There might be some bitterness to this review, as I was expecting to go into the movie theater and see a sequel to The Witches of Eastwick. I mean, I know it’s not in high demand to produce a sequel to the film, but it did make over $60 million at the box office. It even got nominated for two Academy Awards! Plus, don’t you want to see the rebirth of Cher as an actress…?! Wasn’t she good in Mask? I feel like I’m going off topic…
The Lords of Salem is about a Salem, Massachusetts radio DJ named Heidi (played by Rob Zombie’s longtime wife/collaborator, Sheri Moon Zombie), who receives a vinyl record from a band called “The Lords”, and she plays it on the air and all of the women of Salem slowly disintegrate into bizarre behavior fueled by witchcraft-induced hallucinations.
There’s a lot of striking imagery and really good cinematography happening throughout this film, but it’s definitely a style over substance issue. The first act is filled with moments that move the plot along, but the last two-thirds of the film is simply just Heidi experiencing weird occurrences and having bizarre dream sequences.
And what was I supposed to get out of these disturbing images? It seemed like they were just kinda there. Maybe I’m supposed to interpret some of them in some obvious way, like when Heidi enters a huge, classy room, and waiting for her at the top is a giant mutant harlequin fetus shooting his umbilical cord at her, to which she “accepts”, I guess (which I believe was a sequence stolen from Oklahoma!). So is she pregnant or something? Is that what they’re saying? I don’t know… they didn’t allude to that by the end of the film in any way. Regardless, it still mostly felt like inexplicable nonsense. Once the end montage of crazy shit started happening, and they showed Heidi riding a stuffed goat while several no-faced, cloaked men were stroking giant pink dildos, I was all like “OK, he’s just pulling crazy shots out of his ass now…” The final disturbing image wasn’t any more, or any less disturbing than any of the other disturbing things I was subjected to in the middle chunk of the movie. Again, no real grand payoff to the madness.
Yet, do I remember all of the weird things I saw in this film? I sure do! But that’s simply because they were absolutely insane. Maybe if Oblivion had a scene where a bunch of topless grandmas were dancing around a camp fire praising Satan, I’d have a more lasting memory of Mr. Cruise’s latest work.
Maybe Lords of Salem is the most highly symbolic film ever made, and my inferior brain just couldn’t get past the (abundance of) naked old ladies and the dildos…? I’m not sure. One thing I DO know is that even if this movie does require a bit of metaphorical interpretation; I’m under the impression that it probably doesn’t deserve the time and effort required to turn into something functional.
You want to see a collection of bizarre horror-type imagery? The Lords of Salem is right up your alley. Want to see a dynamic movie with a plot and character development? Then see what else is playing. I like Rob Zombie as a horror film director in theory, but to my count he’s only made one movie I would consider to be remotely good (The Devil’s Rejects). I don’t know if he needs to tone anything down at all, because I like the idea of a Rob Zombie movie with crazy imagery, but he just needs to focus more. Make the images actually mean something, Rob.
Since my mom used to tell me that if I can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all… I’ll end on this: The Lords of Salem has a great soundtrack. Lots of Velvet Underground. I suppose if I have to have nonsensical bullshit thrown in my face; I’ll enjoy it more if “All Tomorrow’s Parties” is playing over it.
3.5 out of 10