The Lords Of Salem (2013)
Finally, after what’s felt like forever, the most-anticipated release - at least, by me - of the year is upon us, and though it doesn’t seem as if it’s going to get the theatrical release it deservers, The Lords Of Salem still deserves our attention. If you’re anything like me, you will have hyped this film up in your head so much that you’ll assume anything will be a letdown. Thankfully, I am absolutely thrilled to report, that the second big release of 2013 (after American Mary - disappointing, but not a complete disappointment) was even more than I expected, and, dare I say it, may even be the best horror film of the year.
I was lucky enough to attend a screening of Rob Zombie’s latest last Friday night, in the Irish Film Institute, Dublin, which showcases the coolest in horror, from a regular Fright Night, encompassing everything that’s new and classic in the genre, to their annual Horrorthon, during which I’ve seen some of my favourite horror films. If you live in Dublin, you need to check this place out, because not only is it beautifully-designed, but it’s reasonably-priced, and, as far as I can see, they do more for horror than anyone else in this goddamned town. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll take solace in being surrounded by fellow horror freaks at midnight on a Friday.
Rob Zombie’s wife and star of his previous outings, Sheri Moon Zombie, takes centre stage in The Lords Of Salem, as local radio DJ Heidi, a dreadlocked, tattooed hippie type, recovering from a drug problem, whose only friend in the world, besides her two hilarious co-workers, is her dog, with whom she shares her apartment. After receiving a mysterious package at work, from a band known only as The Lords, Heidi plays a creepy record on her radio show and, as a result, her life begins to fall apart, as she slowly loses her mind. It’s clear from the sinister-sounding music that there are other, much more evil forces at work here, but when her kindly, elderly neighbour and her friends (one of whom is played rather brilliantly by Rocky Horror alum Patricia Quinn) are revealed to be a part of it, things suddenly take a much scarier turn – to say anymore would be to ruin the fun, but suffice to say nothing is what it seems.
The film opens with a fairly disturbing sequence, involving the accused witches of Salem, as they try, and fail, to birth the Antichrist. Through similar flashbacks, we learn that they were burned at the stake, and as a result, the head witch cursed all of the women of Salem, and in particular, the ancestors of the man who sent them to their death, whose diary a local historian calls upon to try to solve the mystery at hand, after witnessing Heidi’s descent into isolation and madness. Events unfold so slowly during this film that there were times when I was olding my breath to see what happened next. Let me be clear - this is a serious sensory overload, and there will be times when you will desperately want to look away, but trust me, you cannot. Though they hurt afterwards, I found my eyes constantly searching every corner of the screen, in fear that I was going to miss something. In fact, this is the kind of film that needs to be seen over and over again, just to figure out all of its little intricacies.
Happily, Sheri finally proves herself as an actress, in a difficult role that requires her to look equals parts smoking hot and disgustingly grungy. Her co-workers, played by likeable, Rob Zombie favourite Ken Foree (last seen in The Devil’s Rejectsand Halloween) and Jeff Daniel Phillips (whom, you will be shocked to learn, played the incredibly irritating Uncle Seymour Coffins in Halloween 2) are the light amongst the darkness, injecting all of their dealings with her – in particular, their wonderfully cringy on-air segments – with enough charisma and good-natured slagging to convince us they are real friends. Phillips looks distractingly like Zombie, in parts, almost leading one to believe the director is making a cameo, but he is perfection as Heidi’s lovelorn friend, whom she must turn her back on once things start going to hell.
There are not enough words to express just how wonderful this film is. It’s everything I wanted it to be and more, easily the most original, fresh horror film I’ve seen in ages, and possibly even the best of the year. It’s a feast for the senses, loaded with creepy imagery, and genuinely effective jump scares that will catch your breath in your throat. Sheri is incredible in the lead role, affecting, vulnerable and tough all at once, and the usual cast of RZ favourites are all on hand to lighten things up when needs be. The score, by John 5, the current lead guitarist in Zombie’s band, is expertly creepy; in particular the slice of music from The Lords will make your skin crawl each and every time it’s played. I don’t want to give too much away about the plot, because it unravels so slowly, so perfectly, that to say anymore would ruin its impact. Put simply, The Lords Of Salem is the horror film we all knew Rob Zombie was capable of making – original, yet packed with enough classic nods to please horror fanatics, beautiful to watch, and scary as fuck. It’s an intense couple of hours of cinema that is worth every second, and is a must for every genre fan, regardless of whether one is a fan of Zombie’s previous outings or not. Pure perfection, and absolutely unmissable