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The Lords of Salem

sxswfilm2013SXSW 2013 Film Review

The Lords of Salem

Director/Screenwriter: Rob Zombie

From the singular mind of horror maestro Rob Zombie comes a chilling plunge into a nightmare world where evil runs in the blood. Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Ken Foree, Patricia Quinn (film synopsis from sxsw.com)

WHO’S IT FOR?: I guess Rob Zombie fans, but I'd be surprised if anyone could sit through this mess of a movie without wondering just what the hell they walked into.


Rob Zombie's work tends to be of the “love it or hate it” variety. The one notable exception seems to be 2005's The Devil's Rejects, which even some non-fans (myself included) will admit that it's a pretty good effort and by far the best film he's churned out so far. The Lords of Salem sees Zombie forced to be slightly more creative with the narrative and visually more dynamic with a reduced budget amidst a myriad of production problems. His attempt at a weird '70s style occult horror film featuring witches, rock music, and featherless turkey midgets fails miserably despite a strong desire to do something truly unique. It's a bizarre experiment that ends up feeling half-finished with no desire to tell an even remotely cohesive story.

Hints at some interesting story elements are clearly established but Zombie insists on focusing a majority of the movie on the troubled but uninteresting DJ, Heidi Hawthrone, played by his wife. What follows is a fairly effective and creepy setup that never goes anywhere terrifying and instead feels more like a bad acid trip that refuses to end. The backstory of the witches is briefly shown near the beginning,  and later on through flashbacks but Zombie appears not to care about simple connections between what was happening then and what Heidi is going through in the present. It's clear that some sort of curse on the Hawthorne family in the past is influencing the descendents in the present and there's a clever use of a vinyl records to show the rising of the witches. The problem is that it's all nice window dressing for a half-assed story filled with batshit insane albeit frustrating imagery.

The Lords of Salem simply fails as a horror movie. There are little to no scares to be found and what is there mostly comes across as silly with no real meaning. For a film filled with turkey midgets, masturbating priest monsters and a trio of creepy neighbors, it does surprisingly little to justify it's existence. Why was this made? Each subsequent scene seems to further cement Zombie's desire to disgust and alienate his audience through a crude and garish visual style that has no meaning whatsoever. He's clearly got story ideas in his head worth telling but The Lords of Salem is not one of them. In fact I'd be surprised if current fans are even able to digest this mess of a flick.


Tyler Mager currently reviews movies for CollegeMovieReview.com and comics for Gutters and Panels. He's also an aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker based out of Austin, TX. Follow him on twitter @tylermager.

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