Lords of Salem
I’m not a hater when it comes to Rob Zombie. I liked House of a Thousand Corpses, but not Devil’s Rejects. I didn’t mind Halloween, but liked the remake half better than the prequel half. Zombie has a habit of making sequels almost a different genre than the originals. House of a Thousand Corpses is horror. there’s an edge of fantasy and monster to it. Devils Rejects is a gritty crime thriller. It’s really a different kind of movie (which I could have still liked if you throw out the whole middle half hour or so with them terrorizing the folks at the hotel). Halloween starts as a crime movie (birth of a serial killer) then turns into a horror film. H2 however, is almost an experimental art film with a great deal of high minded symbolism and metaphor. And actually, that’s not a bad thing per se….except there was no warning. No one knew what they were getting in to…certainly not what you would expect from a Halloween film.
I prefer horror with some fantasy elements (and preferably monsters, but that’s not absolutely necessary). That’s kind of what I was hoping for in Lords of Salem – magic, supernatural and dark fantasy.
Lords of Salem delivered, but I’m still not sure exactlally what it delivered. There’s a grteat look to the film, not nearly as grainy or washed out as Horror semes to have gotten lately. I caught a bunch of film referances (on the main characters apartment walls alone) but am pretty sure there were more that I didn’t notice. Zombie’s attempting to do some interesting things as well with the concept of the weird sisters (the trio of witches found in british fokelore and featured in Shakespear’s MacBeth) and with a lot of the tropes of classic devil worship movies. There’s an intelligent story here.
There’s also a flair in the film making. Particuarly in the third act it’s clear that Rob Zombie is trying to be Stanley Kubrick. In more than a few ways he succeeds. You can see the thought that went into this story – much like H2, it’s a smarter story than the subject matter deserves. you can tell Zombie is trying to be a little more serious this time around by the distinct lack of rednecks and about 75% less swearing (all of which is very appreciated). Most of the nudity is designed to be disturbing rather than titilating, and that really takes some doing. There’s only one big problem with this movie, and it pervades the entire film. It’s freaky, and stylish….but it’s not scary. And that’s where Zombie fails (and Kubrick succeeds).
Nothing in the movie scares me. The monsters are interesting enough designs, but poorly excecuted and overly lit. The jump scares don’t make me jump. The spacious apartment undercuts the necessary feeling of isolation. It’s just not scary. I dig the whole satan worship theme, but I can get that from Black Sunday or the Devil’s Rain. There’s nothing that really sets this movie apart other than a nice visit with Ken Foree and a few too many shots of Mrs. Zombie’s bum.
I’ve heard the criticism by the way that the role was beyond Shari Moon Zombie. I don’t think that was the problem at all. What the film lacks is polish. The script needed to be gone over a few more times, and the lighting needed gone over further. Perhaps a little more care to the rubber suits the monsters were wearing. The film has sop much potential….but it fails to achieve it, and ends up feeling very by-the-numbers. Perhaps if they had ramped up the claustrophobia and isolation of the main character. I’d also have preferred them to either really explore the drug abuse (turning it into a question to the audience “is it all in her head?”) or throw it out altogether. It was one of those things that just showed up for a moment (presumably for character development, though it failed to add any dimension to her role) and didn’t go anywhere (rule of thumb – if you show a shotgun over the mantle in the first act, you need to use it in the third act or you don’t draw attention to it in the first place.). The romance could have been easily jettisoned to add to the isolation and paranoia of the main character. There’s just so much that could have been done better. It’s kind of like they never created enough momentum or weight to achieve critical mass and that’s disappointing.
I’m going to head over to Violent Blue to try and cheer myself up.