Friday, October 24, 2014

The Lords of Salem

Directed by Rob Zombie.
2013. Rated R, 101 minutes.
Bruce Davison
Jeff Daniel Phillips
Ken Foree
Patricia Quinn
Dee Wallace
Maria Conchita Alonso
Judy Geeson
Meg Foster

Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) is the co-host of a late night radio show in Salem, Mass. Not surprisingly, they are currently discussing the legendary Salem Witch Trials. Of course, she will soon encounter some practitioners of the black arts. While leaving work, she is given a record, yes a record, that has mysteriously appeared at the front desk with her name on it. Listening to it makes her feel like crap and induces some disturbing visions. There is also the strange new neighbor who isn't supposed to be there. Watching Heidi freak out ensues.

The Lords of Salem is one of those movies that plays on a loop. Generally, Heidi wakes up and stumbles around her apartment with her dog nearby. Something weird happens then she's off to work. We then see a little of the radio show after which she goes home and gets drunk with someone. Somewhere in here the music plays and something else weird happens. Rinse. Repeat. Throughout this cycle her mental health seems to be deteriorating. Unfortunately, after the first time or two through the cycle it feels repetitive.

Things aren't helped much by some predictable characters showing up. Within seconds of meeting certain people we have a fairly accurate idea of who/what they really are. They all just look and act too shady to be anything else. The mystery is sapped out of the film rather early because of this. The only real intrigue left is the visuals presented whenever our heroine starts seeing things.

There are some strong resemblances between The Lords of Salem and 2012's Lovely Molly. In both, the protagonist is a woman who is a recovering drug addict and begins seeing things she can't explain. The difference is in that movie, Molly's addiction is taken seriously by the film itself. Here, Heidi's is treated somewhat cavalierly. Much of LM is built around other characters believing her to be slipping back into her old ways as we watch her fight not to during an extremely stressful time in her life. We sympathize with her and wonder if it's all in her head. In The Lords of Salem Heidi's history with drugs is also a known factor by her friends. Their concern appears token, at best. By that I mean, they regularly start up her all-night drinking sessions. It's as if no one, including the writer/director/star's husband Rob Zombie included, has the slightest clue that there is any problem whatsoever with a drug addict binge drinking. It subtracts from the idea that anyone gives a crap about her. If the movie itself doesn't, why should we? This is a crucial question that is never answered. As a result, we have nothing to grasp except a few disturbing pictures.

Disturbing. That's the key word. Rob Zombie strives to make all of his movies match that description. Sometimes he succeeds, sometimes not. This is one of the nots. He tries to do it by attempting to make us recoil from what we see rather than reaching into and shaking our core. Sure, there are some ugly images here that may make some of us cringe. But once that fleeting moment passes there is nothing to truly heighten our sense of dread. The ending is his last ditch effort at freaking us out. Truthfully, it's a great singular shot that does appeal to our soul more than our eyes. Had the movie leading up to it been better, it would be a downright brilliant finale. As it stands, it's the best part of a bad movie.


  1. I still want to see this as I like what Rob Zombie does as I heard this is a step-up from his previous work in terms of what he can do as a director.

    1. I've only seen three of his movies: this, The Devil's Rejects, and Halloween. For me, Halloween is vastly superior to the other two. I will say this one isn't as mean spirited as the others.