The Lords of Salem


Before watching The Lords of Salem, I had seen 5 Rob Zombie movies.  One was good, one was ok, and 3 were dopey messes filled with goofy plots and terrible dialogue- you would think Zombie could craft a great horror movie, since he seems to know so much about the genre and be into so many awesome movies, but instead it made him churn out a bunch of soulless big budget movies in which he steals elements (and even whole scenes) from other, better movies and haphazardly patches them together in his, whether they fit or not.  You can always tell what classic movie made him say “That’s cool- I’m going to put that in my movie, but make it more like a rock video!” about.  His characters were mostly over the top cartoon caricatures (but not really fun or entertaining ones like in movies such as Tales From the Crypt- Demon Knight or The Toxic Avenger or Street Trash– Zombie’s over the top cartoon caricatures were goofy and tedious and eye rollingly one dimensional.  Until he tried to install a little pathos, which made it even more ridiculous (with the exception of Annie from the Halloween movies, maybe)).

Kurt Cobain back from the dead and in a black metal band

Kurt Cobain back from the dead and in a black metal band

So how does The Lords of Salem stack up?  I had high hopes after hearing that this is a more reserved Zombie, that he was trying to be more atmospheric, more like Ken Russell or Alejandro Jodorowsky, which could have turned out disastrous, but actually is not bad at all.  It’s true that this is a bit more of a reserved Rob Zombie in a lot of ways (he still can’t help but indulge in some goofy shit, but I guess that’s just him, and at least it’s kept to a minimum here).  When it started off with a bunch of witches terribly overacting and quoting MERCYFUL FATE lyrics, I was convinced that this was going to be another ridiculously silly and terrible Zombie goofathon.  But then something happened: some actually realistic and likeable characters were introduced, and partook in some realistic scenes that didn’t look like something a hyperactive teenager on pixie sticks would throw together after watching a bunch of ’70s horror movies (tho he does still definitely wear his influences on his sleeve- the whole thing has a strong feel of Kubrick’s The Shining throughout (tho since he ripped off an entire scene from it in The Devil’s Rejects almost shot-for-shot, this is still an improvement), as well as Rosemary’s Baby, the above mentioned Russell and Jodorowsky, and of course the cunting The Exorcist).

The story: a coven of witches in 1600s Salem are up to no good, meeting in the woods, chanting and getting naked and overacting and doing evil witchy type stuff, when Nathaniel Hawthorn decides to put a stop to it (perhaps after he saw them all naked- the youngest one is probably 500 years old, and yes, they all get naked).  Cue the Salem Witch Burnings.
In modern times, we are introduced to Heidi La Rock (Sheri Moon Zombie, who was a fairly limited actress who Zombie tried to shoehorn into every movie he’s done, with crappy results; however she does very well here- I don’t know if her acting has improved or the role just suits her better), a DJ on a Howard Stern-esque radio show (along with fellow DJ’s Herman (Ken Foree) and Herman (Rob Zombie lookalike Jeff Daniel Phillips)). She lives in an old apartment building in Salem run by a sweet, motherly older woman (I’m sure most any horror fan can tell you where this is headed).  The radio show has guests on (including the vocalist of a black metal band called Leviathan, played by actor Torsten Voges in another over the top/ overacting scene, however since a good many of the real black metal band members I’ve seen actually act similarly, we’ll give Rob a pass on this one.  It’s unclear if he knows there’s a pretty well established black metal band called Leviathan out already), and one night author Francis Matthias, who has written a book about witches and black magic and Salem’s history, appears on the show.   It just so happens that on that same night, they decide to play a record on the air that Heidi received in the mail from a mysterious band named The Lords, which causes a bunch of the women in Salem who hear it to go into a trance, and Heidi to begin having visions and nightmares and eventually wig out.  This leads to her meeting her landlady’s two sisters (played by Dee Wallace and Rocky Horror‘s Patricia Quinn, who both seem to have a lot of fun with their rolls) and a confrontation with the ultimate evil.  Or something.



Now don’t get me wrong- just because I said it was better than most of Zombie’s other output, don’t think that means it’s not a rip-roaring bunch of goofy nonsense, mumbo jumbo and silly claptrap (it may actually have MORE of that than some of his other movies), however the likable and believable characters, great acting (minus a few above mentioned overacting bits), and in particular the overall atmosphere and feeling of darkness and dread save it.  I am a sucker for a good atmosphere- even if a movie isn’t that great, if the director can build and sustain a nice atmosphere of whatever feel they are trying to convey, it goes a long way with me.  The music is really ominous in this too (done by Zombie guitarist John 5), but not in a cheesy way.  I like it..  So, even with the nattering witches, mutant bear from Prophecy looking devil, fairly predictable story, surprising lack of gore, jump-cut nonsense, and at least one laughable scene where I’m not sure exactly what’s going on (but it looks like Heidi might be playing a video game with a really bad looking (see above pic) overcooked Ginger Bread Man devil’s tentacles or something), the goofiness doesn’t cave in on itself halfway through it all and bring the whole thing crashing down like most of his other movies.  Bravo.

As I said, he didn't cut out ALL the goofy shit...

As I said, he didn’t cut out ALL the goofy shit…

A bunch of scenes (including ones with a lot of Zombie’s signature horror movie personality cameos, such as Sid Haig, Camille Keaton, Barbara Cramptom, Udo Kier, Michael Berryman, and Richard Lynch (who died during the filming, which is one reason Zombie had to cut out several unfinished scenes he was in)) were cut out, which probably improved the movie.  I do think I recognized DR. KNOW singer Brandon Cruz in a small role, tho.

