Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The MONTH of HORROR - Day 21: The Lords of Salem

The Salem Witch Trials were a notorious period in American history, and over time it's been over-exaggerated to the point where many believe it was some kind of genocide however the amount of deaths that occurred were not extreme. I'm not making light of this horrible time, not at all but with twenty confirmed executions, it certainly was not the all out slaughter-fest that some fables, stories, and lore over the years have instilled in us. The stories are intriguing though, what if there really were witches who were communicating with the dark lord Satan? What if there was some truth to all this?

In 'The Lords of Salem', writer and director Rob Zombie uses that fascinating history to take us on a disturbing, nightmare fuelled ride that won't be for everyone but for this guy, it was a hell of a dark, and atmospheric experience.

For those fans of Zombie's past filmography, I can totally understand why so many have outright dismissed this flick, and that's because it is so unlike anything he's ever done that it may have just been too jarring. The phrase I would use to sum up Zombie's films up to this point would be "hillbilly horror", and he's done a fantastic job of etching out a unique identity within a sub-genre that he breathed new life into, something that hadn't really existed since the drive-in flicks of the late 70's. Here though he has toned things down, he's adopted a more painterly eye, written out the constant profanity, and exchanged heavy metal tunes for classical overtures--he's absolutely stretching his Kubrick, and Argento muscles big time with this one, and it's a beautiful thing.

The plot is simple and straight forward, which I liked: Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie, natch) is a radio DJ for a local rock station, and she is sent a mysterious record from a band called "The Lords". When she plays it on-air, she is struck with visions of ghoulish rituals, and those visions escalate in vividness as the story goes along, until she is quite literally cast under its spell. It seems that she is chosen by the active bloodlines of those who perished during the trials of 1692, to birth the now active coven a demon king--Heidi's ancestor was one of the priests who sent many to their deaths, hence being "the chosen one". It all becomes a gorgeous descent into madness, and hellish imagery--deliberately paced but never uninteresting.

Again, and I cannot stress this enough, this flick is not for all horror fans, as many will decry it as "pretentious", "over-indulgent", or "slow" but I felt none of that, and was surprised to read about so many folks throwing those words around. Rob Zombie has evolved as a true filmmaker with this one, and I was honestly blown away by some of the terrific atmosphere he created, and beautiful shots that were staged. In time, I feel like more will admire this solid piece of work, and will come to see it as a unique entry in the genre, and not a mis-step.

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