Consequently, the wait for Rob Zombie’s comeback, after the discussed breaks of the couple of Halloweens and the playful experience of the wild The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, was huge, if we consider that the project of The Lords of Salem had been arising in the director/musician’s mind for many years.
Moreover, not only the undersigned, but all the horror genre’s lovers and the audience in general had some almost feverish expectations. Last November we had the most blatant demonstration of this fact, on the occasion of the Italian preview at the Torino Film Festival. During the event, both professionals and general audience crowded the movie theaters, also for the repeats, someone even almost crossing Italy to participate to what, actually, turned to be a great event.
As it always happens in such occasions, the wish to enthuse was as big as the fear to be bitterly disappointed. In the end, the verdicts have been fluctuating, controversial, and will remain as such. As far as we are concerned, we say right now that The Lords of Salem does not reach the unprecedented tops of the first two Rob Zombie’s movies. Nevertheless, we face another work full of a rare energy, and the rocker proves by far to be the most significant talent expressed by the “genre cinema” in the recent years.
Realizing a project he has been chasing for a long time, Mr. Robert Cummings chose for it an even classic approach, giving up the surprising style mixture of his debut; on the contrary, he built a typical horror nightmare, where the bloody tendencies join the suspended times. The young Heidi works as disc-jockey in a radio station of a small town. One day she receives a package containing the disc of a mysterious and unknown band. Listening to it, she begins to be persecuted by some macabre dreams which bring her in a witchcraft journey set in the past times. Little by little, Heidi loses contact with the reality to become, despite herself, the protagonist of a nefarious sabbath that is supposed to bring again to life some demonic creatures buried in oblivion, and now ready to emerge from darkness.
To develop the plot, Zombie proceeds slowly, without being captured by the usual fury, and chooses an accurate, moderate, linear way of shooting. Almost conformist, we could say. The witches of Salem come back to demand their role, shocking the life of a dj chosen as the victim to be violated to assure the conception of the demonic entity: the past times eat the present times, the popular belief becomes reality, the peace of everyday’s life is wiped out. Evil, a centuries-old and indestructible tool, emerges from hibernation to trap the protagonist among the dark tentacles of damnation, and the blasphemous disharmony shows its deadly plan for destruction.
Conformist, we said, but only to a certain point. Zombie, currently in the spotlight due to the release of his new and already appreciated album Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, does not limit himself to the mere juxtaposition of traumatic elements: he goes over the primary texture and adds a surprising iconoclast tension, destroying every consolatory possibility. Besides, he donates little roles to his fetish actors Ken Foree, Sid Haig and Michael Berryman, members of the rejects’ family we now know very well; he pays homage to Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and puts into the plot some unpredictable and extreme elements.
Anyway, two factors make The Lords of Salem an unforgettable movie. The first has a (fake) name and surname: Sheri Moon. As always, but this time more than ever, the author celebrates his wife without restraint, showing with obsessive attention every centimetre of her body; he gives her a contrasted appearance, where sensuality joins an almost childlike tenderness; he puts her in the core of every intuition, this way realising the ultimate glorification of an overwhelmingly beautiful woman, reaching in this movie the top of her career.
The second factor lies in the incredible visual talent of Zombie, still able to find surprising sonic and stage inventions. The camera “flies” in our visual field, the locations have multiform points of view, the representation of the unholy creatures escapes any ancestral definition, the union between musical clips and image quality almost reaches perfection. A magnetic hell of creativity, where grandiose sequences come from. One for all: the first entrance of Heidi in the cathedral where the King of the Night waits for her. Thrilling.
Written by Alessio Gradogna
Translation from italian by Fabio Tasso
Reference section: English/Français
Articolo in versione italiana: Le streghe di Salem - Il trionfo del male