The Lords of Salem made its debut at SXSW but might not have been what Rob Zombie fans have been waiting for.
"Half of you will love this movie and half of you will hate it." That was pretty much the extent of Rob Zombie's introduction to the US premiere of The Lords of Salem and, honestly, he was right. Not being a big horror fan, I had serious trepidation about walking into the Topfer Theatre on Monday at midnight to see Zombie's long-awaited fifth feature film. Waiting in line to enter the show, I found myself surrounded by serious horror aficionados and diehard Rob Zombie fans. They told me that I was likely to both scream and laugh during the show and that, yes, I might just have nightmares.
Unfortunately, it seems Rob Zombie was right. I didn't hate the movie, but it seemed that many in the Topfer were less-than-enthused about The Lords of Salem. It took a long time for the story to take off and even after it did, it didn't seem to go as far as it could to meet its potential. Still, the film had a more arthouse air about it than fan favorite House of 1000 Corpses and offered some pretty stunning visuals. Instead of relying on the constant gore that many fans seemed to be expecting, Zombie used subtle effects that made the film play more like the am I going crazy? narrative it's supposed to be than a hardcore gore film.
Still, something was missing. At the moment when we think the story about cursed Salem DJ Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) is picking up, it doesn't. It keeps on going at the same, slow pace until just a few minutes before the film's conclusion. During the last ten minutes of the film, viewers are treated to plenty of witches-and-blood eye candy. Moon Zombie rides a goat; there's a pile of dead ladies; wrinkled old witch women chant ferociously. It's what I thought the whole movie was going to be. At least the film's score is a highlight, which was only to be expected from the multi-talented director.
I have the sneaking suspicion that serious Zombie fans were treated to inside jokes and references to other films and albums that I'm just not familiar with. The Lords of Salem is probably very worthwhile for folks who will catch these references, even if its narrative is a lot slower than one would anticipate from a director whose credits include Halloween and The Devil's Rejects. If you're not a serious Zombie fan and you're expecting gore galore and dozens of graphic witch burnings, skip The Lords of Salem.