'The Lords of Salem' Review By Bryan Yentz

... In complete seriousness, I felt as though I was watching Rob Zombie by way of TIM AND ERIC AWESOME SHOW GREAT JOB! ...
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Directing
  • Visuals
A near-catatonic woman stares with vacant eyes at the glorious architecture of the priory before her. The walls, their details and paintings stand illuminated by the garish glow of a blue neon light which reads, "Jesus Saves" in large, pulsing letters. Without warning, a collection of nude, animal-masked bodies enter her chamber as the maws of hell seem to open. One and all fall victim to the Hades gnashing before them as it hungrily devours each and every soul. Flashes of horror strike the eyes while the ears are gouged by the cries of beasts. . . And dwelling near it all. . . Is a dildo. Did I mention that before? Oh yeah, because there is one. . . A sort-of red dildo. . . Two actually. If nothing but that last phallic object stuck out to you then, by all means, keep readin', you're in the right place!

Heidi (Sheri-Moon Zombie) is a DJ. She's a DJ that likes classic rock, heavy-metal and shooting the sh*t with her buddies. She's also haunted. . . Quite haunted. Y'see, after she receives and plays a strange record from a band simply dubbed, "The Lords", she begins to hallucinate and experience otherworldly entities and shocks. Is it her drug-filled past coming back for her or is it something far worse? What follows is an homage to horror's directorial icons like Dario Argento and other cult-classics like THE SENTINEL, that seeks to emulate what they accomplished while attributing its own twisted ideas into the mix. Sadly, for all it does right, LORDS OF SALEM is ultimately undone by its own filmmaker's lapse into incompetence.

While LORDS OF SALEM is a far more sustained effort than Zombie's previous efforts, it nonetheless retains a plethora of the director's staple maneuvers such as surreal, off-kilter visuals; explicitly disturbing content; and of course, Sheri-Moon Zombie and her even more famous ass. However, the biggest change herein is the director's focus on atmosphere over graphic violence. Initially, the film builds a foundation on slow-burn storytelling with a smattering of ghostly horror and subtle shocks that successfully smother the narrative in a thick layer of dread. The epilogue's coven of nude women left me skeptical for sure, but what Zombie began cooking in this demonic stew definitely had me enthralled to see where it would all ultimately go. The juxtaposition between the dimly-lit corridors of Heidi's home and that of the glorious domestics of classically-styled abattoirs and cathedrals make for some genuinely intense sequences, aided all the more by the monstrosities which creep out from their dark corners.

Furthering the palpable apprehension is the truly unsettling sound design and music on display. Unlike his previous forays into horror, Zombie seemed to actually want the audience to pity the protagonist and care for her plight. The original score parallels her internal conflicts with solemn melodies before shaking the viewer into a state of fear with the Lord's theme itself. . . A dissonant, ear-prying track of queasiness. Every time the throbbing drum beat and screeching slides of a violin bow struck, I knew I was in for something lurid, macabre and cringe-inducing. It's fantastic to say the least; a horror film that genuinely makes you feel as though you're experiencing terror and abhorrence rather than simply watching it. Unlike, gore-fueled endeavors like SAW 3-7 or cash-ins like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2-4, THE LORDS OF SALEM is a classically structured tale of terror that obsesses over establishing mood rather than forcing obvious, red-stained slog down the viewer's throat. For the first and second acts, LORDS OF SALEM is a work of art-house horror that saturates each frame in a thick coat of apprehension. I picked up what Zombie was putting down and dug the hell out of it. . .

And then the last act happened. . . And shattered every positive going for it. . .

During the final sprint to the finish, LORDS OF SALEM becomes so slapdash and ridiculous with its content and imagery that I couldn't help but turn around and look at the audience around me with a stunned expression. I thought, "Was I the only person seeing this!?" At several points across the final thirty minutes I literally laughed out-loud at the unbelievably hilarious conventions laid before me. I mean, I'm not a dick, nor was I trying to ruin anyone's time, but I genuinely found it all f*cking comedic. It's nearly impossible for me to describe the situations that had me slack-jawed and guffawing, but let's just say that, from the point the midget-baby-monster thrashes tentacles about before matching the musical beats to each step he takes--I simply couldn't stop belting out laughs. And that's not even considering the last five minutes which feature--wait for it--mummy-esque priests stroking dildos. . . I sh*t you not. In complete seriousness, I felt as though I was watching Rob Zombie by way of TIM AND ERIC AWESOME SHOW GREAT JOB! I'm sorry, but I could take none of the "WTF" imagery serious whatsoever. Priests and dildos are not scary. A girl riding on top of a stuffed ram is not scary. A girl bumping and grinding a Marylin-Manson look-alike is not scary--nor is any of it weird. Well, it is weird, but not in a significant and compelling way. It's all just weird in a, "Who f*cking thought any of this was interesting, frightening, button-pushing or good!?" Honestly, I'd push everyone to watch the last fifteen or so minutes just so you can stare in awe at the profoundly stupid way in which this movie comes crashing down. This hysterical hysteria buckles THE LORDS' knees; the plot-holes and unexplained coincidences deliver the death blow. It's one thing to confuse the viewer with self-indulgent imagery and themes; it's another to drag them along for an hour and a half before foregoing all logical structure. By the last few shots, Zombie had turned all of my interest violently against me with a broken, ill-written story that abandons all reason with the kind of pretentious tripe that ONLY the person who created it would understand. Making a film for yourself is a great thing, but when you purposefully develop something for the masses but craft it in an impenetrable way--that's an injustice of the medium. Don't get me wrong, I "get" where the story went, but the "why" was completely missing from the puzzle.

