Rob Zombie's 'The Lords Of Salem' (2012/13)

There is probably no more divisive director working in the horror genre, or any genre for that matter, than Rob Zombie. Mere mention of the shock rocker turned movie auteur is enough to turn some fans apoplectic. Most of that frenzy comes from the way Zombie approached his remake of the venerable 'Halloween' and it's sequel. Before undertaking that project most horror fans were solidly in Zombies corner. His first feature 'House of 1,000 Corpses' was kind of an unfocused mess, but a lot of that can be blamed on the behind the scenes disasters that plagued the film. His follow up was the almost universally lauded 'The Devils Rejects', the sequel to 'House of 1,000 Corpses' was more focused and an improvement on his first film in almost every way imaginable. It was after 'The Devils Rejects' that Zombie embarked on his journey into the 'Halloween' morass. Reemerging from the other side of the 'Halloween' mess, Zombies star is tarnished but not quite extinguished. How would he approach his next project, the first real film of his post - 'Halloween' career?

When local Salem, Massachusetts DJ Heidi Laroq (Sherri Moon Zombie) receives a mysterious record in the mail, she can't help but play it. Coming from an unknown band named "The Lords," the music is dark and cryptic, like a less imaginative Type O Negative. It's message has an unforeseen effect on not just Heidi, but on many of the other women of Salem. The playing of the record awakens or brings together or something a local witches coven (Judy Geeson, Dee Wallace, Patricia Quinn). Part time museum curator/author Francis Mathias (Bruce Davison) senses something is amiss and jumps into action and trying to make sense of it all.

'The Lords Of Salem' is a wonderful film - for the first hour. Granted it's slow, but it captures the intended atmosphere better than any other Zombie film, even better then 'The Devils Rejects.' The look and feel of the film is almost akin to the way that Ti West handles 'House Of The Devil.' Not in the same retro sense that 'House of the Devil' has per say, but in that stark, slow moving, subtle way. Zombie also plays with color in ways that he really hasn't before. I will restrain form using the term Argento-esque, but the film is definitely in the same ballpark. It goes without saying then that it's unfortunate, that the mess that is the third act undoes any of the good will that the first two acts builds, and when that good will gets eroded away all the films other pock marks start showing through.

Basing your film around an evil rock record has been done before, but as a rule your film should never remind anyone of the 1986 film 'Trick Or Treat' or any other film that stars any supporting members of the "Family Ties" cast (special exception for Michael Gross and 'Tremors'). Especially when crucial moments of your film are adorned with lines like "The blood of your deaths shall be the eternity of our resurrection." I'm a pretty smart guy, so let me be the first to tell you - that shit makes no sense.

Also making no sense: the basic premise of the entire film. Why all of a sudden now send the record? What coven of ancient witches has a recording studio? Let alone the ability to press and distribute said vinyl? Did they bring the package to the post office? Did they at least get delivery confirmation? If so how did they pay for it? Shipping a package of that size must have cost at least 15 bucks. Mailing issues aside, there are a ton of other issues with the film. Like: does Sherri Moon Zombie's character own any undergarments?

The third act is basically a cluster fuck of epic proportions. It's almost seems like a lost reel of 'House of 1,000 Corpses' ended up in the film by accident. Granted, there is a hell of a lot of shit that looks cool. The problem is the cool looking shit makes no fucking sense. That is the ultimate failing of 'The Lords Of Salem'. One hour of very good, moody build, followed by 35 minutes of shitting in your cereal.

'The Lords Of Salem' does a lot right. Very cool first couple acts. Some good performances. I never thought Sherri Moon Zombie would be able to carry a film. I was proven wrong. She does a good job. There are some good cameos. It was fun to see Patricia Quinn in a non-Magenta role. Some folks felt wasted, (Michael Berryman, Sid Haig, Richard Fancy) but that's not what dooms the film.

'Salem' is one of those maddening films, those films where the potential seems infinite and the ideas are all there. Unfortunately, it just doesn't come together. If you were in the anti-Zombie camp before this film will do nothing to dissuade you from staying there. If you are a fan (like I am) there is enough here for you to like, but nothing to get crazy over.

'The Lords Of Salem' can still be seen in certain festivals and conventions around the country. It hits DVD and Blu Ray on Sept 9th.

** stars out of *****

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