Rob Zombie can finally say he’s made the best horror film of the year. Well….so far.
The Lords of Salem
Rob Zombie’s latest expedition into the horror genre, The Lords of Salem, is something to behold. Long gone is his use of brutal violence, his zany, wild and unpredictable characters who spout off colorful dialogue that most would struggle to say in front of their grandma. Uncle Bob dials it back a bit here and it’s by far the best film he’s made yet.
Sherri Moon Zombie (Uncle Bob’s real life wife) plays Heidi Hawthorne, a recovering drug addict who works the night shift on a radio show in Salem, Massachusetts. Heidi happens to live in one of those old, spooky horror movie apartments where there can only be so much light, otherwise it’s just not spooky enough. Heidi has one hell of a mysterious land lord, Lacy Doyle, played by Judy Geeson. Geeson is fantastic in this. Whenever she engages Heidi there always seems to be some kind of ulterior motive. Whether it’s said with her lips or with her eyes, something is never what it seems with her.
One night at work Heidi receives a record from a mysterious band called “The Lords”. Heidi ends up playing the record on the air that night. There exists a great scene in the film where people all over Salem listening to the radio, stop what they are doing because they are so put off by what they are hearing. Something about the collective dread being experienced by people all over town really hit home with me.
Heidi soon slowly falls under a mystifying spell and soon her life descends into hell. Zombie fills his film with some breathtaking set pieces that explode off the screen in vibrant fashion. In one instance, Heidi goes to a church for solace only to find herself being forced to perform oral sex on a priest that has been demonically possessed. In another Heidi happens into the wrong apartment in her building whose sole illumination is a bright neon cross with a massive Yeti-like monster standing behind her breathing portentously. Soon the spell Heidi is under becomes one that enraptures the audience.
I must reiterate how much better Zombie has gotten at filmmaking. He shows a real restraint here that is missing from his previous efforts. The Lords of Salem moves at a snail’s pace, but is never boring. Credit goes to Zombie for filling his film with fantastic sets and interesting characters. The pace of the film is also perfected by Zombie’s flawless atmosphere. Nearly every scene in the film is filled with dread and you never feel comfortable watching this movie.
While I do like The Lords of Salem a lot, the final 20 minutes of the film are insane (and mostly in a bad way). There is imagery in the finale that I will not ruin because you’ll be hard pressed to find a more outrageous ending than the one found here. There are parts of the finale that go a little too far. The pacing of the first hour and twenty minute are measured while everything that follows is escalated to fast cuts, silly animation and outrageous scenes of debauchery. The debauchery stuff doesn’t really bother me; it’s the way it’s presented. It feels more like a music video for White Zombie circa 1992, than an homage to Ken Russell and Alejandro Jodorowsky. This, however, is only a small complaint as most of the film worked for me. Rob Zombie can finally say he’s made the best horror film of the year. Well….so far.