So, I've never wanted to see a Rob Zombie movie before. I love horror movies, but tend to go old school, and his stuff just doesn't look like anything I'd be interested in. However, The Lords of Salem previews looked kind of intriguing, so I thought I would attend an early matinee today since I had some time on my hands. The story is about radio DJ Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie) who gets an unexpected record delivered to her at the radio station. She plays it, and all sorts of weird shit starts happening, much of it concerning an ancient witches coven referred to as The Lords of Salem.
So, a lot of reviews have been throwing around the names Dario Argento and Ken Russell when describing this movie, and they are right to do so. You are not going to find a conventional narrative here. This film is high on visuals and atmosphere and low on sense-making. Did I like it? Not as much as I wanted to. It wasn't so much that this film is crazy, it's that it just isn't crazy enough. It does owe a lot of Argento and Russell (I'd even throw in a little Kubrick) - Zombie knows his film history and it shows. The problem for me is that it is just too sedate. When I watch a movie with unrestrained hallucinatory imagery, I want to question what the hell is going on. I don't want crazy; I want batshit crazy. I'm not sure how a typical Rob Zombie movie fan is going to take to this movie, but Argento/Russell fans are going to appreciate it, if not exactly like it. It's a little bit silly, and sometimes has a 70's made-for-tv feel, but I liked that. It also has some fun performances by Bruce Davison, Dee Wallace, and Meg Foster. I'd recommend it with the caveat that it is more interesting than good, but it's cool to see Zombie taking a risk here; I can't see a lot of other folks being willing to go so far out there.
A note about Sheri Moon Zombie: I don't think she's a great actress, but I think she did fine here. My greatest issue with her character, is not really with her, but with how she is constantly sexualized by the camera. It might just be the creepiest thing in the film. However, I do like that her character represents a different way for female lead characters to look. She's still a skinny white lady, but with her dreadlocks, tattoos and glasses, she's got a unique look you usually only see in peripheral characters.