Friday, April 19, 2013

A Reel Review: THE LORDS OF SALEM


 
In his short career as a film director, Rob Zombie has carved out a niche for himself. Much like his fellow directors with names like Burton and Tarantino, you know exactly what kind of movie you are going to get when you see that name attached. His newest film, THE LORDS OF SALEM, still embraces his signature style of bizarre imagery and 1970’s pop culture, but also takes a large step away from his comfort zone of slasher flicks.
In modern day Slam, MA., Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a recovering junkie and a DJ. When a mysterious record album arrives which she plays on the air, an ancient evil is stirred up effecting women all over town.

THE LORDS OF SALEM starts off strongly as a nice mish-mash of horror and psychological thriller. As Heidi slowly begins to lose her mind, the film jump-cuts back to the 1600’s several times in an attempt to build a mythology of evil witches out for vengeance. The foundation is solid; however Zombie relies too much on his bizarre imagery a little too much. While the scares are well-timed and shocking to see, there are just too many wacko drop-ins that don’t make sense at first, and even less by movie’s end. The character of Heidi is sadly underdeveloped, which makes her eventual tragic turn ho-hum and ineffective. The film relies on no horror-film clich├ęs (everything here is truly original), which makes it frustrating when things somehow become predictable from a mile away.  On top of it all, the film has sluggish pacing which often threatens to grind things to a literal halt. For a Rob Zombie film, there is a surprising and odd lack of energy.
While the story sloshes around to no effect, Zombie still manages to make a great-looking film. With zero CGI and plenty of practical effects, the scares are effective and well-timed. Zombie also makes excellent work out of dimly-lit scenes, and makes great use out of outdoor-scenes which are always overcast and never see a ray of sunlight. The editing in the sound department makes for a decent horror atmosphere, which sadly never gets put to good use.

Acting is so-so. Sheri Moon Zombie does pretty well in scenes where she doesn’t have to do much, but when she has to stretch and show some emotional torment she has all the personality of a hockey puck. The rest of the cast hams it up pretty well; Bruce Davidson, Ken Foree, and Dee Wallace are fairly fun to watch.
The ending makes for a nice Shakespearean tragedy, and almost makes it all worthwhile had we been given a reason to care about the characters, and if the journey to get there wasn’t so bizarre. Zombie seems comfortable in his own world; making movies that only he gets a kick out of and understand. That lack of balance just doesn’t work.

BOTTOM LINE: Fuck it
 
 

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