The Lords of Salem
dir-scr Rob Zombie
prd Jason Blum, Andy Gould, Oren Peli, Steven Schneider, Rob Zombie
with Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Jeffrey Daniel Phillips, Meg Foster, Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace, Ken Foree Maria Conchita Alonso, Andrew Prine, Michael Berryman, Sid Haig
release US 19.Apr.13, UK 26.Apr.13
12/US Alliance 1h37
The Lords of Salem
Oh lordy: Sheri Moon Zombie

davison foster wallace
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The Lords of Salem While not forgetting the cinematic value of a coven of naked witches dancing around a bonfire, Zombie shows that he has matured as a filmmaker. This atmospheric occult thriller is cleverly shot and edited to terrify us with scenes that are both horrifically inventive and enjoyably familiar.

In Salem, Massachusetts, good-time radio DJ Heidi (Moon Zombie) receives a mysterious record from an unknown band called The Lords, which has a strangely hypnotic effect on certain listeners. Then on her next programme she interviews Francis (Davison), an expert on the 17th century Salem Witch Trials, who takes an unusual interest in the record. The next thing she knows she's having crazy visions in her sleep. And when she's awake too. And it turns out that she's the fulfilment of a prophesy about the spawn of Satan.

The story flickers back to 1696, when Rev Hawthorne (Prine) takes on his witchy nemesis (Foster), creating a nasty feud that plays out more than 300 years later. Moon Zombie is terrific as the fragile heroine whose struggle to quit hard drugs certainly isn't helping the situation. And a variety of supporting characters are brought to colourful life by the strong cast, especially three cackling sisters (Geeson, Quinn and Wallace) who live downstairs.

The film is a riot of evil ceremonies, hideous apparitions and gratuitous female nudity. Plus some creative visual splashes of gonzo nuttiness. Many of the creepiest images are knowingly lifted from vintage American or Italian horror movies, so even if they're unsettling they're also amusingly nostalgic. And this subtle wit actually makes the film darker and edgier than what we normally see in cinemas now.

Best of all, these feisty, lively people are a lot more fun than the usual bland young rising-star clones. And when the mayhem cuts loose, Zombie isn't afraid to get grisly in ways Hollywood could never stomach. This makes the film much more full-on than we expect, even if the plot is somewhat undeveloped. Sure, much of it is rather silly, but it's such a freaky trip that you can't take your eyes off the screen.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality, drugs 15.Apr.13

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