Directed By: Rob Zombie
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Ken Foree, Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace, Meg Foster, Maria Conchita Alonso
Synopsis: A mysterious record signals the return of a Coven of witches in Salem, Massachusetts.
Thoughts: After helming the Halloween remakes, Rob Zombie vowed to return to something original and different than he directed before. I am a much bigger fan of his original work than I am of his Halloween work, so I was thoroughly excited to see what he had in mind. I’ve gone out of my way lately to avoid trailers and spoilers on movies that interest me, so I went into Lords with very little knowledge of what it was about. Right away, you could see Zombie was paying homage to the 70s, much the same way that Ti West has done with his movies. The picture has a gritty feel and the color is washed out, making you feel as if you’ve been transplanted into a Jean Rollin film.
The Lords of Salem is filled with great performances. I know that not everyone is a fan of Sheri Moon Zombies acting, but she really killed it in The Lords of Salem. She sets the table and establishes her character in the first half of the movie, and then rides that out in the second half, where she doesn’t have a lot of dialogue. Bruce Davison does an excellent job in a supporting role and serves to drive the storyline in a believable way. I’m not overly familiar with Davison’s work and can only recall his role as Senator Kelly in X-Men 2, but his filmography is extensive and he was nominated for an Oscar in 1991 for Longtime Companion.
Davison is not the only Hollywood veteran in Zombies cast; Meg Foster plays an unsettling role as Margaret Morgan, leader of the coven of witches returning to exact their revenge. Her acting is accompanied by a rather terrifying visage. She is rail thin and not pleasant to look at, which plays to great affect for a witch. Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn and Dee Wallace also steal every scene they are in as sisters that appear to be involved with The Lords of Salem as well. In addition to these great performances, genre stalwarts such as Ken Foree, Sid Haig, Michael Berryman and Udo Kier also have roles.
I’ve always thought that one of Rob Zombie’s greatest strengths as a film maker was his creative eye behind the camera. He seemed to be somewhat hampered in his Halloween work (mostly due to studio demands), but he had some wildly creative imagery in his work on House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. He showed in The Lords of Salem that he still has that eye and his trademark imagination as well. He really captured the look of the 70s and infused it with some rather creepy images.
At this point, you would think that I was ready to crown The Lords of Salem as a rousing success and an amazing movie, but while the acting and cinematography were top notch, I thought the movie had its share of issues. While the heart of the story was interesting, I didn’t think it was flushed out enough to sustain the entire movie. It was evident what the climax was going to be and I didn’t find the journey to be enough to keep me interested. If it weren’t for the fantastic acting, I may have been one of the several people that walked out of the theatre during the movie. I also felt that this movie was a bit of a rant against organized religion by Zombie. I’m no stranger to images that most would call offensive, but Zombie really pushed the envelope and seems to declare war on Christianity, so much so that it seemed to detract from the storyline.
The Lords of Salem has already shown itself to be a very divisive film. Many are declaring it brilliant. I don’t agree. I think it was very ambitious and I think that Rob Zombie made the movie that he wanted to, but I think it falls rather short of brilliance. I wasn’t entertained by the movie, but yet I was intrigued by it at the same time. It has been a movie sitting in my head since watching it last Thursday night, and I’ve run the gamut of emotions from hating it to pondering its brilliance. It’s this range of emotions that has me eager to see it again, but for now, I have to say I am in the middle of the road on this one, and will certainly say it is not for most viewers, but don’t let that stop you from experiencing it yourself.