If you know me at all you know that I am a horror fan. I've written about enough horror films and talked about how much I enjoy the good ones but take to task the bad ones for being just that, bad movies. Of course the horror genre has also had its share of so bad its good films too, but for the most part bad is just bad. This week's release THE LORDS OF SALEM doesn't fall into that category but for me it didn't reach the status of classic either.
The story revolves around Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie), a local DJ who with partners Herman "Whitey" Salvadore (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Herman Jackson (Ken Foree) have the hottest show going in Salem, Massachusetts. A combination shock jock, funny folk and music playing trio they're on late night and garner great ratings. One night as they're leaving the station Heidi is told she has a package, an oddly made box that contains an album in it by someone calling themselves The Lords.
Heading home with Whitey the friends have dinner and get stoned then put the album on. Immediately Heidi begins to go into a trance and have strange visions while Whitey experiences nothing. From that day forward Heidi continues to experience odd things, especially while dreaming. Most of the dreams center on the room at the end of the hall in the house her apartment is in. The landlady, Lacy Doyle (Judy Geeson) tells her no one rents that room but the dreams make her believe otherwise.
The next night they have a guest on the show, an author named Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison) who has written a book on the witches. As his piece on the show ends, they play the album on the radio station and it begins to affect women all over Salem. Could this somehow tie in to the witches seen during the films opening sequence where they were attempting to bring for Satan?
Matthias, hearing Herman call the group the Lords of Salem begins to worry. He's read that name somewhere in his research. Digging deeper he continues to seek answers to his questions, eventually going to Heidi's apartment only to find her gone but Mrs. Doyle and her two sisters Megan (Patricia Quinn) and Sonny (Dee Wallace) there. How they tie in becomes apparent early on but just what happens before the end of the film is a bit disturbing.
On the good side I will say that this is a brilliant looking film. It seems as if no budget was spared in making it and several shots in the film are magnificent to behold. They're like nothing seen in a horror film lately, at times reminding me of THE SHINING. I'll give director Rob Zombie credit on this issue mainly because I was afraid after his last several films that he'd turn into a one note director with a penchant for showing slummy looking houses and people in every film. Here he clearly steers away from that and comes up with a visually appealing film with images that may stick with you. Another great thing is the acting with all involved turning in solid performances. Horror stalwarts like Ken Foree (a great guy if you ever get the chance to meet him), Michael Berryman and Andrew Prine all get screen time that they deserve more of.
It's those images that are the most disturbing. Don't go in expecting a slice and dice killer flick or a monster of the week here. The movie deals with the issues of satanic rituals and witches that are involved in dark arts. Most sequences involving the witches have them completely nude and covered in something vile. While I was at first angered by the amount of negativity in the movie that seemed desperate to cling to the edgy rock and roll attitude of Satan spewing head bangers I slowly realized that the movie went no deeper into that area of story than ROSEMARY'S BABY did 45 years ago. If that movie bothered you than this one will take you over the top.
Zombie uses slow pacing to his advantage here, allowing the story to unfold rather than be rushed. It gives him time to play out the images that he's chosen, disturbing though they might be to most people. Each and every actor here turns in a believable performance in this unusual setting.
I can't honestly say that I loved or hated this movie. It will take a second viewing to decide. Horror fans will flock to this film for the name recognition of Zombie alone. Some will watch it out of curiosity. For those willing to take a look keep in mind what you're getting into and know up front that the more tame viewers will be shaken up.
Click here to order.