Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Lords of Salem

Written and directed by Rob Zombie, The Lords of Salem is the story of a radio disc jockey whose life changes after listening to a strange recording relating to a coven of witches in her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts. The film is an exploration into the many historical aspects about Salem and its witches where a radio DJ becomes entranced by this dark culture of Satanic witches. Starring Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn, Maria Conchita Alonso, Dee Wallace, Jeff Daniel Phillips, and Meg Foster. The Lords of Salem is an eerie and chilling film from Rob Zombie.

The film follows the week in the life of a radio disc jockey who is given a mysterious record by a group called the Lords as it feature strange recordings as it involve an infamous coven of witches from Salem dating back to the 17th Century. Set in Salem, Massachusetts, the film revolves around the myth about this coven of Satanic-worshipping witches where this disc jockey becomes entranced by its recording as she starts to see strange things around her. Especially as a writer about the Salem witch trials makes a discovery about the recording that was played as well as the family that the disc jockey is from. Rob Zombie’s screenplay definitely play into these legendary stories about the Salem witch trials of the 17th Century but also how it would remerge in modern-day Salem where it would haunt this woman who is also a recovering drug addict. The images she sees definitely blur the line into what is real but also what is surreal as the character of Heidi La Rock (Sheri Moon Zombie) would anguish over these hallucinations as well as the contents of these mysterious recordings.

Zombie’s direction is definitely stylish in terms of the compositions and moods that he creates. Shot on location in Salem, Massachusetts with some scenes shot in California, Zombie maintains an air of simplicity to many of the exteriors set in Salem as if it is this quaint little town with this dark history. While there are playful elements in the film such as the scenes of Heidi working with her other disc jockeys playing music. Zombie maintains something that is very eerie in his approach to the compositions as it include these intimate moments at the apartment that Heidi lives at which includes a room that no one lives at where it is at the heart of the mystery in the film. Once Heidi discovers what is in there, Zombie adds elements of dazzling surrealism into the film as well as maintain a slow but eerie momentum into the horror and suspense.

Especially in the third act where her character descends into darkness while the writer Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison) would make a chilling discovery about Heidi and what is happening in Salem. Zombie would also put in these moments that play into what is coming where the third act is key to what is happening to Heidi and what is coming for the women in Salem who are the descendants involved in the burning of those witches. Zombie’s eerie compositions with the usage of the wide and medium shots capture a lot of coverage to what is happening as well as create something that is scary but also beautiful. Overall, Zombie creates a haunting yet evocative film about a woman’s encounter with the witches of Salem in the modern world.

Cinematographer Brandon Trost does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography as it has a graininess that is just fitting for the film while it has some gorgeous lighting for some of the interior scenes at night as well as maintain something straightforward for the daytime scenes. Editor Glenn Garland does excellent work with the editing as it‘s usage of jump-cuts, stylish montages, and some unique rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense is a highlight of the film. Production designer Jennifer Spence and set decorator Lori Mazuer do amazing work with the look of the theatre halls and rooms for some of the ceremonies as well as creating something straightforward and stylish in Heidi‘s apartment room and the radio booth she works at. Costume designer Leah Butler does nice work with the costumes from the ragged yet stylish look of Heidi as well as the very creepy look of the witches in the flashback scenes.

Special makeup effects artist Brian Rae does fantastic work with the look of the witches for the 17th Century sequences as well as some of the creepy makeup Heidi would wear in the surrealistic moments. Visual effects supervisor Craig A. Mumma does terrific work with the film‘s minimal visual effects as it play into some of the scary and surreal sequences as it has this air of realism in its look. Sound editor Eric Lalicata does superb work with the sound as it has these unique textures to play into the suspense in some of the sparse and low mixes as well in some of the intense moments of terror. The film’s music by John 5 and Griffin Boice is incredible for its mixture of ambient and blues-based guitar to these haunting moments of music that is key to the discovery of what Heidi would encounter while music supervisor Tom Rowland creates a soundtrack of different kinds of music from artists/acts like Rick James, Rush, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, and the Velvet Underground as well as classical pieces from Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The casting by Monika Mikkelsen is marvelous as it feature some appearances and small roles from Udo Kier as a witch hunter, Torsten Voges as a death-metal singer, Richard Fancy as an expert of the Salem witch hunt that Francis turns to, and Andrew Prine as Reverend Jonathan Hawthorne as the man who would take down the coven back in the 17th Century and leave behind recollection of these events. Other notable small roles include Ken Foree as the smooth disc jockey Herman “Munster” Jackson and Maria Conchita Alonso as Francis’ wife Alice who would play the piece on piano that is similar to the recording that is haunting the town of Salem. Dee Wallace and Patricia Quinn are fantastic in their respective roles as Lacy’s sisters Sonny and Megan with Wallace as lively sister who makes great tea and Quinn as the quirky British sister who can do palm reading. Meg Foster is excellent in the role of the coven leader Margaret Morgan as this mysterious yet feral woman who exudes all of the aspects of evil as it is just this very scary role.

Judy Geeson is brilliant as Lacy as Heidi’s landlord who is concerned for her but also carries a mysterious secret that is very intriguing. Jeff Daniel Phillips is superb as Herman “Whitey” Salvador as radio disc jockey who works with Heidi as he becomes increasingly concerned for her well-being. Bruce Davison is amazing as Francis Matthias as this writer about Salem witches who makes a key discovery based on a record that was played during a radio interview as he goes more into depth over the witch hunt and trial. Finally, there’s Sheri Moon Zombie in a phenomenal performance as Heidi La Rock as a radio disc jockey and recovering drug addict that is haunted by a recording she has listened to as she becomes anguished into the things she sees while being on edge into what is happening to her.

The Lords of Salem is a remarkable film from Rob Zombie. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, provocative themes on witches and evil, and a killer music soundtrack. The film is definitely Zombie’s most accomplished film to date as it has an atmosphere and air of darkness that is common with horror films but also not afraid to not take itself seriously. In the end, The Lords of Salem is a sensational film from Rob Zombie.

Rob Zombie Films: (House of 1000 Corpses) - (The Devil’s Reject) - Grindhouse-Werewolf Women of the S.S. - (Halloween (2007 film)) - (Halloween II (2009 film)) - (The Haunted World of El Superbeasto) - (31 (2016 film))

© thevoid99 2016


Brittani Burnham said...

I never thought I'd see "remarkable" and "Rob Zombie" in the same review. lol

thevoid99 said...

I know he's polarizing as a filmmaker as I do like House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Reject while his remakes of the two Halloween movies I really don't care for. This film however is probably his best work to date as really creates something that is just intoxicating but also unsettling.

Dell said...

You like this one far better than I. This one just didn't work for me, at all. I do like The Devil's Rejects and, even, the Halloween remake. Couldn't get with this one, though.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-I understand that it's not for everyone as it is I think Zombie's most unconventional film to date where I think he's also trying to do different things. I could see where it wouldn't work for everyone but I'm one of those that enjoyed it.