“The Lords of Salem” reminds me of the pacing that “The Sixth Sense” had – slow pacing, but it intensely builds little by little. It also reminds me of it because both don’t have a lack of special effects. Otherwise, the two films are very different. The differences take place in terms of quality; “Sixth Sense” is incredible and “Salem” is far from.
The story follows Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) an everyday radio personality, who is sent a box containing a strange record – a “gift from the Lords.” The sounds heard from the record give her intense headaches, and trigger flashbacks from the town’s violent past, dating back all the way to 1694. How does she see them when she wasn’t present? We really can’t tell. But the story raises a primary question: Is Heidi going mad, or are the Lords back to take revenge on Salem, Massachusetts?
Zombie tells this story with classic, horrific storytelling that is a homage to atmospheric flicks of the 1980’s. He really does rely on the atmospheric style of it all, making it one of those style over substance flicks. It’s about one woman’s derailment into insanity; also think “The Shining,” just not nearly as effective. Director Rob Zombie puts his wife, Sherri Moon Zombie, in the lead role as the troubled Heidi, who enjoys drugs – which I wouldn’t think to be a valid idea due to her mental state. Moon tackles the role with a subtle vacant look through a lot of the film that seldom wavers, but she’s gaining some experience. In the supporting roles, Jeff Daniel Phillips portrays Whitey, a loyal friend concerned about Heidi. Ken Foree from the original “Dawn of the Dead” is on the Salem radio station team, but isn’t nearly as present as Whitey. Bruce Davison plays the most interesting character in a novelist who feels that the music by the mysterious band called the Lords is very unsettling.
That’s precisely what the film itself is: unsettling. If that is Zombie’s intention, to merely disturb, his film is a success. But there is a difference between unsettling one’s viewers, and disgusting them – as well as making them have a sort-of “What the F$!& is going on?” face throughout. That’s the type of feeling a lot of people are going to feel throughout this film. He resorts to spooks where there are witches who show up randomly in bathrooms and kitchens, and other assorted scares. Some of it’s creepy, and the tune on the record is haunting. The pacing is too slow, and the ending too weird. There are some aspects of the film some will be able to predict; but there are some surprising turns – with the directions Zombie goes in. The directions are sometimes not enjoyable at all because they’re just so twisted. But that’s Zombie for you. His new film is just too strange and too dull, empty and boring for my tastes. The history of the Salem witch trials is interesting, and the premise that Zombie creates that if the witches actually come back is a scary idea, but the execution is just awful.