Hello there, readers and writers of Horror, and watchers of horror movies. Well, watchers of movies in general. My name is Rob Smales, and this is my first ever movie review. Never even tried one before. Jason, the webmaster of the NEHW website, asked me for one, though, so I’m giving it a shot. If it sucks, don’t blame me, blame him.
Or better yet, blame Rob Zombie.
This is a review of Zombie’s new movie The Lords of Salem, from Alliance Films. Before I go off on a rant here, I should probably tell you what kind of Horror movies I like — if you don’t agree with my taste then you probably won’t agree with my review and can stop reading right now.
Friday the 13th (original, great!), Halloween (original, brilliant!), A Nightmare on Elm Street (original, I had to buy new pants!), Let the Right One In (the Swedish version, wonderfully creepy, fantastic idea!), The Woman in Black (Slow suspenseful build to get you looking over your shoulder — and THEN it gets scary!), The Ring (Still freaks me out), The Shining, The Birds, Psycho (the original), and the list goes on …
So, as you can probably see I like a touch of psychological horror over the Spatterfest. I also live in Salem, Massachusetts, which is the setting for Zombie’s movie. A horror movie set in Salem? Should be a win-win for me, right?
Oh, one final thing. This review is going to contain spoilers, basically because I don’t know how to do it without them. In fact, it’s going to be one big spoiler because I can tell you in a couple of paragraphs what it took Rob Zombie one hour and forty-one minutes to tell me. Those who want to go out and experience the genius that is Rob Zombie first-hand, with no warnings or foreknowledge, there’s the door; we’ll catch you in the flip side. But hold on to the review — you can always watch the movie first, then come back and read the review later.
Alright, where to start …
This is the story of a nice little heroin addicted rock-n-roll DJ (played by Sheri Moon Zombie — wait, the writer/director cast his wife in the starring role? Whew, no red flags here!) who works the night shift. One day she receives a box at the station containing an unsolicited record with no title, just a note saying it is a gift from ‘The Lords’. She plays the record, the music doing something strange and mystical to her and starting her down the path to possession by the Dark Lord Satan. Without her knowledge, of course. She’s guided on this path, again without her knowledge, by the spirit of a witch who was burned in Salem way back in the 1600s. She and her partners at the station play the record on the air where (surprise, surprise) it’s a hit even though it sounds a bit like blocked pipes. In a bull moose. Who has cramps. Once The Lords have a hit on their hands they send another box to the station, this one containing free tickets, records and posters so the station can host a local show for The Lords, which they do, even though they have no contract and have never talked to, nor even seen, The Lords … because that’s just how things are done in the real world, right?
Anyway, the concert begins, the music somehow being performed by the coven of witches that burned alongside the witch who has been haunting Heidi, our leading lady. The coven has apparently been summoned by Heidi’s landlady and two women she claims are her sisters. The whole thing culminates in Heidi giving birth to a … uh .. a thing that looks a bit like a Jumbo Shrimp that’s gotten into former Governator Schwarzenegger’s steroid stash.
Though the film starts off somewhat cheesy, with a prologue set in the 1600s filled with naked dancing witches, it slips almost effortlessly into modern day Salem and a naked DJ. As a Salem native it was kind of neat to see things and places that I pass by on a daily basis in the film, and I have to admit the acting was not terrible. Okay, not too terrible.
The middle of the story, the haunting portion of our program, was actually pretty good. There was some nice camera work, a terrific dose of creepiness, a good build-up of suspense, and even a couple of little “boo” moments where there were audible gasps from the audience.
Here, I thought, he saved it! All he has to do is build things in this vein and he might be able to make an impressive recovery!
The last third of the film. Seriously, after making this creepy comeback within the movie you are somewhat unprepared when Zombie drives the plot right off the rails into an almost violent shift from scary and serious to something so over-the-top it actually becomes funny. Rather than trying to make any sense of what happens, I’ll simply list off some of what I consider the low points of the film, most of which happen in the later third of the action
- The name of the film, The Lords of Salem.
