SHOULD I? STATUS: Would Watch
Watched this on DVD at a girl’s house – doesn’t appear to be available on any conventional pay-to-stream service or Amazon Prime/add-on, but you can get your hands on a copy of it a few ways, so long as you know you want it.
THE QUICK AND DIRTY DEETS
Rob Zombie goes faux-retro in this female-centric psycho-thriller. Also, Rob Zombie’s got a hot wife.
- Girly Groove Rating: 9/10
- Scares: 6/10
- EXTREMELY NOTABLE: A+ in Category “Cohesive Plot”
- High Psychological Thriller, Moderate-High Portrayal of Hipster Existence 30 Years Before We Called Them Hipsters, High Creepy Historic Witches And Shit,
- Low Unnecessary Machismo, Gore, Jump Scares
Ever since Witching and Bitching and The Descent I’ve kept an eye out for other feminist horror films I could talk about here. My girl J recently introduced me to The Lords of Salem, and it fit the bill perfectly (something which also thrills me, because I like women and I like horror and I love it when horror actually manages to mix in some equality with the scares).
I really enjoyed this movie. It is not very scary in a traditional, “brawny” sort of way: the horror here doesn’t really get in your face that much, it doesn’t breathe on you and make you jump, or cringe back in sympathetic pain, or need to close your eyes or hide under the blanket or look away. The script and setting skillfully employ a cinematic technique I particularly enjoy, which is close to “show, don’t tell,” but with a specific angle – I’m speaking here of movies/scripts which manage to successfully establish their temporal setting within a distinctive era, but without having to drop what year it is in the script or through subtitling or even pin down what, really, that year is. The Lords of Salem feels like it’s possibly in the 1970s, through it could be as recent as the 1990s, through and through. The specific year of a setting often isn’t important, but the feeling of its believability is, and we believe the setting of a movie when, as in films like this, every shot or scene consistently, yet subtly, matches to it.
Another of The Lords of Salem‘s greatest strengths is its plot, which is not something I can often say about horror movies. I love scary movies, but (I think) because they are so visceral, and often very immediately, writers seem to have trouble backing up the creep with a solid plot. In other words, I’ve found that horror movies, even really great-seeming ones, typically fall apart at the end. Pontypool does this, Last Will and Testament of Rosamund Leigh does this, to name some examples. Even Creep (future review) suffers from a clear weakening of plot in its last 30 minutes or so. The Lords of Salem completely escapes this pitfall. While the movie does seem to bend to a more extreme angle in its final scenes, they are completely consistent with the logic, pattern, and action of the movie from its very start. The conclusion makes sense. Each character’s motivations and actions as a result remain as believable at the end as they were at the start, and when a character’s mood or attitude shifts, it’s cogently as a reaction to the events in the movie. What I’m trying to say is that outside of the supernatural element, The Lords of Salem makes sense. It is so good to have a movie that actually makes sense from start to finish. You should watch The Lords of Salem just for the satisfaction of that.
I guess I should drop some hints about the plot. Let’s see: vaguely eye-roll-y ultra-alt radio DJ in Salem, MASS hosts some unusual guests over a few nights, gets a weird record, and also begins to maybe see? weird stuff in her apartment. We aren’t sure if it’s mostly all in her head or is really happening until around mid-movie, but that’s okay because she isn’t sure either. It turns out someone is trying to rassle up some trouble from ancient, witch-burning Salem, where it turns out the witches actually were witches in this reality, although that doesn’t seem like it’s common knowledge to the general public. Creepy hijinks ensue and our main character, Heidi, isn’t safe even when she’s alone at home. In fact, she might be safer almost anywhere else.
Go take your next dim rainy day, and watch this movie on it. I’m doing you a favor. Trust that it’s worth it.