Controversial musician turned filmmaker Rob Zombie is back with another horror movie years after Halloween II pretty much pushed him off of the map as far as respectable horror directors are concerned. The Lords of Salem is Zombie’s worst film by far, also becoming one of the worst films that I’ve ever had to sit through. Salem is a tedious piece of work, stretched out far beyond its reach and starring Sheri Moon Zombie as one of the worst characters ever to grace the screen. The Lords of Salem is the lowest form of filth on screen that can be viewed, wasting its visual style on a hybrid presentation that doesn’t quite cut it as a music video, while also not making any sense as a film.
Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a local radio DJ. She lives alone in an apartment and spends most of her now-sober time watching TV or listening to music. One night she receives a mysterious piece of music from a band calling themselves The Lords of Salem and after listening to a track she slowly starts descending into hellish nightmare.
As each day progresses she finds herself becoming more and more sleepy. Hallucinations become frequent as the Devil himself slowly starts to take over her world.
Rob Zombie is no stranger to horror, yet The Lords of Salem feels like the cheapest, lowest form of horror ever assembled onto a screen. There’s a difference between making your film stylish or grim or focusing on the uncomfortable violence to achieve a desired effect on the audience, but Zombie almost unconsciously taps into all of these things and cuts together one of the most reprehensible films known to man.
I’m not one to get easily offended, yet The Lords of Salem offended me. Not because of its over-use of weird nudity and sex or because of its constant dream-like gore sequences, but because Zombie has truly ditched everything that he’s learned as a filmmaker. Gone are the days of his “white trash” dialogue and his realistic approach to violence. He’s now much more worried about forcing his wife Sheri Moon Zombie onto the screen wearing the least amount of clothing as possible.
Did I mention that she’s one of the worst actresses ever to attempt to read a line? Perhaps The Lords of Salem would have worked as straight-to-DVD trash had it not been for Sheri Moon’s attempts at being a character that you’d actually like to see make it out of the film alive. She does nothing to make Heidi feel like anything more than a fake character written by a man with one bizarre mind.
And I usually mean that in a good way. Zombie has shown us in his past films that he knows how to blend the crazy visuals of music-video storytelling with the often bloody and sadistic traits of modern horror. The Devil’s Rejects is still a modern horror masterpiece and I’ll always defend Halloween as a remake that gets it right more than wrong, but there’s no denying that he’s fallen off the wagon with The Lords of Salem.
It’s shot amateurishly with a washed out grainy look that doesn’t enhance the mood or atmosphere one bit. If anything it makes things confusing, because everything from the pacing and music feels 70s or 80s, right down to the camera movement, yet it’s set in modern day.
Zombie constantly cuts back and forth from nonsense disturbing imagery that only feels like it’s on screen because it “looks cool”. There’s no substance to these continuous shots and if anything they set the film’s main story off balance. You start out watching a creepy horror film that’s going for genuine scares and discomfort and you end up with a music video that’s more worried about how many crazy clips it can throw at you versus a story that actually makes sense.
And none of this works because of Sheri Moon Zombie and her lack of everything that is required to be a decent actress. She reads her lines on screen, looks at the camera and strikes a sexy pose while wearing barely any clothing and then stands in a trance while the demons manipulate/take over her body.
Rob Zombie either doesn’t have the heart to tell her that she needs to get far away from a camera as soon as possible or he clearly needs to get his eyes checked too, because any director that’s more worried about his film than his wife would see this glaring problem early on.
Zombie always struck me as a visionary that just had a bit of troubles triangulating his vision. Devil’s Rejects homed in on everything that he does well, while his other films worked as examples that showed us both his strengths and weaknesses. The Lords of Salem simply shows us his weaknesses.
I’m not sure if this is just a massive fumble or if we’ve finally lost that director that showed us so much promise back in 2005.
The Lords of Salem is nothing more than bloated filth that highlights his visual style well, but reminds us that beauty is nothing without a purpose. I truly believe that there is no purpose to The Lords of Salem aside from Zombie getting a paycheck to shoot whatever comes to his mind next, while also securing his wife another gig on-screen.
There are complete scenes of pointless nothingness that go on forever and are never saved because of the wooden acting by every single soul in the film. They’re all working from something called a “script”, which I can’t believe Zombie takes credit for writing. His direction doesn’t make matters much better, almost always feeling lost and like it’s in a free-fall, struggling to decide if we’re supposed to be watching a film or a music video.
I honestly can say now that I have absolutely no interest in seeing whatever Rob Zombie does next as a filmmaker. He’s lost “it” and it saddens me knowing this, because I used to look forward to his films so much.
The Lords of Salem – 1/10[springboard type=”video” id=”569519″ player=”dlyr002″ width=”600″ height=”365″ ]