The name Rob Zombie almost immediately gets eye rolls from many a self-appointed movie critic. Me? I dig the guy's movies. I'm not crazy about his take on Halloween, but I loved The Devil's Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses. The thing about The Lords of Salem is that even for fans of his work, it still comes as a shock, and it's a shock that you're either going to love or hate. It's a well documented and obvious fact that Rob loves the horror movies of the 60's and 70's. Up until now though, his films have taken their largest influence from the grindhouse or exploitation genres. If that's what you're expecting this time around, I could maybe see why Lords was a bit of a disappointment. The term "slow burn" is not one that most would ever expect to associate with a Rob Zombie flick, but that's exactly what Lords is.
Zombie went for a more mature tone this time around, using classic psychological horror films as influence. The Lords of Salem brings to mind movies like Argento's Suspiria, Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, and even Kubrick's The Shining. It might sound ridiculous, or even blasphemous, to compare a Rob Zombie film to any one of those, and while I'm not saying Lords fits alongside any of them, there's no denying they are where a lot of the inspiration came from. Things move along at a relatively slow pace, with a couple of genuinely creepy scares along the way. There are flashback sequences scattered throughout, which is where most of the scary comes from. What it all builds to though is a 20 minute long finale that brutally assaults your senses with all kinds of disturbing images, sounds, and actions, all interwoven and thrown at you in rapid succession. It's a throwback to the mindfuckery of the 70's, only done with modern filmmaking techniques. In short, I fucking loved it.
Rob isn't the only Zombie who shows sings of maturity in Lords though. As per usual, his wife Sheri Moon plays a big role in the film. I typically don't enjoy her acting much, she's especially annoying in House of 1000 Corpses, but her performance this time around shows that she's growing in her craft, which was a welcomed surprise. The cast is rounded out by a few other Zombie regulars, Michael Berryman, Sid Haig, and Ken Foree, all of whom perform well. Most noteworthy performance-wise though are Dee Wallace, Patricia Quinn, and Judy Geeson. I loved it when they were on screen together. Their roles could have easily been overacted, and thankfully they managed to take it in stride.
Of course the soundtrack is amazing, but I've come to expect that from a Zombie film. I read somewhere that Jon 5 did most of the heavy lifting this time around, but he's obviously on the same page as Rob, because this sounded like a Rob Zombie soundtrack. Lots of creepy tunes to accompany the creepy goings on.
When all was said and done, The Lords of Salem managed to do one thing for me that most don't, it kept me thinking long after the credits started rolling. In fact I've been ready to see it again since I left the theater. I encourage anyone who doesn't immediately turn their nose up at Rob Zombie's name to give it a watch. For fans of psychological horror, particularly ones with a 70's vibe, there's a lot to like here. Just don't go into the theater expecting the usual from Rob, his style is still there, but Lords is more about the atmosphere. It's a more grown up Rob Zombie movie, and I for one would love to see more in this vein from him in the future.