After the film's premiere ended, Rob Zombie took his throne and performed a brief Q/A for the crowd. What followed were fanatics jerking off on his "art"; asking the typical question any fan-boy would ask for fear their master might beat them if they didn't. In an ostentatious manner, Zombie addressed the questions by dancing around answers instead of, y'know, actually just answering them. Not a soul asked what the hell he was thinking of when he thought it was alright to plaster misinformed imagery across the screen; why the last act was a hole-ridden affair; why nothing came of the apocalyptic stakes. . . Knowing my questions would remain unanswered and understanding I'd be viewed as a "villain" with my vituperative standpoints, I left.

While I'm still looking forward to his next project, I can't help but be disappointed with LORDS OF SALEM as it was a cinematic event oozing with potential. Zombie was given full-reign over his material, Sheri-Moon finally began getting into her role for once and the visuals and audio were downright fantastic. . . Until the end, that is. From the last act onward, LORDS is simply a short-film for Zombie himself. It's permissive and so self-entitled that it comes off as cheap, absurd and absolutely comical. There was a great movie in here, but it was buried under the weight of Zombie's own hubris.

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Comments (21)

  1. Mr.K

    @bryanyentz True, I would let either Tim Burton or Zack Snyder do it.

    11 months agoby @mr-kFlag

  2. Bryan Yentz


    And yeah, he's definitely one for style over substance. Except, I still think the most style he's offered was with THE DEVIL'S REJECTS. That one went straight for the simple jugular. It didn't waste its time with imagery that went nowhere and only served the purpose of the director--not the story.

    11 months agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  3. Bryan Yentz


    Interesting. I'm not really surprised considering LORDS is littered with archaic film imagery and posters every which way. He's proven he knows film history, he just needs to prove he can continue to actually make them and not simple homages.

    11 months agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  4. Bryan Yentz


    True. Very true. I just think he needs to stop imitating with his homages and begin emulating. He needs to take what he's learned and truly employ something unique to it all. He's getting there, but I think he still has ways to go. He knows a lot about film history, he just needs to stop reciting that on-screen and begin paving his own path.

    11 months agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  5. Bryan Yentz


    Dude. I LOVED that game when I was young... Though, Zombie would probably turn it into the same thing LORDS turned out to be: pretentious.

    11 months agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  6. Zak Lee Ferguson

    @bryanyentz ...lord....no i will not be watching that, it was enough to watch this and waste a good solid amount of cash on it! But i can't really see how Zombie went wrong, musically he enthuses the same atmospherics and proof by THe Devils Rejects and The Halloween remake he knows his shift, but here he's going for style over substance based upon what atmosphere his ego and music surpasses as.

    12 months agoby @Zak-Lee-FergusonFlag

  7. Zak Lee Ferguson

    @skywise His music is a homage to the old aged movies, his latest album full of film clipits.....

    12 months agoby @Zak-Lee-FergusonFlag

  8. skywise

    @bryanyentz In a lot of ways almost every film zombie has made so far has been an homage in some form or another. It is what I expect when watching his films (albiet with that zombie twist). So I could definatly get in to that at least.

    12 months agoby @skywiseFlag

  9. Mr.K

    @bryanyentz Although, it would be freaking cool if he directed a movie based on CarnEvil?

    12 months agoby @mr-kFlag

  10. Bryan Yentz


    I'd dig to hear more opinions on the last portion of the flick, as I found it comedic and divisive. But I'd also say that the first portion is worth it if you dig on classically styled atmosphere and story building. It all ultimately goes nowhere, but it may be worth a look if you're into directors paying homage to other obvious film while trying to craft something a tad new.

    12 months agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  11. Bryan Yentz


    Yeah, I'd almost say watch it JUST because of how poorly ridiculous it all becomes, but again, Zombie was trying something a little different and it worked until the finale. Unless you're into homages however, I wouldn't bother.

    12 months agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  12. Bryan Yentz


    Yeah, it needs to be seen to be believed... Because it's hilarious... And I agree, DEVIL'S REJECTS is still my favorite of his, but LORDS was definitely pushing another side of Rob that I liked and would like to see more of... Except without all of the pretension.

    12 months agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  13. Bryan Yentz


    Exactly. Completely agree. The funny thing, he actually did do an animated music video for the film too...

    12 months agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  14. Bryan Yentz


    Yup... Even now I find myself thinking back on that finale... I really think it would be better suited for something comical--not something to be taken seriously... It's like Zombie thought doing half a good film was enough before he gave into his own outlandish wants.

    12 months agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  15. Travis Young

    Thats an accurate description of the last 20 minutes. Really ruins the movie

    12 months agoby @krossroadsFlag

  16. Zak Lee Ferguson

    a great music video it would make, the last, but as a feature film ,no, it lacks scars, structure, or anything that passes as characterization.

    12 months agoby @Zak-Lee-FergusonFlag

  17. Mr.K

    @bryanyentz Tentacle midgets? The hell? Still, awesome review and a shame that this was a disappointment since The Devil's Rejects was his best horror movie that he ever directed.

    12 months agoby @mr-kFlag

  18. Thomas Clarke (Kiion)

    @bryanyentz Great review man, I will probably miss this film. However based on the odd imagery and comedy elements that is found, like @skywise stated, it sounds too much like garbage that I doubt I am missing anything with regards not seeing this. Great review never the less.

    12 months agoby @thomasclarkeFlag

  19. skywise

    @bryanyentz well that is not what i expected. I mean there is a certain...SOMETHING you expect from a RZ film but sheesh ...priesdts...dildos...tentacle midgets? Wow sounds like complete garbage. I will still see it as a curiosity and for the atmosphere you mention.

    I know that most horror movies falter in the final act. Its just how things are but this sounds like bad comedy.

    12 months agoby @skywiseFlag

  20. Bryan Yentz

    Hey, man, LORDS OF SALEM review is up!


    12 months agoby @bryanyentzFlag