Heavy metal-hedonist-turned-horrormeister Rob Zombie’s bombastic B-movie schlock ‘The Lords Of Salem’ is not what one would call a crowning achievement in the flaccid filmography of the macabre moviemaker. In the twisted tradition of Zombie’s deranged ditties such as ‘House Of 1,000 Corpses’, ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ and of couple of throwaway thrills in his ‘Halloween’ installments, ‘The Lords Of Salem’ is a faceless freak show that never capitalises on its intended grungy appeal.
Morosely labored and laughable, ‘The Lords Of Salem’ is an eyesore of a chiller that fails to generate any stimulating sense of perverse purpose other than to resemble a devilishly disjointed spectacle littered with atrocious acting, junkyard imagery, disposable dialogue, aimless direction and meager special effects. Muddled with mumbo-jumbo mayhem, ‘The Lords Of Salem’ resembles some sort of haphazard creepfest without genuine haunting vibes. Convincingly messy and misguided, Zombie’s witchcraft washout is as about as bewitching as a crooked nose on a dazed and confused elderly sorcerer.
One might not be sure what to make of Zombie’s abysmal ‘Salem’ other to second guess his intentions on channeling such cinematic skin-crawling slicksters as Stanley Kubrick, Ken Russell and even Dario Argento. Zombie’s noxious narrative does touch upon some notable nods to these filmmakers with the streams of blood, awkward nudity and spooky rooms of uncertainty. However, ‘The Lords Of Salem’ relentlessly suffers from a barren storyline that never quite compliments the meaningless madness that uneventfully percolates in his shoddy supernatural sludge. If anything, Zombie can be applauded for his continual appreciation of low-budgeted lunacy in the woeful cheesy flicks of yesteryear that generate his fascination for off-kilter sleazy showcases.
Massachusetts native rocker/director Zombie sets his soggy story in the Bay State’s community of modern-day Salem, a place known for its historical activities of witches and mysticism. It tells the account of a punk rock radio DJ Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie, the director’s wife) whose blonde dreadlocks and tattooed exterior suggests a misfit rebel ready to take on the fatal curse that will haunt her unorthodox sensibilities. In short, Heidi will become a victimised target of a witch-induced stronghold. Yikes!
The premise involves the regrettable gesture of Heidi playing the mysterious music of the local band The Lords at her dingy radio station. The single entitled ‘Salem Rocks!’ turns out to be a lyrical nightmare that is remotely related to the original 17th century tune of the time. The results are tragic as this particular melody reactivates the witches’ wrath from centuries ago. Indeed, this was not the finest hour for Heidi to showcase the toxic tune of The Lords.
Upon unknowingly releasing the witchcraft powers, Heidi is tapped to pose as Satan’s surrogate mommy of misery. At least Salem’s madcap musical wonders The Lords build up a following although it is at the expense of the harried Heidi and her misfortune of spellbound havoc.
Potentially, ‘The Lords Of Salem’ could have been somewhat of a serviceable shocker with promising usage of inspired insanity. Obviously Zombie captures the essence of cramping radio stations, radical rock music and the theatrical artistry of a few ghoulish flourishes that manage to offer an occasional eye-opening surge of exasperation. But for the most part, Zombie lacks any solid conviction in the cockeyed caper he serves up in banal by-the-numbers fashion. Zombie is so busy aping the other creepy influences of his revered idols that he forgets to inject any distinctive dosage of his own twitching trickery.
It is too bad that ‘The Lords Of Salem’ lazily bogs itself down in countless dream sequences that seem to run on forever and standby bloody scenes in an effort to preserve the empty-minded shock value. Zombie’s spouse, Sheri Moon, is not particularly memorable as the lead lass despite her decorative look as a walking ink block with bright yellow follicles. As the fellow roguish disk jockeys, both Jeff Daniel Phillips and Ken Foree are an entertaining hoot-in-a-half. Veteran Bruce Davison wears rather thin as a garrulous witchcraft expert.
Overall, ‘The Lords Of Salem’ tries to scream a bizarre and gruesome game of horror-filled high jinx but comes up with nothing but whispers of synthetic outlandishness. Zombie is an eccentric and erratic force behind a camera and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Nevertheless, hallucinatory hogwash such as ‘Salem’ will continue to dog Zombie as a campy conductor of sluggish horror-oriented hogwash.
The Lords of Salem (2013)
Anchor Bay Films
1 hr. 41 mins.
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Jeff Daniels Phillips, Dee Wallace, Patricia Dunn and Ken Foree
Directed by: Rob Zombie
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Horror/Mystery & Suspense
Critic’s rating: * star (out of 4 stars)