The Lords of Salem (2013) Review

We’ve been waiting, Heidi… We’ve always been waiting.

With his shackles now broken from the Halloween franchise, Rob Zombie is back once again delivering a truly bizarre and original horror movie. Rob Zombie has always been the kind of director that, in the past, has created movies you rather love or hate. Is his return from Haddonfield a hit? Or has he lost his way?

Friday, 19th April, The Lords of Salem has it’s US theatrical debut. Monday, 22nd April and The Lords of Salem has been released on DVD over here in the UK. Funny world we live in. So this review is from a DVD viewing of the movie, I would have loved to have seen this at the cinema or even on Blu-ray. However, in the famous last words of some voodoo guy from Predator 2, “Shit Happens”.

The Lords of Salem is directed by Rob Zombie and stars the likes of Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips and Bruce Davison. Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie), a radio DJ, is sent a box containing a record from ‘The Lords’. The record triggers flashbacks of her town’s violent history in witchcraft and seems to have a strange effect on the women of Salem. Will Heidi find out the truth behind the record before it’s too late?

A few actors return from previous Rob Zombie movies like Sheri Moon Zombie, Ken Foree, Sid Haig and Michael Berryman. As witch hunters, Sid Haig and Michael Berryman are hardly used and it’s a shame, maybe they have more scenes that were left out, but the DVD had no special features other than a trailer. Ken Foree is also underused in my opinion, he plays an interesting character but we never really get to know him which is such a shame. 

Starring in all his movies, and continuing to do so, Sheri Moon Zombie get’s the lead role here, rocking dreadlocks and glasses, she pulls off the character of Heidi Hawthorne well. A recovered drug addict and lonely woman, Heidi goes through a rough transformation throughout the movie and Sheri shows how far she has come in terms of her acting by giving Heidi a very down to earth feel. Jeff Daniel Phillips plays Herman ‘Whitey’ Salvador, a friend to Sheri’s character Heidi. The friendship shared between these two is a strong part of the movie for me and I wish we had more scenes with these two together.

The witches in the film played by Meg Foster, Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn and Dee Wallace give off a very creepy vibe when on screen. It’s almost as if you can feel the hatred these witches feel and this makes them all the more daunting whenever they pop up. Bruce Davison plays Francis Matthias, an author whom ends up taking interest in the record and does some digging only to find some horrific discovery.

Now The Lords of Salem is a very strange movie, don’t expect a simple run of the mill horror movie here. I found it to be very similar in both tone and style to House of 1000 Corpses, Rob Zombie’s first feature movie. From the scenes that felt like they belonged in a music video, to the unique costume and creature design. That’s not a bad thing, House of 1000 Corpses is a great movie, but I feel that Rob Zombie is capable of more. The movie felt like a one step forwards but two steps backwards for him as a director.

That step forward was his ability as a very visual director. Camera shots showed the best of every scene and beauty contained within each of his sets. Stepping away from the violence that has dominated his past movies, this is no surprise. Not being able to rely on gore for entertainment, he had to be more creative than usual to keep the audience interested. I still want to go back and visit the movie a second time just to take in the sights again.

Not forgetting the creature design, this is some of the creepiest in a long time. Not scary, just creepy. From melted face people to a midget demon, being simple designs by nature they still manage to be some seriously freaky designs.

Unfortunately the movie suffers from a weak story, which I feel is rare with a Rob Zombie movie because I think he’s a great writer too. It feels too disjointed and because of that the pacing is all over the place. One minute you find yourself waiting for something interesting to happen and in the next scene, everything is happening at once. The ending of the film is also very sudden with very disturbing imagery, this is when it felt like a satanic music video. If that’s what he wanted to achieve then he did it, but as evident with the ending of The Devil’s Rejects, he is capable of endings which stick with you weeks after seeing the movie.

Maybe we needed another 30 minutes of footage to help flesh out a lot of the characters and relationships? The constant flashbacks didn’t help the film in any way too. Cropping up giving us some back story on the witches was a nice idea, but it could have been better having a shorter edit of the footage the the start of the film to kick things off and set the tone.

I am a big fan of Rob Zombie. That’s the truth, every one of his movies up to now I love and will defend until the end of time. Coming away from The Lords of Salem was difficult for me, I wanted to love it but I knew deep down this is his weakest film yet. Maybe with my second viewing I can learn to love it but as it stands I don’t. I can’t. I’m glad he’s got his creative control back and hope future movies are able to stand side by side with his previous work.

5 Old Naked Witches out of 10

-ast

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