So rare is it that I get to go to the movie theater that you’d think I’d make greater use of such a rarefied night than going to see the new Rob Zombie horror flick. Yet, there I was, at the cineplex awash in regret. The choice of film was not exactly mine, but considering the other things playing in town, this was sure shot. There was no way The Lords of Salem was going to disappoint, but don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting it to be good.
Here’s a little side-note. I’m much happier enjoying a film that I know is going to be a disaster than expecting a film to connect with me emotionally or a film that is trying to sell me an image of coolness. If a film has some sort of statement to make about the human condition or it’s trying to wow me with the lifestyle of the characters in the film I don’t want to see it, not when I’m looking to just lose my mind for an hour or two. Give me madness, give me bat-shit-demented-off-the-rails-crazy. This is why I went to The Lords of Salem not Place Beyond the Pines or To The Wonder.
However, no sooner did the previews start before I began to rethink my stance on entertaining cinema. As expected, the trailers playing before The Lords of Salem were for other horror or thriller films. Most exploited flashy editing, shocking imagery, and high levels of grotesqueness. They got me primed for the feature presentation, but mostly they got me wondering why I waste my time at all with horror movies. Why subject myself to such brutal imagery? Can’t I just turn on the news? I swore that if I lived through this night out I’d change my viewing habits for good. But, tonight, it was too late. I was there, in my seat, ten dollars poorer, and full of regret. Roll the film.
The Lords of Salem is not a great horror film. The first hour drags, so much that I fell asleep. But Thankfully, I woke in time to witness a demonic wookie in a room with a neon cross. That is when The Lords of Salem got entertaining. For the next hour a series of seemingly connected, but never fully developed, scenes flashed on the screen. The film is littered with gothic, witchy, demonic imagery and lots and lots of elderly full frontal nudity. Because, what is scarier than the body of an aging woman, right?
Rob Zombie’s aesthetic is that of a music video director. The image is king and the story need only hold on by the thinnest of threads. His plan of attack is that of a chimpanzee flinging shit. He throws so many plot lines, ideas, and half-formulated concepts at the screen see what sticks and what slides away. What’s left is a scatter shot of interesting ideas that never fertilized. As the film progresses the weirdness quickens. Zombie appears desperate to shock and awe his audience, but what ends up happening is something different, something ludicrous. Lucky for him, or perhaps lucky for me, people didn’t mind laughing at his vision hell.
Normally, when I crack-up in a theater I’m expecting sneers, cold-stares, or death-threats. This happens more than you’d want to know and it probably explains why my wife and I rarely go out to the cinema. I make bad cinema interactive and I guess that even in this day and age not everyone wants interactive. That or we all don’t agree to call a bad film out when we see it. Thankfully, I was not in the minority at The Lords of Salem. Because when Rob Zombie’s version of Satan waddles onto the screen – and don’t worry I won’t spoil the best laugh in the film by describing this abomination – but when it shows up, the dams burst and the whole theater erupted in laughter.
Kudos to you Rob Zombie. You turned my regret into unabashed joy. I don’t understand what your problem is with your wife’s menstrual cycle and there is enough evidence in this film for a graduate student to write a thesis, but for now I’m not giving up on horror films. I’m just going to continue to seek out the head-scratching horror; the films that are more scared of making sense than making scares.