Movie review:  'Lords of Salem' is pure evil, on a budget

Let's not mince words, Lords of Salem (opening today) is pure evil. A horror movie and an evil movie are two different beasts and shouldn't be compared so freely. One would come to expect such an evil film from writer/director Rob Zombie, who has made a living dealing with dark subject matter. But Lords of Salem doesn't set out to scare you into jumping out of your seat. It looks to work its way into your head, feed, nest and never leave.

His real-life wife, Sheri Moon Zombie is a local Salem radio DJ, Heidi Hawthorne, who just happens to be living at the wrong time. You see, there were real witches back at those famous Salem witch trials centuries ago and they have just now decided to seek their eternal revenge. She finds a box at her station that is a "gift from the Lords" and within it she finds some music that when played, seems to set off some serious evil s***.

This incredibly low-budget tale is part hallucination, part nightmare and 100% unwatchable. Some demonic flashbacks to the cackling witches fuel the story and it seems to be more of some sort of artistic statement by Zombie rather than a cohesive narrative.

The characters are just weird to begin with and the entire film seems to be shot in a small, dark box, with no sense of environment and no care for the viewer. Director Zombie is obviously in love with his actor Zombie, who he films in sexy poses, half or fully naked, with no discernible purpose. Scares come in the form of witches lurking in corners, quick glimpses or creepy things lingering and poking just off-camera.

At some point, I just felt like I was outside of the movie, of the story and of the characters and that I was watching a student project submitted by Rob Zombie, where the assignment was to create mood, with no care or need for story-telling. In creating mood, Zombie's collection of images and sounds is quite effective. But as a film, there is not one frame that comes from a place where he is asking the viewer to invest in what it is we are seeing.

Rob Zombie fans, enjoy Lords of Salem. The rest of you should just stay away. There is no sense of thrill, no entertainment value that inhabits even the darkest of horror movies. It's worse than evil. It's bad.

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Run Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes, Rated R

Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Ken Foree, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace

Written & Directed by Rob Zombie (Halloween, Halloween II, The Devil's Rejects, House of 1000 Corpses)

Opens locally on Friday, April 19, 2013 (check for show times).

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How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"

  • 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
  • 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
  • 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
  • 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
  • 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time