In twenty years from now, people will fondly remember The Lords of Salem as Rob Zombie’s true breakthrough movie. On a little independent release, Rob has overcome a challenging budget of two and a half million, and used his sheer creativity to make a lasting impression on the viewer. If nothing else, you gotta give respect to the man for both his fan boy love affair with horror movies and his own twisted imagination. The Lords of Salem shows that Rob’s through this a few times now. This is actually his fifth live action horror feature. 1000 Corpses was his experiment; his love letter to the genre he adores so clearly. Sure, it cost around a cool $7 million, and investors probably didn’t earn as much as they hoped off it’s hide, but it did find an audience.
The more critically acclaimed sequel was a road movie that even the haters seem to get behind. The Devil’s Rejects was a step in a different direction for sure. A fly on the wall show and tell of how the crazy half live, on the fun from the law and thirsty for blood. Why get into the Halloween thing? You either respect his effort or you take it personally. Whatever. The beauty about Zombie’s films to this point, is that their timeline narrates his fate, so to speak. Which leads me to ‘The Lords‘…
This time, Rob’s more attractive half, Mrs. Sheri Moon Zombie, plays a local radio rock chick called Heidi. She receives a strange vinyl record from a group known as “The Lords”. She plays it on her show, and all the town’s females tuning in fall into a hypnotic trance, and Heidi in particular starts getting harassed by satanic forces, trippie halucinations, and ofcourse, the neighbourly witch and her coven of twisted sisters.
Shit gets real. Real creepy. Real fast. The first act is flawlessly plotted. A solid introduction to a vulnerable woman, drifting through her thirties. Sheri does a great job of toning down that old cliché of playing a recovering drug addict. The first half of the second act is just bloody horrific. Rob Zombie really sells it. Public burnings and satanic births have never been so visual. The hallucinations begin subtle, teasing you to question the authenticity of what you’re seeing. An exchange between our lead and a man of the cloth is a prime example of superb execution and payoff. For the most part, the story is built on a solid foundation and driven ambition.
Unfortunately, The Lords of Salem isn’t without it’s bum nuggets. Whereas Meg Foster proves capable of nailing the more tongue in cheek dialogue as the demented Salem Witch: Margaret Morgan, the other cast members get things feeling a bit hammy during the film’s latter scenes. There are some scenes that should have been toned down a little, asking us to use our imagination to fill in the blanks, but no, there’s some unnecessary art house imagery spliced in here and there, but to be honest, I never turned out. The flow of the story never felt disrupted. I think the only threat posed for ’The Lords of Salem’, is that films like ’Saw’, ’Hostel’ and ’Paranormal Activity’ have set trends that have ultimately desensitised the market. They’re great movies, but almost everything that has followed has been the same old, same old. That’s pop culture for you.
‘The Lords of Salem’ basks within it’s originality, but it’s short term success will be restricted by it’s budget and inevitably quiet initial distribution. Mark my words though, twenty years from now people. This has cult classic written all over it, and I have no doubt that given the trust of a big league producer, a known cast and backing from a major distributor like Lions Gate, Rob Zombie could very well take us back to our childhoods, to the very first time we watched ‘The Wicker Man’, or ‘The Exorcist’, or ‘Child’s Play’. Those were the days. If he learns from his mistakes and continues to work hard as he did on ‘The Lords’, Rob Zombie could go on to do great things. If he were to quit tomorrow, at least he could say that he’s had a go, and money was never his goal.