April 22, 2013
Rob Zombie and The Lords of Salem
There's no real risk of spoilers being revealed in this response to Rob Zombie's new movie, The Lords of Salem, because I don't think I understood enough of what happened to give away anything like a plot. Sure, I can report on the unrelated sequence of nightmarish hallucinatory freaky images that flash across the screen in a chaotic, psychosexual, hilarious blur for the last 45 minutes, but as far as what actually happens in this movie? Your guess is as good as mine.
This much I do know: Rob Zombie's wife, Sheri, whose film career pretty much consists of her husband's filmography, is one game actress. She stars in Lords of Salem as Heidi, a DJ at a Salem, MA radio station who unwittingly enters a bizarre world of Satan worshippers and (of course) witches after she plays a mysterious record that shows up at the station one day. Over the course of the movie, as the witches insinuate themselves into Sheri's psyche, she encounters strange demonic beasts, descends into madness, rides a goat (see above; as a kind of meta-joke, her t-shirt says "Why the Goat?"), does heroin, is naked all over the place, and possibly delivers some kind of hell-squid baby, though everything had gotten so nonsensically trippy by that point that I'm honestly not sure.
Rob Zombie seemed to construct this movie by writing a coherent (though boring) set-up, then coming up with several dozen really disturbing visual concepts, then beautifully filming each one, and splicing them all together until he hit 100 minutes. The end. The movie really looks fantastic--he takes Stanley Kubrick's style of chilly wide shots and lots of slow tracking, and combines it with Dario Argento's hyper-stylized, surreal gore, all with a $2.5 million budget.
He understands the comic potential of horror, and the creepy potential of the Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties". There are several references to silent movies in clips playing on background TVs, and in a giant still from of Melies' A Trip to the Moon on the wall behind our heroine's bed. But then there's also a demon toddler with slimy skin and flippers for hands who in one scene waddles up to this very bed, inexplicably looking at a sleeping Sheri Zombie. Nothing happens. Cut! The scene ends. I have no idea.
It's a cinematic version of a talented filmmaker's surrealist nightmare, and probably a helpful lesson on why you shouldn't take a lot of serious psychotropic drugs. It's an incoherent mess, but I find diabolical camp irresistible.
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