In order to prepare for this movie, you should get in the mood by watching one (or more) of these:

Mark of the Devil (1970):

Susperia (1977):

Rosemary’s Baby (1968):

The Devils (1971):

The Holy Mountain (1973):

Plus maybe The Shining, The Exorcist, The Conqueror Worm, and The Omen (not the remake).

Have a devil film festival!  You’ll be glad you did…

Senil Nekrofil #2

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Senil Nekrofil was a ‘zine from Sweden that focused on the extreme of extreme music- grindcore, noisecore, and the heaviest of death metal (the editor didn’t even like TERRORIZER!).  It had an appealing layout that looked like a little more care and work was put into it than most desktop publishing ‘zines, and included a bunch of interviews and a few music reviews (most ‘zines were the other way around), plus a few movie and ‘zine reviews and a very small bit of commentary.  There were larger ‘focus’ pages on certain bands as well (longer than the little blurb reviews), and overall this was a pretty cool little half-sized ‘zine.  Not much else to say, except check some of it out below…

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European Trash Cinema Vol. 2 #1

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European Trash Cinema was a pretty long running ‘zine put out by my neighbor Craig Ledbetter which focused on sleazy trashy action, horror, and erotica films (as well as other independent, low budget type films- westerns and even dramas and romances) from Europe (NO American films allowed).
It started off as a few photocopied pages, but by the time this issue came out, it was digest sized and professionally printed (it would later come out as comic book sized and in color).
It differed from other underground ‘zines in that it featured a lot of different reviewers and writers (instead of one or two people doing it all- this issue even included a review by Steve Bissette), and was mostly just reviews at this point (plus they’d feature an underground European director’s discography each issue- remember that at this time, there was no internet or internet movie database- we counted on resources like this to inform us on hard to find foreign directors and movies (lots of which were released under different names and pseudonyms) ), but they started doing bigger features and interviews later.

This issue was very Joe D’Amato (who editor Ledbetter calls a “hack”) centric (including several Emanuelle reviews and a filmography).

I planned on putting this up last week for a remembrance of Jess Franco’s death (yes I know Jess wasn’t featured in this issue, but he was covered in several issues of ETC, and is the exact example of the type of filmmaker they focused on), but for varuous reasons didn’t, so here it is now:

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The Evil Dead remake

I'll swallow yer soul!

I’ll swallow yer soul!





Should you bother?  The short answer: No.

The Evil Dead remake is not a bad movie, or even a bad horror movie (and by that I mean if you have never seen a horror movie before you might like it ok.  It might even thrill you).  It’s just tedious and  unnecessary.  If you’re even mildly familiar with horror movies, this one will have you rolling your eyes at several points, as every single horror movie cliche is trotted out en mass.  There’s not really a single original, clever, or interesting moment to be had.  The nods to the original just make you want to watch it again, and the blood and guts, tho plentiful and well done, are nothing you haven’t seen before.  It’s really too bad.

I’ve seen about half of the horror movie remakes that Hollywood has been churning out since the Night of the Living Dead one (way back in ’91).  Some of them are horrendously bad (Black Christmas), some are ok (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, The Omen), but most are just blah, and all have been uninspired and unnecessary (well, except John Carpenter’s The Thing, of course).

So why waste my time going and seeing this one?  I haven’t gone and seen hardly any of the others in a long time.
Really there was only one reason: the heavy involvement of Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Rob Tapert.  I love all 3 of the other ones (I’ve probably watched Evil Dead 2 more than any other movie ever made), and I was hoping it might be inspired and clever.  I was hoping it would turn out to be a prequel or something, maybe add something to the existing trilogy.  Elevate the experience.  But it did not.  It’s just another bland possession movie and remake in a sea of remakes and possession movies (tho I must say, I haven’t seen Haunting In Connecticut, The Last Exorcism, Sinister, Possession, The Devil Inside, Insidious, etc, but I’ll bet the Evil Dead remake has more balls than any of those PG-13 ones that are coming out in droves, needing to be shot in the head like mindless zombies)- that’s about the only thing that sets it apart from the pack  The high amount of gore.  But it takes more than that- we need style, intelligence, cleverness, originality, or at least some chaos and over the top zaniness).

So go see it if you must, but be warned: if you typed “generic horror movie script” into a computer, it would probably come up with this very movie.

Oh, and if you want a final eye rolling moment, wait until after the credits for a small condescent for fans of the original.

Phoenix Militia #8

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This was Bill Steer’s (from CARCASS/ NAPALM DEATH at the time) old ‘zine (and the cover was done by Jeff Walker, also from CARCASS (and who did NAPALM DEATH’s Scum album cover).

Bill and his fellow editor Pek did a fine little ‘zine which featured a lot of crust/ stenchcore bands, as well as death metal, thrash metal, black metal, hardcore, punk, and grindcore.  They would do several lengthy interviews each issue, plus several shorter interviews and few mini interviews.  They’d also do a bunch of shorter demo/ record/ and ‘zine reviews, plus a few slightly longer features on bands they liked.  They asked a lot of political and social questions (particularly a lot about veganisn) and a lot of more intelligent questions (rather than the usual questions most ‘zines asked).  They also didn’t have many ads in their ‘zine, unlike most ‘zines of the time.

I think this was the last issue they ever did…

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Jess Franco May 12, 1930 – April 2, 2013; R.I.P.



Jesus “Jess” Franco, the beloved and extremely prolific Spanish producer/ director/ actor (usually all on the same movie) has passed away due to stroke-related complications.  He would have been 83 next month.

Though he’s responsible for well over 150 movies, he’s best known for his many entertaining sleazy grindhouse exploitation and horror movies….

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May he Rest In Peace.