The witches in the film were named “The Lords” way back in colonial Salem by the man who was trying to root them out … because it is only natural that someone would have referred to a group of women by such a masculine name, what with the Puritains being so open and fun-loving about things like gender.
- Thanksgiving Day Satan.
When I think of Satan, The Father of Lies, The Prince of Darkness, the fallen Angel the Hebrews named “the Enemy,” I don’t think I have ever, ever, thought of a four-foot tall, succulent, crispy-skinned, juicy, cooked turkey with a vaguely human head. Apparently Rob Zombie does. I’m sorry, Mr. Zombie, no disrespect intended, but do you honestly think the Lord of All Evil should make the audience suddenly crave mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce? What was undoubtedly supposed to be a terrifying set of scenes really only made me hungry … and aware that it’s seven months ‘til Thanksgiving. Thanks. Thanks a lot … but, damn it, that Satan looked tasty!
- Demonic Clergy masturbating day-glow strap-ons.
Okay … this is a weird one. Faceless people strike me as creepy right off the bat — the Terrible Trivium from “The Phantom Tollbooth” gave me nightmares as a kid. Faceless clergy in Hell … yes, creepy, and potentially scary depending on what they’re doing. This started out as a good idea, I think, but when what you have them doing is sitting in a group and facelessly beating the bishop (har-har) and the weasels they’re whipping happen to be somewhat floppy rubber penises in all the colors of the day-glow rainbow, well then what you get is an entire theater full of people all bursting out in laughter at the same time. That’s what you get, trust me. I was there and that’s what we did. Hell, I’m chuckling right now just thinking about it.
- Where was the destruction of the World/Salem/Whatever at the end of the flick?
After all the threatening and posturing, after going through what was supposedly a terrible ordeal (aside from Turkey Satan and the Attack of the Day-Glow Dildos, of course) … nothing happens. There is no fire, there is no brimstone, there is no destruction. Even Heidi seems to be happy at the end, suggesting the existence of some sort of Rohypnol of Evil. I want my destruction!
- Naked women.
I know, when was the last time you heard a guy complain about women taking their clothes off, right? Well, for me it was last Wednesday while I was watching this movie. When the DJ sleeps, she’s naked. Whenever there is witchcraft they get naked. The ghost haunting the DJ is naked. The women who hear the constipated moose music get naked. According to this movie every woman in Salem is just naked, naked, naked. I grew up here in Salem. I was a teen-ager in Salem. If there was some odd community of women who would just peel off whenever they heard a drum-beat then I’m pretty sure teenaged me, also known as The Human Hormone, would have found them and developed a one-man-band act so good it would have kicked the ass right off anything you see on American Idol today! All in all, it was more than a bit much. When, toward the end of the movie, a group of women start shedding clothes and the 20-ish guy a couple of seats down from me shouts “Oh, come on!,” then Mr. Zombie, my friend, you’re doing it wrong.
The thing that annoys me about this film is that the middle portion is so comparatively good. It’s not great, but it’s really pretty good. It’s like Rob Zombie was just showing us he could do it so we’d be more disappointed when he didn’t. What he did instead was make a film that’s going to be different things to different people.
If you’re a serious Horror movie buff who isn’t happy unless you’re having the pants scared off you, you might want to give this one a pass. The laughter at the end will only annoy you.
If you like the gore-fest, then a lot of this movie will seem slow to you. There are a couple of nasty scenes (it’s like Rob Zombie just couldn’t help himself) that try to make it up to you, but it probably won’t really be enough.
If you like the suspenseful thriller, then this is almost for you… but winds up being more of a tease than anything else. You’ll walk out of the theater bemoaning all that the film could have been.
If, however, you’re someone who occasionally likes to watch a movie just to make fun of it, as I sometimes do, then we have your Golden Ticket right here.
There. My first movie review. Did you actually read this far? Did you laugh at the stuff up there? If you did, then this movie might be for you.
Okay. I’m going to go read up on how to actually write a movie review and see just how far from the norm I got with this one.
Until next time.