Saturday, October 19, 2013

31 Days of Halloween - Day 19 - Movie 1

Sheri Moon Zombie plays Heidi, a Salem deejay and descendent of witch hunter, John Hawthorne. She receives a wooden box containing a record by a band called The Lords. When she plays it, it makes her ill. When she plays it over the air, all the Salem women who listen to it fall into a trance. Heidi begins to be plagued by depression, visions and strange, disturbing dreams. A local historian feels there is a connection between the song on the record and the witches executed by John Hawthorne centuries ago, and he's right, and Heidi's right at the center of their plans.

The Lords of Salem (2012) is probably Rob Zombie's most personal film which may be it's downfall. It may be really clear to him what he hoped to achieve, but that goal is kept from the viewer. As a combination of sound and vision it is often times quite stunning, using actual Salem, MA as it's setting, supplemented by some nice sets and compositions. Zombie also borrows well from aspects of The Shining and Rosemary's Baby to good effect. The problem is that this comes off as much more of a mood piece than a narrative film, and that once Heidi falls under the spell of the record, she becomes little more than a troubled somnambulist for the rest of the film, giving us a central protagonist who is already lost to us long before the climax. The rest of of the supporting cast come and go without sticking around long enough to take her place as either the protagonist, or as people who might be able to save her.

I've often defended Rob Zombie's films when seemingly no one else would, and it's clear there's a lot of talent in the man. This makes it frustrating when that talent is undermined by basic concerns such as story problems. I give him credit for experimenting with an unconventional story structure, but unfortunately that experiment comes at the expense of the movie as a whole. I'll probably take another look at it down the road, but my first viewing was very disappointing.

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