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This review is from: The Lords of Salem [DVD] (DVD)
Very few films capture an authentic sense of spiritual evil. I've never really been spiritual in the religious sense, but some art, religious or not, evokes things which speak to those of all persuasions. Sometimes those things are good, sometimes evil. The very best supernatural horror films, I think, often evoke the latter. Rock star Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem isn't quite up there with Don't Look Now or The Shining, but it has its moments, achieved through a perfect blend of image, sound and direction. I'm a Zombie fan, having enjoyed his House of 1000 Corpses and its sequel, The Devil's Rejects, but Lords of Salem is his best work to date. It's a darker, more narratively sound work, rooted in religious anxiety and myth.
The plot takes place within a tight one-week time frame marked by intertitles. This at first seems kind of pointless as we don't know what we're building towards, meaning that each day's passing is irrelevant, but as the plot unfolds it creates a certain doom. Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie; Rob's wife) is a recovering drug addict and cult radio DJ in Salem, Massachusetts, where during the Salem witch trials an obsessive reverend (Andrew Prine) had a coven burned. Before they died they swore revenge. In the present, Heidi receives a package from an unknown band called The Lords of Salem; it contains a rock recording which, when played on her station, has an odd effect on Salem's women.
Acting alongside Sheri Moon are Jeff Daniel Phillips and Ken Foree as Heidi's co-hosts, Judy Geeson as her landlady and Bruce Davison as a historian who may hold the key to the mystery. Much of the narrative is given over to Heidi's descent into madness; it may be important that she's an ex-addict, her struggle mirroring a relapse. Sheri Moon's been knocked as an actress but I've always liked her; she was sexy and psychotic in Corpses and Rejects, and she succeeds in playing a very different character here. Heidi is a sympathetic victim of fate and evil; she's the kind of woman you'd look forward to listening to.
Her dream sequences give Zombie full reign to indulge his strongest asset as a filmmaker: weird, hypnotic visuals and soundtracks. The climax looks almost like a hard rock music video, and ends with an absolutely perfect image. The last minute-and-a-half-or-so before the epilogue is hard to best for its profound, chilling perversion of Christian symbolism. I've watched it several times now, just drinking in the joyous, radiant evil it emits. Its use of a certain Velvet Underground song plays no small part in that. It's here that that spiritual evil I mentioned at the start reaches its peak; maybe it's a subjective thing, but it's an image (or sequence) I've come to adore. It's also one which perhaps only a filmmaker with Zombie's gift for music and visuals could achieve; it goes to show that musicians do sometimes make good films with complete creative control.
Images elsewhere are also brilliant, and involve a lot of Satanic horror which might offend some viewers, though why they'd be watching this escapes me. Oh well, as Roger Ebert said in his review of Hellraiser II: we believe in full-service reviews around here.