Prologue: I am not a believer.
There goes another 100 minutes of life, relinquished to the filmmaking ‘talent’ of Rob Zombie. As promising as The Lords of Salem started and looked throughout, it didn’t last long, and the movie rapidly and unashamedly descended into a complete mess.
Heidi, a radio DJ in Salem, MA, receives a mysterious package and unwittingly becomes the vessel with whom the murdered Salem woman/witches of 17th Century take their revenge.
It’s a true indicator of Rob Zombie’s skills as a storyteller that he can take a plot that begins extremely intriguingly, has style and tonal elements of an genuinely original horror mystery, and somehow turn it into a massive metaphorical cinema dump and figuratively rub it in the faces of his audience. Regardless of a few questionable, vulgar scenes and alienation techniques employed, the first 15 minutes of The Lords of Salem was very engaging. Zombie uses slapstick, incongruity and absurdity to chip at the guard of his audience, which enables him to execute some real scares, one of which is satisfyingly terrifying. He uses lighting adeptly throughout, creating a visual palette that hammers at the eye, and this is definitely his best-looking movie.
Despite the first 15 minutes, and in spite of what was developing into an interesting narrative, the film loses all of its wheels, grinds to a halt and explodes into a million pointless pieces. The acting really is absolutely terrible, with wooden yet over-the-top performances replete throughout from all members of cast. It doesn’t help that the script is clichéd and sounds rushed through pre-production. One could argue the heightened melodrama from the female characters pays homage to the possession/occult/blasphemy-ridden movies of thirty years ago, but Zombie brings nothing new to the table here, so you may as well watch the infinitely better The Exorcist, The Devils, Rosemary’s Baby or The Omen. It all just seemed a confusing, immature and, by the end, shocking for the sake of being shocking pile of nothingness. Watching a priest force fellatio in a church is not edgy, it is just agenda-less shock tactics that will have fanboys all over the world searching for hidden meaning when in reality there is none. Zombie is not clever, he’s not a pioneer of new horror, he’s a inept storyteller with an eye for the uncanny.
There is nothing hidden in this movie. It’s one of the most unsatisfying things I’ve seen ever. It’s just a boring mess from 15-101. It’s hard to understand why Zombie gets funding for movies, because for every movie he releases a little bit of the art of storytelling dies.