The Lords of Salem
The Lords of Salem
2013. Directed by Rob Zombie.
Zombie's strongest film yet, The Lords of Salem is a grotesquerie of 70's demonic cult imagery tied together by bloody threads of acid surrealism.
Heidi is a recovering heroin addict who works as a radio DJ. She receives a strange album from a band called The Lords of Salem. Once she listens to the record, she begins a horrific odyssey filled with witches, sex, murder, and musical malady.
Zombie stated that he was going for "The Shining directed by Ken Russell". The Lords of Salem was critically divisive and it's for this reason that I think it is Zombie's best film and shows that he is evolving. This is an insane movie. On one hand, it's an homage to the 70's shock thrillers and on the other it's an experiment with various mediums and concepts, making it ridiculous at times an extremely slick at others.
Zombie's wife, Sheri Moon Zombie stars as Heidi. I'm often divided on her acting abilities and can't decide if she's being awful on purpose or if I'm missing something. This film changed my mind. Her husband has a lot of pokers in the fire and Moon simply gives into the fevered narrative with a courageous and risque performance. It's obvious in every frame she inhabits that she trusts her husband implicitly and commits to every devilish delight with a focused symmetry. In one breath she's an amateur detective trying to get to the heart of the terror and in the next she's a hopeless drug fiend stumbling into the apocalypse.
The cast is rounded out by many of Zombie's collaborators. Ken Foree, Dee Wallace, Meg Foster, Maria Conchita Alonzo, Jeff Daniels Phillips, Judy Geeson, and Bruce Davison all contribute to the madness, with Davison stealing the show as an academic whose pursuit of the truth may be his damnation.
Brandon Trost's cinematography is on fire. There are so many shots that take the concepts of other, greater films, and manipulate them into Zombie's vision of hell on earth, or more precisely, hell in apartment number 5. The colors are all over the place, with putrid browns, sickly whites, and sticky reds exploding across the screen. Neon is also a factor and serves as an aphrodisiac to Zombie's potent mind bending sequences.
John 5's non-intrusive score is haunting, but never steals your attention away from the insidious acts on display. Lori Mauzer's set design and Leah Butler's costume design both help to keep the story grounded in the dingy reality of the haunted Salem. It's gross, smelly, and you always feel like this is a place where people disappear into the night. Michelle Chung's makeup design was one of the highlight's bringing some gruesome monstrosities to the forefront.
Available for digital rental, The Lords of Salem is a film for pure horror enthusiasts. It aims very high and mostly hits the mark, however where it doesn't is what will turn off anyone who's not into horror films or a Zombie devotee. If you're still interested, and are comfortable leaving a film with more questions than answers, then The Lords of Salem won't disappoint, but it may drag you to hell.