The Lords of Salem (dir. Rob Zombie)

Posted: July 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

“The Lords of Salem” is so uniquely, oddly bad that I feel something else is going on. Leaving the theater, as my GF and I laughed hysterically and bonded with two guys who has similar, exasperated reactions to the film, I felt similar to my feelings upon seeing “Freddy Got Fingered”. The only way to explain the singular badness of this film is if I buy into the hypothesis that it is an Andy Kaufmann-esque practical joke. The joke appears to be on the audience, religious people who object to Rob Zombie’s music, and most of all to the director’s wife and lead actress in the film, Sheri Moon Zombie.

I believe the film to be bad on purpose. Zombie has made good films in the past, and there are specific shots and moments in the film that are beautifully framed, with gorgeous lighting and color-timing. There is too much skill to chalked this up as a lazy filmmaker not even trying, or a filmmaker who has made good films but lost their talent. No, Zombie had complete creative control, and he chose to make a film where a bunch of weird-faced cardinals and bishops jerk off red dildos while his wife rides (and writhes) slow motion atop a stuffed goat. He chose to make a film where he makes his wife rape-blow a priest while cartoonish, over the top sucking sounds play on the soundtrack. He made a film with melting Virgin Mary paintings and weird dwarfish baby creatures firing tentacles, and many other absurd, pseudo-avant-garde weirdness that all seems to convey the message that Rob Zombie no longer loves his wife and wants to humiliate her, but still finds himself enchanted enough with her glorious ass to give it approximately three long, loving close-ups in the course of 100-some-odd minute film.

The film consists of watching Sheri Moon Zombie poorly act her way through a series of diet Ken Russel fever dreams while old women, sometimes naked, spout various loud expletives about Satan, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and God. The film doesn’t feel anti-religion despite so much religious iconography being used (more than is necessary, even for a Satanic horror film), which leads me to believe Rob just wants to laugh at Catholic critics to his music and films getting into a froth. There is no tension; the film is not scary or disturbing. If anything, it is a comedy which knows it is a comedy but is feigning ignorance to that fact because the joke is on an pretentious audience who will attempt to derive deep meaning from the fake symbolism. Think of a sophomoric “Un Chien Andalou” or Salvadore Dali. Think Tom Green if he dropped acid and watched too much Dario Argento and early Roman Polanski.

The film is worth seeing if only because you will never see anything like it again. Visually, the film is often beautiful, and the sound design is often aurally pleasing as well. But the story and acting are almost uniformly atrocious. Words cannot express the experience of watching the film. it is not “so bad it’s good”, in the traditional MST3K, “Manos the Hands of Fate” or ED Wood way.

Roger Ebert once reviewed “Alien 3” by calling it “The best looking bad movie I have ever seen”. That sums up “The Lords of Salem”. The film looks pretty enough that still shots could hang in the Museum of Modern Art as some weird avant-garde experiment in neo-surrealism. it would make a lovely coffee table book. As a film, it is the Tony Clifton of horror films. It is unsuccessful and obnoxious on purpose, all done for the amusement of the maker(s) and a small subsection of the audience who will be in on the joke. It is a meta-experiment of the sort James Incandenza of David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest” would probably make.

I cannot give this film a grade. It is a bad movie, but often beautiful to look at, and I cannot stop thinking about it hours after seeing it. It exists outside of critical terms as an experimental work of art, or piece of shit, or both.

I think Rob Zombie wants to divorce his wife, but continue fucking her in the ass.

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