Title: The Lords of Salem
Play time: 1h 41min
Director: Rob Zombie
Starring: Jeffrey Daniel Phillips, Meg Foster, Ken Foree, Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison
The Lords of Salem (2012) – The ‘Apostacy’ Movie by Rob Zombie
Before The Lords of Salem, I refused to sign on to the conventional wisdom that Rob Zombie is a hack and a poseur, a witless purveyor of ugliness and flaccid shock horror. This despite the fact that I’ve never actually been able to recommend any of his films, which have all been irritating and overindulgent to different degrees. But they also have a exaggerated grimy aesthetic that I actually like, and a knack for imagery that’s, if nothing else, strikingly ugly; plenty of filmmakers spend their time in the gutter, but Rob Zombie at least bothers to decorate. Giving Michael Myers an abusive white trash childhood in the Halloween backstory was a dumbass idea, but at least it was memorably rendered.
I’ve now seen The Lords of Salem, which is Zombie’s Rosemary’s Baby-style thriller, and… well, it has some striking images and an exaggerated grimy aesthetic that I actually like, and it’s also kind of irritating and overindulgent. It does have a remarkable number of ideas that are at once terrible and amazing, including a title card superimposed over a freeze frame of a goat, bringing about the apocalypse via an unsolicited vinyl submission from a mysterious rock band to a radio station, a climactic explosion of gonzo imagery that I pretty much unreservedly love, and making the whole thing a metaphor for drug addiction. One alluring thing about Zombie is that it’s hard to know how much of all this is a put-on. I spent a lot of time squinting at it, which is more fun than being bored.
The Lords of Salem – Doesn’t Want to Make Sense
Rob Zombie still can’t or doesn’t want to tell a story, and The Lords of Salem doesn’t even really pretend to make sense, or to be paced in any rational way. But as a beautifully-composed piece of phantasmagoria with a phenomenal sound design, it’s actually worthwhile. So long as you know what you’re getting into.