When I found out Rob Zombie’s new film, THE LORDS OF SALEM, would be having its World Premiere at TIFF ’12, I was very excited and was hell0-bent on going. I’m not a Rob Zombie fan boy by any means, but I am a fan of his film-making style, and I love his passion for the horror genre. I also have enjoyed most of his films – even, Halloween II, which is my least favorite, had some redeeming qualities I could still find enjoyable.
Ryerson Theatre in Toronto is a nice and large theatre, which is very good too, cause the line-up went back, around, and back some more outside on the streets. It was a fairly enthusiastic-at times rowdy, crowd. This is normally the case during TIFF’s “Midnight Madness” screenings.
Rob Zombie went up on stage to introduce the film and received a fairly loud ovation from the audience.
Following the film, Rob, his wife, Sherri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips and Cinematographer, Brandon Trost, came out on stage for a Q&A with the audience. This was fun and some of the questions were downright ridiculous – for example: One guy asked why Rob doesn’t show any frontal-nudity of his wife in his films. Rob didn’t try too hard, he made a couple of funny quips, but generally, I almost had the sense he didn’t really care about the interaction part of the event – I could be perceiving things wrongly though.
Now on to the film.
THE LORDS OF SALEM is about an old coven of witches that somehow make their way back to the town of Salem, Massachusetts 300 years after the original coven was burned and destroyed. Radio DJ Heidi Hawthorne receives an old wooden box containing vinyl with music from “The Lords.” When the music is played it has an effect on Heidi and the women of Salem, and from there things get bat-shit crazy.
Things start very promising as the coven of witches from 300 years ago are shown performing a ritual worshipping Satan and “the goat.” I loved the title sequence. The sheer insanity of the old, naked, rotten, pure evil, satan-loving witches introduced the intensity that would be felt by the viewer for the remainder of the film. The camera zooming in on the goat with the THE LORDS OF SALEM title next to it, was in a word – awesome.
This film is gorgeous to look at and the cinematography is stunning. Certain scenes and set-pieces certainly gave me goosebumps due to the beauty and ugliness of everything. One particular scene with Heidi walking her dog in the cemetery with the Fall Season colors in full-swing was just fantastic to look at. The end-result of that scene is unforgettable once Heidi enters the cemetery church and meets a friendly priest (one of the best scenes in Zombie’s career thus far!). The entire setting in Salem, Massachusetts was perfect with a capital P.
There were many chilling and frightening moments in THE LORDS OF SALEM. I really got the feeling Rob Zombie really did have the free reign to do whatever he wanted here. Perfectly timed audio and cleverly placed scares are prominent throughout – with that sick queasy feeling in your stomach Rob Zombie is capable of giving you in his best moments as a film-maker. The imagery in this film recalls some of the weirdest from other 70’s flicks. While watching some of the more strange and twisted images in this film, I kept thinking how much it reminded me of some of Stanley Kubrick’s or Jodorowski’s more insane works. A dash of Lucio Fulci could also be felt in this one. For people that hated HALLOWEEN II (2009) for some of it’s out-there and wacked out moments, THE LORDS OF SALEM may remind you a bit about some of that – but I strongly feel the way the “wacked out” imagery in certain scenes here, are much higher quality and stays within the context with this film much better than any of Zombie’s other works. It felt like a fever-induced nightmare at times, which I like.
I absolutely LOVED the music throughout the film – especially the main LORDS theme. I always felt the music in the film was well-placed in each scene. I will definitely get my hands on the score/soundtrack at the first opportunity.
The cast for this movie is pretty solid. People love to harp on Zombie for always casting the same people – especially his wife Sherri. I must give Zombie major credit here. He showed a lot of guts and confidence having his wife play such a major role in this film. Yes – she is not an accomplished or even very talented an actress, but she managed to hold things together quite well for most of the film. Her role was certainly not a simple one as her character goes through a significant transtion as the film moves along. The rest of the cast was excellent as well, especially the veteran actors Zombie employed for this.
THE LORDS OF SALEM is atmospheric, at-times-funny, scary and visually stunning. This is easily Rob Zombie’s best effort yet.
P.S. – Rob Zombie confirmed during the Q&A that his next project is THE BROADSTREET BULLIES, based on the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team from the 70’s.