I’ve always found the films of Rob Zombie a bit of a mixed bag. While I admire his enthusiasm for the genre, I found THE DEVIL’S REJECTS impossible to like as it tried and failed to encourage me to find some sympathy with a bunch of degenerates with few redeeming features. Having watched it twice, I can also state that I think his remake of HALLOWEEN is disastrous as well. On the other hand, I loved the playfulness and outrageous carnival atmosphere of HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, and oddly enough I find his HALLOWEEN II a very interesting and worthwhile film (although it does help to pretend it has nothing to do with any kind of HALLOWEEN franchise).
LORDS OF SALEM, however, is absolutely marvellous.
Heavily criticised in some quarters for its over the top imagery and its lack of historical accuracy, I actually find it hard to believe that, in view of his oeuvre so far, anyone could now view a film by this director and expect a restrained, sensitive faithful account of anything, especially if it meant having to cut down on the gore, mayhem and general lunacy.
Gleefully crazy, insanely over the top, and deliciously unnerving, Rob Zombie’s LORDS OF SALEM is what might have happened if Ken Russell in his heyday had directed a feature-length episode of Brian Clemens’ THRILLER TV series. Sheri Moon Zombie plays radio DJ Heidi. An LP is sent to her at her studio as a gift from ‘The Lords of Salem’. The music recorded on it is so simple and yet so gut-churningly effective it’s not surprising that once she plays it things start to take a turn for the weird, especially when it turns out that the boarding house where Heidi lives is also host to Judy Geeson, Dee Wallace and Patricia Quinn - three reincarnated witches burned at the stake at the time of the original Salem witch trials who have plans to bring back the rest of their coven (including an almost unrecognisable Meg Foster). As Heidi’s hallucinations begin to worsen the stage is (literally) set for the return of the Lords of Salem and it doesn’t look as if anything is going to be able to stop them.
It’s been said that Rob Zombie has always worn his influences on his sleeve and if that’s the case this is very much his hymn to EuroHorror. It doesn’t necessarily make sense, or even pretend to, but there’s enough fantastically weird imagery on display here that it doesn’t matter. Some of it is too far over the top, but to be honest I’d rather have that than something half baked that isn’t trying its absolute hardest to weird me out. There are echoes of everything here from Russell to Fulci to bonkers Italian devil worship moves like BEYOND THE DOOR and DAMNED IN VENICE. A huge divider of opinion at Glasgow FrightFest earlier this year I have to confess that I loved it. LORDS OF SALEM isn’t going to be to everybody’s taste. In fact it may not be to most people’s taste, but if you’ve missed the extravagance of movies like LISZTOMANIA, and burned faceless corpses wandering through graveyards on a dreary afternoon fill you with anticipation rather than dread you will have a ball with this one.