Lordy, lordy, lordy- once upon a time I was in a place where Rob Zombie being attached to anything rather it was a new CD, a guest appearance or even his first movie drew me toward it like a moth to light. Over time I’ve grown out of that blind faith phase and I’ve become more cautious of Zombie’s creative material which I feel always has a level of ambition, it just isn’t hitting the sweet spot anymore. I respect Zombie as an artist even if his work isn’t doing it for me the way it used to and THE LORDS OF SALEM is no exception as his new film left me feeling very cold and confused and wondering if I’d missed a HUGE chunk of connective material that would make this thing make sense.
The film focuses on Heidi (Sherri Moon Zombie), a radio DJ at a rock station who is sent a mysterious box from a band that calls themselves The Lords and inside is a vinyl record that repeats the same series of ominous notes over and over. The records triggers a series of visions in Heidi that start to unravel her life in a frightening way and perhaps setting in motion something even more sinister in the process.
Zombie loves to put his wife into his movies and films and to some extent rightfully so as she is a very attractive woman and in THE LORDS OF SALEM she might be the best she’s been, but at the same time she’s not that great. Towards the end of the film she spends the vast majority of her screen time staring blankly and mumbling, which may very well be the best acting she’s done. On the other hand John David Phillips costars along Ken Foree and the two of them are criminally underused for as great as they are in supporting roles- Phillips especially.
Where Zombie failed in spades in terms of creativity with HALLOWEEN II he kind of excels in with THE LORDS OF SALEM- the problem being his creativity seems more like he’s trying to retell some kind of fever dream he had after a bad mushroom trip. There are some really cool scenes and ideas, but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of connective tissue holding them together as part of the same film. By the end of the film I felt like there had to be huge chunks of missing material or I’m just missing what Zombie is laying out for the audience to connect with.
My initial reaction to THE LORDS OF SALEM were overwhelmingly negative, so much so that it had me bummed enough to consider forgetting I’d watched it at all. The contributing factors being that I listed the film on my list of 2013 releases I was really excited for and yet I found myself wanting to walk away before the last act even started. After watching that last act I sort of wished I had because in short, I HATE the ending to this movie- to me it feels like the film becomes a parody of itself and of Zombie’s style in general and everything before it just felt like the director throwing weird stuff in for the sake of being weird and taking his style to the absolute ultimate height of ridiculousness. The saddest part is some of the weird things are insanely cool, but seemed to me to be pieces of a puzzle that belonged to an entirely different whole.
THE LORDS OF SALEM is not without some really interesting ideas and at least one pretty decent performance, but as a whole the film feels too disjointed and confusing to work. As a director and artist in general I have respect for Rob Zombie’s overall style, but here I feel like some of the aspects I don’t quite enjoy are magnified and thus lesson my enjoyment of the things I really love. THE LORDS OF SALEM is entirely too slow with little to no payoff, but visually it has moments that I find fascinating and haunting thus resulting in a frustrating experience that is ultimately my first big disappointment of the year.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)