Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Cinema 2013: Curse delayed, not well played
“Lords of Salem” by cult auteur Rob Zombie initially holds promise for the serious moviegoer with some fine visuals and expressionist cinematography only to devolve into nondescript set pieces and hackneyed horror tropes. If “Lords” were a plane its engines would sputter loudly but it would not fly.
The premise of the film is workable: a Salem witch slain in the 1600s is exacting payback on her tormentor’s modern-day descendant, the oddly goth radio personality Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie, the director’s wife). That dead witch must have really believed revenge is a dish best served cold.
But the film’s exposition stalls when the seeds of impending horror fail to sprout. The slice-of-life scenes with Heidi and crew are enjoyable and strike a spot-on tone but never amount to much. Meanwhile the scary ain’t scary. And while the gory is plenty gory, it entails a frenzy that director Zombie fails to make contagious.
Not only are the low-budget production values here devoid of charm, where is the modern world of the radio audience our protagonists owe their day jobs to? It is nowhere in evidence in this film. Instead, Zombie’s modern-day Salem seems stuck in some 400-year-old warp, resistant to the pace, accoutrements and increased population density of the 21st century. Director Zombie would have been well served by hiring a small army of extras. Not only could he then have turned the Lords’ sparsely attended free concert into an epic gig, he could have populated the deserted streets, barren cityscapes and Heidi’s empty apartment building, all of which taken together build a disconnected vibe throughout the film.
Still, the concert scenes deliver a palpable dissonance and succeed in conveying an acute sense of doom that is perhaps the most poignant takeaway of this flick.
Finally, the movie takes its R rating no doubt from an aggregate of female nudity as well as one particular scene depicting a wannabe kinky sex ritual which, although brief, is actually quite surprising for inclusion in a wide release film.