The Lords of Salem (2012) | His satanic majesty Rob Zombie spawns a trippy nightmare journey into pure evil
In 1692 Salem, as her coven of witches are put to death by judge John Nathaniel Hawthorne for creating satanic music, Margaret Morgan curses the judge’s female bloodline, promising that Satan will be spawned…
In the present day, Hawthorne’s descendant Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) is living in a Salem boarding house run by overly protective landlady Lacy (Judy Geeson) and working on a late night show at a local radio station.
When Heidi listens to a record by a band calling themselves The Lords, she awakens Morgan’s spirit and triggers the curse. With the gates of Hell now opening up in room number 5 of her boarding house, it looks like Heidi is destined to bear Satan’s child…
Heavy metal icon and Halloween rebooter Rob Zombie gleefully sticks two blood stained fingers at Christianity with this trippy nightmare journey into pure evil. Taking its cue from 1970s devil worshipping films like Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and Michael Winner’s The Sentinel, Zombie has fashioned a supremely intelligent satanic shocker that certainly doesn’t hold back on its blasphemous intent.
Metal fans expecting a Zombie-inspired feature-length music video will be disappointed as the director saves his trademark stage show visuals for the film’s climax. However, The Lords of Salem is a very visual experience.
From the décor of Heidi’s bedroom (adorned with giant murals from George Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon – an obvious visual joke) and the 1970s flock wallpaper in a corridor of the boarding house that leads to the dreaded room No 5, to the film’s big set piece – an ornate staircase where Heidi meets Satan (inspired by the masque ball sequence in 1925’s The Phantom of the Opera), Zombie lets his fevered imagination take full flight, with a host of visual film references guaranteed to put a smile on the faces of classic horror buffs.
For example, Mario Bava’s Black Sunday is paid homage to during the burning of the witch Morgan, while Brian de Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise is alluded to in the film’s theatrical climax.
Zombie also brings together veteran British actress Judy Geeson, Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Patricia Quinn and The Howling’s Dee Wallace as the satanic midwives put in charge of Heidi’s care. The presence of this unholy trinity got this fan boy excited, and they certainly do bring class and kudos to the proceedings, plus they help to paint over some of the cracks in Zombie’s dark canvas (like the naff Chewbacca-looking monsters in room no 5).
The Lords of Salem is worth repeat viewings just to get all the visual cues – if you are a horror fan. But Rob Zombie films are like Marmite (just look at his latest, 31). Luckily, I love the stuff. But you might have to make up your own mind on this one.
Devil’s Due (2013) | Honeymooners bring back a satanic souvenir in a derivative found footage horror
The horror chiller Devil’s Due debuts on Sky Premiere at 8pm tonight. Catch it on Sky 301/314, Virgin 401/431.
After a drunken night on their honeymoon in the Dominic Republic, Zach (Zach Gilford) and Samantha (Allison Miller) are forced to deal with an unplanned pregnancy on their return home. While recording everything for his unborn child, Zach becomes troubled by his wife’s increasing erratic behaviour. But as the due date gets closer and sinister forces begin to converge, it becomes chillingly evident that the child Sam is carrying is in fact the next antichrist.
This horror hokum by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, two members of the collective Radio Silence (V/H/S and V/H/S 2), is essentially Rosemary’s Baby meets Paranormal Activity by way of a dozen other horror classics.
It must be hard for filmmakers to try and come up with inventive ways of segueing the found footage formula into their narrative. Here’s it’s made up of video diaries, home movies and CCTV footage. But it looks laboured here (pardon the pun) and lacks logic (why are there so many cameras monitoring the couple’s home, who edited all this together, and where did Zach buy that seemingly indestructible movie camera?). It also makes Zach, who’s obsessively filming everything, come off as a right dick. Mind you, both of them are pretty unlikeable from the outset – she’s a health nut airhead and he’s just plain annoying. So when their cosy suburban world collapses around them, its kind of fun to watch them squirm.
Horror fans will breathe a heavy sigh at all the classic shockers this stillborn horror rips off: The opening of Halloween is replicated shot for shot; the crib from Rosemary’s Baby is there, so is Dr Saperstein (aka Dr Dylan) and the scene where Rosemary eats raw meat. Then there’s the priest coughing up blood and the faceless satanic worshippers monitoring the house (aka The Omen and The Amityville Horror) and lots of night vision (Blair Witch of course). The list goes on. The filmmakers also miss an opportunity of delving into the mysterious cartel of demon baby-makers, who are kept in the shadows throughout the film.
But as ill conceived as it is, Devil’s Due does manage a couple of effective scares, something the dullard Delivery never manages from the outset (check out my review here). These include some teens getting thrown sky high when they interrupt Sam feasting on a deer in the woods, Sam going bonkers in the nursery scratching satanic symbols on the floor, and the labour scene.
Devil’s Due is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD in the UK through Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, and includes as extras, deleted scenes, viral videos and some Radio Silence shorts.