THE LORDS OF SALEM **** USA / UK / Canada 2013 99 mins
Rob Zombie’s slow-burn change of pace disregards the bludgeoning violence and in-your-face stylistic tics of HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and the HALLOWEEN films in favour of a measured homage to Ken Russell (masturbating bishops!), Kubrick, Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY and MACBETH (naked coven scenes!) and THE EXORCIST (dialogue alluding to the “cunting daughters of Salem”). Dreadlocked “Salem Rocks” D.J. Sheri Moon, renting a room at Judy Geeson’s run-down, imposing apartment building, plays a “lost” record received from the mysterious “Lords” and almost immediately begins having ominous visions and visitations. Although understandably distracted by the need to incorporate gratuitous shots of his wife’s naked bum, Zombie is remarkably successful in sustaining a sense of escalating dread, with slow, lingering corridor shots occasionally yielding genuine frights involving grotesque figures lurking in the corners of the widescreen frame. It evolves into a trippy headfuck with a downbeat if not totally satisfying wrap-up, but the cult casting pays off with excellent work from under-used veterans as diverse as Bruce Davison, Dee Wallace, Patricia Quinn and an unrecognisable Meg Foster. It goes bat-shit mental in the last ten minutes, but the striking images and exceptional sound design keep it compelling throughout.
Review by Steven West