Welcome back, Rob Zombie! We lost one of the best American horror film directors to Hollywood for a few years as he tried his best to reinvent the Halloween series. It sounded like a great idea at the time, until we got the finished work and it was too late to shout disapproval of wasting an interesting director on a worthless remake. I won't put all blame on him for the film's mistakes. but I will give him a lot of it because the most important character choices are so terribly cliche that the rest of the movie is impossible to enjoy.
I'm happy Zombie is back working on projects where he has total creative control. He seems to be one of the few working directors in Horror whose at least giving us something other than paranormal possession or The Strangers-esque slashers. I appreciate that, but man, Lords of Salem is not the best of Zombie. In fact, it's quite awful. Part Rosemary's Baby and heavily influenced by The Shining, Salem doesn't scare, horrify, or entertain. Nor does it even attempt to get across anything of substance. It's just gratuitous and sacrilegious filmmaking of the worst kind.
The plot's base isn't bad at all. Zombie's wife, Sheri Moon Zombie gets the lead Heidi, a radio DJ who mysteriously receives a vinyl record that, like reading from the Book of the Dead in Evil Dead, likely releases some kind of Hell once the needle is dropped. Moon is nice to look at, but her acting range is painfully limited. A known problem amplified now that she is a central character. I don't think she was even aware scene by scene how she should be feeling. After some awful things happen to her she talks sickly, looks down with a sad face, and behaves coherent I guess whenever she feels like it rather than when it makes sense. But it's hard to even know what makes sense for her as her progression is given no explanation. The middle of the movie is where all the previously built momentum trickles away. Additional characters slow down the main focus and they are so obviously weak that we already know they won't have any impact, but we have to sit through their tiresome subplots anyway.The serious tone fades in and out as expected, yet needless demonic imagery presents itself in a comically bad manner. The film ends abruptly, but thankfully.
In 1968 Roman Polanski released the controversial film Rosemary's Baby. Its quality has stood the test of time and its terrifying imagery will haunt any generation no matter how depraved and disgusting today's torture porn becomes or how strong it desensitizes youths. Lords of Salem isn't torture porn, nor is it good old-fashioned Horror. It's a dreary and unsubstantial drama about the revenge of witches. Good for them, you know. They deserve some retribution for having their satanic offerings so rudely interrupted. And because, as we learn, witchcraft is all just the delusions of the mentally ill, only through Film are we able to witness such marvelous fantasies manifest. Let us all sarcastically rejoice!