Saturday, August 1, 2015

Lords of Salem (2013)

**** (out of 4 stars)

Rob Zombie's latest film, Lords of Salem, is quite frankly, superb.

Setting aside the incessant negative criticism that Rob Zombie has received, Lords of Salem is a masterpiece.

I'm talking every single frame of film.  From the dreary setting of Salem, Mass., to the unsettling score by Zombie guitarist, John 5, to the exceptional cinematography by Brandon Trost. Even the acting, especially by the lead, Sherri Moon Zombie.  She plays Heidi, a nightly radio DJ.  After receiving a record by a band named The Lords, she starts to experience ghastly visions that she cannot fathom.  Visions of a hairy behemoth bathed in red light, or Satan himself - a little disfigured monstrosity, naked witches with sagging flesh and rotten teeth, or tentacled creatures that don't resemble anything earthly.

We're on this odd journey with Heidi.  We sympathize with her.  We jump on and go for the ride because that's what good acting allows.  We're put in the situations; we feel alone and vulnerable.  We're left in the dark because the oddities and horrors that take place are unknown.

Zombie starts to pull back the curtain after a little bit.  We start to get little morsels of information about what the hell is really going on.  It seems as though there's a three hundred year old grudge.

The real witches of Salem were condemned and killed; approximately 20 people.  There was no evidence that anything supernatural was going on.  They were killed because of anger, fear, jealousy and ignorance.  Nothing more.  But the witches in Lords of Salem are brewing some nasty stuff.  They're evil, make no mistake about it.  The equally reprehensible Reverend Jonathan Hawthorne kills Margaret Morgan and her coven of witches.  As they're cooked and charred on the stake, they vow to avenge themselves by placing a curse on the generations of women to come in Salem.

The camera moves in and out.  A lot.  It's taking us on a tour with the characters and their surroundings.  The apartment that Heidi lives in, especially the dreaded room 5, is a character itself.  Those slow moves with the camera give the hallway a creepy vibe, much like what Kubrick did in The Shining.  It's like slowly walking to death's door.  Embracing the unknown.

Zombie's direction, the pace of the editing, the uncompromising score, makes this one hell of a compelling film to follow.  Every scene is building a new layer, yet revealing something more.

There really is no defending Halloween II but I'd say that Zombie has built a strong filmography since his debut, House of 1,000 Corpses.

Understand that whenever we see a new movie it's always paying homage to something that came before it.  That's how it's always been with film.  Nothing will be completely new or original.  Yes, some come closer than others but in most cases cinema will rely on what it has given us.  And even though you shed some old ideas and pick them back up, you must mold them into your own.

I see tons of Kubrick, Polanski and Russell in Lords of Salem.  I see the similarities that I'm sure were put there purposely.  That doesn't mean the movie is any less good.  It stands on its own two feet, and I do believe that one day it will be considered a modern classic.  How many good films are out there about the Salem witch trials?  This is the best.  Fictional or otherwise.

The horror genre, much like Heidi, isn't doing too well these days.

Lords of Salem is that rare gem that pretty much went unnoticed when it came out.  I'd take that over some of the garbage being put out regularly.

It's like a shiny gold nugget on top of a pile of steamy excrement.

Starring:  Sherri Moon Zombie, Meg Foster and Bruce Davison

Written and directed by:  Rob Zombie


101 min


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