Movie Review: THE LORDS OF SALEM!!

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Rob Zombie’s THE LORDS OF SALEM isn’t for everyone. In fact, the film isn’t for a lot of people. If there’s one film this year that I can say that I would understand if people DIDN’T like it, it would be this one. That being said, for those who do see it for what it is, and for those who the film DOES find a way to connect with, then I can also understand how they might feel how I do…and that is, that the film is a VISUAL MASTERPIECE.

THE LORDS OF SALEM follows Heidi Hawthorne (Sherri Moon Zombie, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, HALLOWEEN) a former drug addict who works as one of the three member ‘Big H Radio Team’, along with Herman ‘Whitey’ (Jeff Daniel Phillips, HALLOWEEN 2, one of TV’s Cavemen) and Herman ‘Munster’ (Ken Foree, DAWN OF THE DEAD, FROM BEYOND). Already having a tough time emotionally, Heidi receives a mysterious record from a group only known as ‘The Lords’, and upon playing it on the air, her world goes straight to hell faster than ever, as a coven of witches that were executed in the 17th century come back, ready to exact revenge.
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That’s about all of the plot that I’m going to give away, because as strange as this might sound, the fact is that plot really sits backseat to visual aesthetics. Are there story issues, hell to the yes, some people really don’t even need to be in the film, but like I said, this film is pure art. THE LORDS OF SALEM feels like the first film that Zombie has done, that he was allowed to go all out and do whatever the hell he wanted, without people telling him what he could or couldnt do. It’s a satanic visual nightmare from start to finish, full of some of the most vibrant, yet deeply disturbing scenery put to film.

It’s also insanely different, stylistically, from Rob’s previous films. Gone are the white-trash characters, the shaky handheld approach and the over-use of the word ‘fuck’ that made up for a lot of Zombie’s previous films (don’t get me wrong, THE DEVILS REJECTS is one of my favorite films but there isn’t even a hint of that here). Instead, LORDS gives us really contained, wide-shots, as well as subtle performances, and an even endearing subplot involving Whitey wanting to be there for Heidi. The chemistry between them is good, and though it’s not as fleshed out as it could be, it does leave a somber feeling, when the film heads into a bleak as hell ending (if you thought for a second that the film would end on a happy note, then you’re going to the wrong movie). While Zombie’s earlier films seemed to be heavily inspired by ’70s exploitation fare, LORDS feels much closer to a hybrid of Argento/Jodorowski, and even a good deal of Polanksi thrown it for good measure.
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Like I said it’s not for everyone, and after seeing it, it makes complete sense why it would be in limited release, because it’s far from a mainstream feeling movie. With that being said, it’s a visual work of art, and if THE LORDS OF SALEM is Zombie’s last horror film, like he’s said..then Rob definitely went out with a bang.

*editor’s note: Fellow Icons staffer Norberto wanted to add some of his thoughts as well, so here’s Norberto!*

NORBERTO:

So it’s been well after 12 hours since I experienced Rob Zombie’s THE LORDS OF SALEM and I still can’t stop thinking about it. There are scenes and imagery from the film that keep popping in and out of my head. I’ve always had a love/hate reaction to Zombie’s past films, until now. I finally feel I’ve experienced a true piece of art. Those who are expecting Rob Zombie’s usual fast paced, foul-mouthed, humorous, action packed films will either be very disappointed or relieved. This film is not for everyone and will offend and disturb many.

THE LORDS OF SALEM revolves around Heidi Hawthorne, who while battling a drug addiction and working a full-time job as a one of the popular personalities of a DJ radio show called the ‘Big H’, gets sent a mysterious vinyl record titled ‘The Lords’. When the music on the record is played, it not only directly affects any females who are listening, but completely rapes and consumes Heidi, and as darkness slowly settles in around her in different forms, she spirals down into the depths of hell and madness to her unknown fate!
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I went into THE LORDS OF SALEM with no expectations. I did not know what to expect and came out of the experience completely impressed! THE LORDS OF SALEM is an unsettling, horrific masterpiece that pays much respect to the historic art and mythology of the witches we see in ancient paintings and drawings in occult books. Zombie did a great job mimicking and breathing life into the dark art with great direction! Patricia Quinn and Meg Foster give powerful, unforgettable performances that will haunt your dreams, and Sherri Moon Zombie gives her best performance to date.

You can see Zombie’s inspiration stemming from Ken Russell, Stanley Kubrick, Mario Bava , Dario Argento and Alejandro Jodorowsky tainted through this film with fresh originality and modern flare that’s not overbearing or pretentious. THE LORDS OF SALEM succeeds in its visual brilliance. There are shots that are so hypnotically intoxicating, I was left in awe! One shot specifically, without spoiling the ride, slowly takes you out of an isolated, claustrophobic space to an vastly open space of intricate beauty laced with a hidden ugliness that blends so well,it plays tricks with your eyes and it’s overwhelming to take in. The film bounces back and forth from being visually stimulating with scenes saturating the viewer with startling imagery to dark, ugly nightmarish scenes of occult mayhem and madness. This balance works well with taking the viewer into a trance into horror that builds into an extremely disturbing experience.

Epic in mood, visuals and atmosphere. Rob Zombie’s THE LORDS OF SALEM is a piece of modern occult cinema that needs to be experienced on the big screen. Scary, tension-filled and hallucinogenic, it’s Rob Zombie’s slow-burn occult horror masterpiece that will induce nightmares and make your skin crawl and haunt you for days to come. I cant wait to see it again! The witches you fear and hope don’t exist have been summoned in this film. Be forewarned, the nice and generous ladies living next door might not be who they seem to be.

THE LORDS OF SALEM is now playing in limited theatrical release via Anchor Bay/Momentum Pictures