Synopsis: Heidi, a radio DJ, is sent a box containing a record — a “gift from the Lords.” The sounds within the grooves trigger flashbacks of her town’s violent past. Is Heidi going mad, or are the Lords back to take revenge on Salem, Massachusetts?
Rob Zombie and I have a bit of a strange relationship, such as it is. I’m a casual fan of his work with the band White Zombie, but I loved Hellbilly Deluxe as an angsty teen, and so when I first heard about House of a 1000 Corpses all those years ago, I was excited.
Anyone who’s ever brought that film up knows I hated it. I’ve seen it at least three times and I hated it every single time. It’s a dull, overly long music video with only one really impressive shot in its entire running time.
The Devil’s Rejects was much more in line with what I expected from Zombie as a director, grittier, more vicious, sleazier, more 70’s.
Then he took on Halloween and its somewhat misguided sequel, H2, further dividing the horror community on whether or not Zombie was a director to keep an eye on or just a hack.
Finally, the much talked about The Lords of Salem has arrived, Zombie’s big return to original storytelling, and while it certainly has elements I enjoyed, it also feels too much like a step backward.
Lords is visually fantastic, blending the flashback scenes of Salem’s past with the modern city, visual references to any number of bands and other films, and somehow making it all sort of work, at least on the visual side.
The story on the other hand can best be summed up as Rosemary’s Baby, and while Polanski managed to wring every last drop of tension and believability out of his premise, Zombie just isn’t that strong of a writer or director. The dialogue is wildly uneven, at times jaw dropping in how bad it is, at other times strangely perfect, but the film always seemed to keep me at arm’s length. I never felt drawn into the story, as it seemed like every time I would start to be drawn in, some incredibly silly bit of dialogue would be throw out or something just plain dumb would take place.
The pacing surprised me, as the film unfolds at a slow, deliberate pace that kept my interest throughout.
Unfortunately, the story itself just isn’t that good, and the ending is almost laughably bad. That shot of Sherri Moon Zombie riding on a goat like it’s a mechanical bull is real, and it’s set in what is supposed to be a great trip out sequence that for the most part came across more like the youtube video of a high school Satanist than the final act of a feature film.
The Lords of Salem feels too much like a bubblegum pop approach to the “Devil among us” films, and while it was fantastic to see Ken Foree working in something that isn’t a direct to video piece of shit, and Dee Wallace and any number of other recognizable actors (including a blink and you’ll miss it scene with Barbara Crampton) none of them is really able to elevate the poor writing, though the team of Wallace, Judy Geeson and Patricia Quinn steal every scene they’re in and manage to add some gravitas to the nonsense they have to say.
I didn’t hate Lords of Salem but I also wasn’t particularly impressed with it either. For all the promise the visuals have, the story just never rises to match, and when it was over, I was left with an overwhelming sense of wanting to see what Zombie could do as a director with someone else’s script.
It’s Rosemary’s Baby but with Sherri Moon Zombie instead of Mia Farrow.
Some truly dreadful dialogue.