MOVIE REVIEW: Zombie matures, but bores

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First Posted: 4/22/2013

Even as a Rob Zombie fan, I understand why he’s such a polarizing figure. He’s one of the reasons why lazy cynics often claim that homage is merely the French word for ripoff and all of his characters sound like a nerdy 14-year-old’s idea of how a badass should talk. In essence, Zombie is like everyone’s most negative, ill-informed opinions about Quentin Tarantino realized in one person.

But this is exactly why I like Zombie – he’s a dumbed down version of a director who wasn’t all that intellectually stimulating to begin with. Zombie makes obnoxious movies for the sullen, glue-sniffing teenager inside all of us, and as long as he continues to make these incredibly loud and stupid movies, my inner burnout will remain unchallenged and won’t feel the need to set something on fire. Unfortunately, Zombie “grew as a filmmaker” and made the plodding, glacially paced “The Lords of Salem.” My inner burnout will never be the same again.

It’s never a good sign when one of the earliest images you see in a movie is a white person in dreadlocks. It’s an even worse sign when that white person in dreadlocks happens to be Sheri Moon-Zombie. Yes, Mrs. Rob Zombie – the actress horror fans have grown to know and tolerate – stars in “The Lords of Salem” as a Salem-based DJ and recovering addict who comes across a mysterious record from an even more mysterious rock group dubbed The Lords, who, from the sound of their album, could be a death metal side project from Mumford & Sons.

Whenever Zombie listens to the record, she flashes back to the final days of the Salem witch trials when nude, elderly women spit on babies and rubbed something that I hope is dirt into their withered witch boobies. Gradually, the record consumes Zombie’s life and she’s haunted by the nude witches in her flashbacks as well as mute, ashen-faced demons. But is this really happening or is Zombie just relapsing and all of this is part of a drug-induced hallucination? More importantly, what is the deal with Satan in this movie? Why is he a dwarf, and what’s up with his costume? Why does it look like somebody just propped up a Hefty bag filled with garden waste in front of the camera? Are we supposed to laugh at this or what, exactly?

It should be noted that the final 10 minutes of “The Lords of Salem” is a surrealistic blast full of weird day-glo imagery, such as masturbating, melty-faced bishops and nude, dumpy women in black Lucite animal masks. It’s an apocalyptic sequence that recalls the aggressive mindlessness of Zombie’s earlier films. But, again, it only happens in the final 10 minutes.

Unfortunately, for the preceding 91 minutes, “The Lords of Salem” is an interminable slog. It’s a pretentious, underdeveloped mood piece that strives for the sophistication of Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion” but is written by a man who still gives us ridiculous dialogue like, “You can’t come in here and put your nosy c—k inside her head and f—k her brain!” There’s a desperation behind “The Lords of Salem.” Every single frame of the movie begs the audience to recognize how much Zombie has matured as an artist. But for Zombie, maturing as an artist means he’s now stealing from Stanley Kubrick and Ken Russell instead of Herschell Gordon Lewis and old episodes of “The Munsters.”

Rating: W W