The Lords of Salem (2012)

It seems that Rob Zombie has hit his creative stride as a writer and director with his fifth feature-length film, The Lords of Salem. Lush, haunting, and delightfully kitschy, he’s collaborated with a string of iconic cult actors to bring us his personal Rosemary’s Baby. It’s a passionate ode to his love of horror and all things macabre.

His first film since the heavily studio-influenced Halloween (2007) andHalloween 2 (2009), Zombie’s managed to play by his own rules here. Set in Salem, Massachusetts — home to the infamous witch trials of old — the film follows local radio DJ Heidi who finds herself haunted by disturbing specters and eventually questions her sanity after ambiguous record she receives mysteriously. Unearthing its origins, Heidi uncovers the disturbing history of the witches of Salem, and finds their grasp on her life impossible to escape.

Sherri Moon Zombie is at her best adding surprising subtlety and restraint to an otherwise uninhibited production. More familiar with campiness that borders on tacky, it was nice to see her offer a restrained performance here. Alongside her more seasoned cohorts, she shines. Jeff Daniel Phillips and Ken Foree serve as trusty companions to our heroine, desperately trying to steer her away from harm, and ultimately failing. Their roles are simplistic in structure and rudimentary in execution but overall effective albeit forgettable.

In terms of visual style Zombie’s truly outdone himself, combining the over-the-top flare and shock value of House of 1,000 Corpses, with the subtler, more mature cinematography of The Devil’s Rejects. This is Zombie Refined. Visual references to classics such as the originalTexas Chainsaw Massacre combined with a simple yet chilling score evokes a potent sense of foreboding, amplifying tension to a boiling point with every scene.

It’s clear that this film isn’t intended to appeal to a broad audience – dripping with his signature style, at times it borders on inaccessible. It’s designed for a specific niche market – the horror fanatic of camp and class, repute and kitsch alike. Vulgarity is the order of the day, and it is spectacular.

This post was originally published on The Daily BLAM! on September 11, 2012.