Directed by Rob Zombie
The usually hyped-up and rambunctious Midnight Madness crowd at the Toronto International Film Festival fell into an eerily silent, spellbound state as they witnessed the premiere of Rob Zombie’s latest project, The Lords of Salem, and it’s safe to say this will be Zombie’s most-talked about horror film to date as it is certainly the most polarizing project of his career.
The Lords of Salem tells the story of late-night hipster radio DJ Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie) and her slow-burning descent into madness in Salem after she receives a random LP from a group simply coined “The Lords” enclosed in a simple wooden box. While interviewing a benevolent author (Bruce Davison) about his novel on the Salem witch trials on the radio show with her co-hosts Herman and Herman (Ken Foree and up-and-coming actor Jeff Daniel Phillips), Heidi makes the mistake of playing the bizarre record on air; and for the next seven days she is plagued with nightmarish phantasms by a coven of primordial witches who are hell-bent on exacting revenge on the Hawthorne ancestral line through Heidi in a horrifying way. Bizarre satanic rituals, old naked witches, demonic tentacle creatures and a WTF finale that won’t soon be forgotten ensue.
Those expecting Suspiria on crack will be deeply disenchanted for Zombie’s narrative-lacking indie on witches is not the gory, fast-paced horror flick fans of his previous efforts will be expecting. In fact, it is the polar opposite and is a movie that needs to be slowly digested rather than being quickly dismissed as schlocky art-house fare – which unfortunately will be the first initial reaction of avid fans of Zombie’s compromised mainstream films.
The Lords of Salem is quite difficult to describe because it is a movie that relies on salient visceral impact rather than following a coherent narrative, and doing so makes this a brazenly bizarre work of art. It exerts a riveting fascination in its imagery, and it’s the film’s blaring score (composed by John 5) that cues the attentive audience to squirm in their seats by the haunting atmosphere.
Unfortunately, by the third act the film becomes so disjointed and can be argued that it is weird for weirdness’ sake. Many viewers will feel cheated by the abstract finale and will most likely feel the urge to blast it in any online forum they possibly can.
Many have already deemed The Lords of Salem as being Zombie’s most restrained film; however, it is quite the opposite as this time around he is making the film he has always wanted to do, rather than directing something that has been expected from him. Although the movie features familiar faces and a stellar soundtrack, it is completely different from anything he has ever done before, and it will most likely take time to fully appreciate his ambitious intentions.
3 1/2 out of 5