Oct 22, 2014

22 of 31: The Lords of Salem (2012)

A vain attempt by a formerly prolific blogger to review 31 new (to me) horror films in the 31 days of October. We did it last year and it was a gas. Can we do it once more? Let's find out.

Platform: Starz on cable
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison

Rob Zombie loves horror films. I'll give him that. Occasionally he will turn that love into something brilliant like The Devil's Rejects. Sometimes he's like a hulking barbarian, wielding that love like a giant two-handed sword. Sloppily cleaving through the torsos of the horror icons before him, like he did with the Halloween franchise reboot. He's done serial killer families, cannibalism, unstoppable killing machines and with The Lords of Salem he is ready to take a hack at witchcraft. Not nature-loving Wiccans, but demon-worshiping witches.

Right away, I'm impressed. Taking a tip from the success of The Devil's Rejects, this film feels like it could have been made in the 1960's or early 1970's. Exactly what the subject matter requires, in my opinion. There isn't one digital effect in the film. Very cool. Odd camera angles, characters just walking off-screen on occasion, that certain graininess that permeated all those old great horror movies. It's about as old-school as it gets when it comes to the genre.

Sheri Moon Zombie and her naked butt play a DJ working in Salem, Massachusetts. You know...the place with the witches. After one show, an old recording is left for her at the station by someone called the Lords. It's some spooky mumbo-jumbo, incantations and the like. The recording gives the visions and the heebies to our heroine.

There's other creepiness afoot at the old boarding house where she lives. She keeps seeing a mystery tenant near a room that is supposedly empty. And she keeps NOT seeing some naked scary ghosts that inhabit the place as well. Plus there's the landlady and her "sisters"...a freaky, ahem, coven of odd birds. Zombie visualized the witches of Salem as Manson-esque hippies, a pretty cool concept.

This is a scary, visually exciting horror flick. Perfect for a cold, rainy, Autumn day like we've had here in the Northeast for the past few days. It also is a whole lot of fun as Zombie doesn't take it all so seriously. There may also be a much longer director's cut sometime in our future, as roles played by Sid Haig, Clint Howard, Udo Kier and many, many others wound up on he editing room floor. Probably a good idea. House of 1,000 Corpses could have used a stronger editing hand. A tidy hour and 42 minutes feels just about right for this one.

Unfortunately, for me, the film fell apart in the last act. All that restraint that Zombie showed in the first 2/3 of the film was gone. I think he sometimes forgets that the unknown is scarier than the known, that it's sometimes better to keep the audience in the dark. And he has that tendency to go over the top. For
2/3 of the film he was able to reign it in, but he finally had to let loose the hulking barbarian with the two-handed sword. Because he is who he is.

It's still worth watching, though. Even with the crap ending.

Verdant Dude Rating: 3 out of 5 pumpkin ales

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