Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Lords Of Salem


Rob Zombie brings a lot of noise but not much rhythm in this backward satanic venture, The Lords of Salem.

Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a dread-headed rock chick who DJs at her local radio station in small town Salem, Massachusetts. When she receives a vinyl record by an unknown band called ‘The Lords’ from an anonymous sender, Heidi and her colleagues Whitey (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Herman (Ken Foree) become intrigued with its ominous, aberrant sound. But when Whitey plays the band’s track on the radio, dubbing them ‘The Lords of Salem’, Heidi is tormented with flashbacks to her past traumas. The mysterious message hidden within its repetitive bars tell of a much darker pastime of infamous witch trials, and unleash a reawakened evil she is forced to confront behind the door of apartment 5.

Zombie certainly stays true to his practice. The narrative spurts mere moments of cohesion, and after thirty minutes its logic is hopelessly lost in an abhorrence of disjointed, nonsensical religious cult imagery. Any initial stir of classic storytelling is forgotten and instead it stumbles its way through sacrilegious carnage. It’s all face-less priests and hocus pocus witches practicing the damning rituals of folklore to avenge their hunters and seek Satan’s chosen one on their path to rebirth.

It may be shocking to see the righteousness of a newborn judged by the tasting of its skin soaked in bloody juices, but here it’s nothing but a random, meaningless sequence to squint at. Lords of Salem throws down a ridiculous rampage of flabby, six-nippled, wrinkly witches that hide in the corners of the kitchen; neon-lit symbols of Christ just to fire up the modern rock ‘n’ roll ambience; and a fair amount of bizarre tumour demons and goat worshipping. “Why a goat?” someone asks. Other than as a piece of livestock for Moon to ride on, I have no idea.

Even horror’s honorary head witch, Dee Wallace, can’t save the concept. In fact, the trio of the ancient coven (Wallace, Patricia Quinn, Judy Geeson) are pretty pathetic and hardly have to lift a finger to get to Heidi; historian/researcher Francis (Bruce Davidson) goes out with a kitchen utensil blow to the head and Whitey is told to simply go away. Moon takes the helm alongside her co-creative partner and husband Zombie, but thankfully she has little to do other than to succumb to the hypnotising hex- subconsciously zombying her way through the latter half of the film- and make the most of her fancy-dress make up effects.

Zombie clearly has a bag of nutty ideas, but they are lost in translation. Appearing predominantly a product of self-celebration, it offers not a whole lot more than simply strong doses of disorientation and bafflement.

Nevertheless, it still offers one off-the-rails psychedelic trip that is sure to stun even those critical of its premise. It’s intriguing in its quieter moments and, if nothing else, the dialogue is tremendous entertainment- even if it is for all the wrong reasons. That alone is enough to illicit more laugh than scares and you can’t help but wonder how much Zombie is intentionally toying with us here.

The Lords’ droning track is hypnotising (you’d expect Zombie of all people to hit the nail on the head with this one) and if anything stays with you, it’s that… and perhaps the image of an entranced Moon battling for the grip of the umbilical cord of a giant, blood-soaked newborn. But Zombie must have been too busy crafting his eccentric sequences to give two thoughts about assisting these few bars with the rest of a soundtrack.

VERDICT: This is one vinyl you’d keep well away from your stylus. If there was a glimpse of hope for Zombie after his promising debut House of 1000 Corpses and its successor The Devil’s Reject, surely this has been too far cemented under his visions’ warped delivery and sloppy storytelling in his prevailing works.

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