuring it out.
I get it. I know it’s not supposed to make literal sense. Zombie set out to make one fucked up movie, and in that regard, he succeeded. This movie is fucking strange. I would like to say that I admire Zombie for doing something out of the box here…. even for him. This isn’t a slasher genre or anything that’s accepted by the mainstream public (maybe even to mainstream horror fans). It’s a movie that people are going to outright reject because it’s so odd and weird. Things happen for seemingly no reason. But I think there is a method to Zombie’s madness here. He’s obviously influenced by international horror films like ones made by Fulci and Hammer studios. His direction is also quite different from his past films. There’s no rapid cutting going on, but a lot of slow-moving dolly shots, which add to the eerie atmosphere.
However, the movie isn’t really good. I appreciate what he was going for, but unfortunately Zombie fails in his execution. If you cut the film down to about 25 minutes, highlighting all the crazy imagery, and turn down the sound, you might have an entertaining experimental film. But there IS dialogue and it’s NOT very good (there’s a reason why no one really talks during the trailer).
The big problem here is that Sheri Moon Zombie sucks! I’ve like her in his previous films, but she’s always (more or less) been supporting. Here, she’s front and center. Now, when the picture started I got excited when I saw here. That’s because she was completely naked wearing nerd glasses. And with her dreads and tattoos……… “YES PLEASE, I’ll take one of those!” But as soon as she opens her mouth, YIKES! She struggles making the most simplest of lines sound natural. Lines like “What?” and “Hello” sound completely forced. There are many scenes with her trying to be fun and hip, and they come across very amateurish. I hate to say it, but she’s one of the major problems with this movie.
That’s not to say that the movie could be saved by casting someone who could actually act. I had a problem with the whole story actually. For one, it’s not scary. Now, this could be my personal taste, but this whole cult horror sub-genre just doesn’t do it for me. I end up laughing at things more often than not. When old witches started cackling and whining, I did start to giggle. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be laughing. Probably not.
And there’s more bad acting to be found from Dee Wallace (the mom from E.T.), and Meg Foster (though I had fun laughing at her overacting). I did like Jeff Daniel Phillips as Heidi’s closest friend/co-worker, and they have a nice exchange toward the end of the movie. I also liked some of the crazy images that Zombie came up with during the final 15 minutes, involving pig heads and naked fat bitches. I do think it’s cool that Zombie WENT that far. So cool in fact, that I feel bad that I didn’t like it. I really, really wanted to. I think this is going to test even the most avid and obscure horror fan’s patience. Because even at 100 minutes, this movie is really tedious, feeling nearly twice as long. Though I do think there will be a few followers. In fact, the people that do like this movie are REALLY going to like it. But I’m sure it’ll only be a small percentage of moviegoers that do.
I’m glad Zombie set out to make the movie he wanted to make. That’s admirable. Technically, I think he’s grown as a filmmaker. And as always, he throws several awesome old 70’s tunes throughout. He also does a lot of stunt casting as usual. I like that. It’s nice to see actors like Maria Conchita Alonso and Patricia Quinn in a theatrical film again. Zombie is a big movie buff and his passion can be seen here. But to be blunt, the film just doesn’t work.
It’s brave, bold, ambitious….. and not very good. But I liked his other movies, so let’s just hope that this was a rare misfire. ★½ (out of ★★★★)
– Rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some drug use.
– Running time: 1hr 40min.