Thursday, October 03, 2013

Horror Thoughts ‘13—The Lords of Salem (2013) ***

R, 101 min.
Director/Writer: Rob Zombie
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeffery Daniel Phillips, Judy Geeson, Bruce Davidson, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace, Ken Foree, Meg Foster, Maria Conchita Alonso

“The Lords of Salem” came and went from theaters this past spring without much notice. After the success of director Rob Zombie’s two-film reboot of the “Halloween” franchise and the mega cult status of his masterpiece “The Devil’s Rejects”, I expected “The Lords of Salem” to be one of the most anticipated films of the year. After seeing it, I think it deserved more attention, but its casual reception also seems somewhat appropriate.

While “Lords” isn’t Zombie’s best film, it is his most mature outing to date. It’s also his most polished film. It looks gorgeous and it isn’t filled with the quick cut editing that fueled his less impressive works. Zombie seems to be more personally attached to his material this time around. Perhaps that’s be cause he’s given his own wife her first starring role. While that might sound like a recipe for disaster, Sheri Moon Zombie has a great charisma about her, which makes the journey of her character all that more tragic.

Taking place in the notorious town of Salem, Massachusetts, it’s no spoiler to reveal the plot of the film involves a witches coven and revenge for the witch burnings that were spearheaded by the Reverend Jonathan Hawthorne. Sheri Moon Zombie’s DJ is the final descendant of Hawthorne and therefore the focus of the coven’s revenge. Zombie takes his time building the background and atmosphere of the story. Patience is one of the best virtues of good horror filmmaking. Zombie earns the horror he imparts, rather than ramming it down the audience’s throats.

The movie looks beautiful. It feels informed by the stylized European horror flicks of the 70s executed with today’s Hollywood gloss. Zombie finds some amazing images in some of his more spectacular set pieces, including one that takes place in a darkened room with nothing but a neon pink cross for light while something lingers just out of the light’s reach. Although, he never really finds that magical spark that makes “Rejects” one of the best horror flick ever made, “The Lords of Salem” is a solid work of gothic mood and good storytelling elements resulting in a good cult horror flick.

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