Is there a better director working in the “horror” genre than Rob Zombie?
After watching his fifth film, The Lords of Salem, the answer is without question, no.
In this story of returning witches looking to gain revenge on the citizens of Salem, Mass, Zombie creates a visceral, horrific, stomach churning and thoughtful piece of genre moviemaking that not only builds on the promise of his earlier films, but exceeds any and all expectations I had.
Find out why after the jump!
Let’s make this clear, though. The Lords of Salem, which premiered September 10th as part of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness, is not remotely close to mainstream horror moviemaking. It’s too controversial, too extreme and in many ways, just too smart for audiences that swear by the Paranormal Activity franchise. Not that there’s anything wrong with those films, per se, but when it comes to his genre filmmaking, Rob Zombie is simply operating on another level entirely when compared with mainstream directors. His work is not easy to define or easy to digest at times, but that’s what makes his movies so unique (even the arguably failed Halloween films).
In The Lords of Salem, Zombie directs the stunningly gorgeous Sheri Moon Zombie in her toughest, most high profile role ever, as DJ Heidi Hawthorne. The movie completely rests on Sheri’s soldiers, and from my perspective, she carries it admirably. Clearly, Zombie knows how to write for his wife. The film also has standout performances from Bruce Davison, alongside Dee Wallace, Patricia Quinn and Judy Geeson (who knew Zombie dug Shakespeare with those three). The main villain is played with complete malevolence by a virtually unrecognizable Meg Foster – she’ll scare the crap out of you.
From a technical standpoint, The Lords of Salem is Zombie’s most accomplished work. It lacks the frenetic cuts of House of 1,000 Corpses; instead, the director utilizes gorgeous long shots to turn up the tension and wide angles to give some great depth to certain scenes. I don’t know if Zombie expects comparisons to some of Kubrick’s work in The Shining, but I’m going to assume he’ll appreciate the compliment.
Also worth noting is the absolutely stellar use of music throughout The Lords of Salem, from the drone used by the witches, to John 5’s score, to the multiple moments featuring The Velvet Underground, still as jaw-dropping as ever. Zombie’s choice for score and soundtrack is as impeccable as ever.
However, with all the compliments I’m giving The Lords of Salem, there is a caveat. I’m predisposed to like Rob Zombie’s work, based off of my fondness for his previous films. The moments that are seriously cringeworthy, mostly from a visual sense, I can look past (usually with my hands covering my eyes), but in no way, shape or form is The Lords of Salem for everyone. Judging by some of the reactions I saw on Twitter after the film, it’s not even for every Rob Zombie fan. In my estimation, though, the movie is still without question Rob Zombie’s most accomplished, hardest hitting and hardest film to watch.
In short, it’s everything you’d want from a Rob Zombie movie.